For Bella Hadid, modeling means battling the daily physical distress of living with Lyme disease. Speaking to Us Weekly during the Global Lyme Alliance’s second-annual Uniting for a Lyme-Free World gala on Thursday, Hadid described the infectious disease's everyday toll. “Usually, I’ll wake up from some kind of bone pain, then have to fall back asleep,” she said. “I’ll fall back asleep, then sleep until 12 p.m., but that’s just with a 14-hour sleep already, [and] I’m still tired.” One of four Global Lyme Alliance gala honorees, Hadid was selected for her work raising awareness for Lyme disease since she and her brother, Anwar, were first diagnosed in 2012 after their mother, Yolanda Hadid, discovered she had it. "Life isn't always what it looks like on the outside, and the hardest part of this journey is to be judged by the way you look instead of the way you feel," Bella told the gala crowd. She later posted to Instagram that the event went on to raise $2.7 million for Lyme disease research.
Before contracting the tick-borne illness, Bella hoped to make it to the Olympics, not the runway. An accomplished equestrian, she had her sights sets on competing in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, but the exhausting effects of untreated Lyme disease forced her to step away from the stables. “If I’d had the chance to succeed in riding, I might not have modeled," Bella told the Evening Standard in 2015. "I didn’t know that I was going to get sick.” The bone pain, fatigue, and clouded short-term memory that Bella experiences are among the debilitating long-term side effects of Lyme disease. According to the Global Lyme Alliance, more than 329,000 people contract it each year. Like Bella, many remain undiagnosed, which can lead to chronic illness. While early stage Lyme disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics, there is no cure for chronic Lyme disease. Like her daughter, Yolanda has been vocal about her Lyme disease, as well, with many of her struggles documented on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Introducing her daughter at Thursday's gala, Yolanda expressed pride in her for "speaking openly about her journey in order to bring awareness for the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who suffer just like she does but whose voices cannot be heard," Entertainment Tonight reports. That's that kind of support that Bella says gets her through the toughest times. “My boyfriend’s always there,” she told Us Weekly. “My brother, my sister, they’re always there. Definitely my mom, because she knows what I’m going through, so it’s a different understanding.”