Gloria Aste has amassed a following on TikTok creating awareness about congenital melanocytic nevus
A 20-year-old woman from Loveland, Colorado, is harnessing the power of social media, and creating awareness for her rare condition.
Gloria Aste has amassed a following on TikTok by creating awareness for giant congenital melanocytic nevus — a birthmark that people often confuse for a blackout tattoo.
"I wanted to be open about my birthmark on social media because what I have is pretty rare and I grew up without seeing anyone that looked like me on anything," she tells PEOPLE exclusively.
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"I want to make people aware of it and I’d love to see more people who have it embrace it," she says.
"My goal with social media is to just make differences more mainstream because they can be beautiful."
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), congenital melanocytic nevus "are benign, tumor-like malformations resulting from faulty development of pigment cell (melanocyte) precursors in the embryo." Most CMN's — like the one Aste has — are present at birth and grow with the individual as they "aren’t on your skin, but are your skin," she elaborates.
On her TikTok, Aste proudly flaunts her birthmark, which covers her chest, back and part of her arm. Because of the rarity of the condition — giant CMNs occur once in 50,000 births, per NORD — Aste didn't see many people who also had CMN when she was growing up, which is largely part of the reason why she's purposeful about showing it off.
"I grew up with people constantly asking me questions about my skin," she says. "The questions used to be more like 'Did you color on yourself?' However, as I have gotten older most people assume that it’s a blackout tattoo, which actually happens pretty often."
With all that attention and questions coming her way, it's only natural that she might have felt self-conscious about her birthmark. However, Aste reveals that other than a few moments in middle and high school, she is proud of her unique mark.
Online, however, Aste has had to field inappropriate comments from people who view her page but don't take the time to learn her content. According to Aste, strangers have asked about the color of her breasts and sent her questions surrounding the dark pigmentation of her birthmark.
For her part, Aste remains gracious throughout it all, telling PEOPLE, "I do receive lots of hate comments and tons of inappropriate comments regarding my birthmark. I think that there’s just a lot of ignorance and lack of education that push people to say these things to me."
"I honestly don’t get bothered much by the meaner comments because I think it’s easy to hide behind a screen and say whatever you want with no consequences," she says.
Though her specific CMN doesn't take too much maintenance — she mostly has to keep that part of her body moisturized and out of the sun — it's important to note that not all cases are as benign.
According to Nationwide Children's Hospital, some cases of CMN are actually indications of another condition called neurocutaneous melanosis which can affect the spine and brain and may cause seizures.
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