Bailey Pretak was born with a rare genetic condition that causes her skin to crack and shed. It’s painful because the disease, called lamellar ichthyosis, prevents her skin from separating cells at a normal rate. As a result, her skin is very dry and scaly and requires daily exfoliation and moisturizing to prevent it from continuing to peel.
With this type of outward appearance, Bailey was the target of bullying as a child, as she was called hurtful names like “Scaly Bailey” and “The Contagious Girl.” It went so far as parents calling the school to have their child removed from Bailey’s class or students who were afraid to touch the things she had touched.
Her mother, Tracie, was fiercely protective of Bailey and gave those who stared a taste of their own medicine. She told Barcroft TV: “Even if it was a child, I would get right down on their level and stare right back so they would see what it would feel like.”
Tracie also tried a different tactic with the haters — using kindness to fight the judgment. She explained: “But I came to realize that part of Bailey’s insecurity was actually me and my reaction to those rude people, so I decided to change. Now when people stare, I just smile and wave.”
Despite Bailey’s skin condition, she has gone on to do inspiring things. Barcroft TV highlighted Bailey’s story in a YouTube video that explained in its description: “Bailey Pretak is redefining beauty standards — by becoming a beauty queen. Bailey, 31, has battled lamellar ichthyosis all her life, a genetic disorder that affects just one in 200,000 people worldwide and has no cure. Ichthyosis prevents the skin from separating cells at a normal rate, causing a dry and scaly appearance to the outer layer.”
The description further notes: “But despite the hardship she faced when growing up, Bailey has reached a point of happiness in her life, winning beauty pageants and leading motivational speeches for those in need.”
Bailey explained in the piece: “I look in the mirror and realize that maybe this skin isn’t what I wanted — but it is who I am. 20 years ago, if you would have asked me to describe myself, I would have said ‘ugly.’”
Part of her journey includes speaking to audiences, as she explained: “I realize that I have a story to tell and so I decided to become a motivational speaker.”
While Bailey has learned to live with her condition, there are definitely big challenges, as she shared: “I have to take a lot of precautions in the summer time when it’s hot and humid.” She added that “Even something as simple as a fever is life-threatening. If I do have a basic fever, I have to be covered in ice to get my body temperature back down as fast as possible.”
The extra life challenge was not an easy thing to overcome, but Bailey shared how she eventually made peace with the condition, noting: “I do have the confidence in myself now. It has developed over the course of many years and it wasn’t an overnight transition.”
Bailey competed in her first beauty pageant in 2014, winning the Miss Pennsylvania Sweet Heart crown.