Fashion and beauty influencer Camila Coelho just revealed she suffers from epilepsy.
The model and personality, 31, who lives her life in the Instagram spotlight, rarely shares intimate details about her life with her followers. Still, in an interview with PEOPLE, she chose to finally expose her lifelong health crisis.
It has been 22 years since Coelho had her first seizure. She was just nine years old at the time, and the memory of feeling scared and helpless still makes her emotional.
“I was playing with a friend, and all of a sudden I felt my hands closing — my fingers, one by one,” she recalled. “I told my friend, ‘My hands are closing!’ and she was like, ‘Stop joking, Camila. I don’t believe you.’ The I remember just fainting. When I woke up I heard my mom saying, ‘Camila, are you okay? Just talk to me.’ I wanted to respond, but I couldn’t. That made me really sad and scared.”
Soon after, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, but her mom advised her to keep her condition a secret, thinking she was protecting her from being bullied.
“My mom told me, ‘Camila, you are a normal girl. There’s nothing you cannot do.’”
Now, with 4.6 million YouTube subscribers, 8.6 million Instagram followers and her own fashion line, Coelho believes her mom’s words more than ever.
“I realized that I have this huge platform — I can use it to impact people in such a different way,” she told the magazine. “I believe we all get stronger when we talk about our challenges. If talking about it helps just one person, I’m already happy.”
The Brazilian-born influencer has been on medication since she was a child. In her teens, she became angered by her condition, constantly questioning why she had to take medication and stay away from alcohol while other kids her age could have fun. Without telling her parents, she stopped taking the medicine, but a few months later, she suffered a horrific seizure at school, in front of her teachers and classmates.
“It was the most terrible day of my life,” she said, remembering how she felt after waking up in the hospital following the incident. “I felt guilty, I felt stupid. It’s not like I actually wanted to drink or party — it was just that that little thing made me feel different.”
She was 17 when she came to the realization that she is lucky to have a medication that takes her seizures away. Since that last seizure, she has never looked back, and she feels “grateful” for her life “every single day.”
Coelho has been married to husband Icaro for 10 years. The two are now looking forward to starting a family.