Local Woman Enters Cover Model Contest To Represent Autoimmune Warriors With Fibromyalgia And Crohn’s Disease

July 29, 2022


Nicole Benish is competing to raise awareness of invisible illnesses. Click photo to visit the contest site.

I received a message this week from a woman who lives near the Everett waterfront and described herself as an Autoimmune Warrior.

Nicole Benish has both fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease. Those are two of about eighty different autoimmune diseases suffered by about four percent of the population. Nicole told me she decided to enter a contest to be on the cover of Maxim magazine to bring awareness to invisible illnesses.

Nicole says the whole contest thing began after she grew weary of not loving herself and her body because it wouldn’t function the way she wanted. “I took photos to find self love,” Nicole explained. “I wanted to do a photo shoot that honored my body after being frustrated with my limitations.”

About the same time she did the photo shoot the magazine cover competition popped up on her Facebook feed. “What’s the harm in submitting them and seeing what happens,” said Nicole. “Then my Instagram took flight, jumping from 300 to 1400 followers in a matter of days with the majority of followers people who also suffered from fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease.”

The contest began with thirty thousand entrants and last week Nicole made it into the quarter-finals. Now there are 640 contestants and she’s in seventh place. As for her goals with regard to the contest, she names four.

  • Win first place – the prize money and exposure fuel the other goals
  • Donate ten percent of the prize money to charities chosen by her fellow Autoimmune Warriors that work to cure autoimmune diseases
  • Use the exposure to bring awareness to invisible illnesses
  • Self publish the book she’s currently writing that describes her journey with autoimmune diseases.
  • “We’re a community of silent sufferers,” Nicole explained. “I’m a small person but I have a loud voice and this is the first time I’m sharing my story. When a disease is not visible it is difficult for people to believe and that’s incredibly hard, especially with the people I need help from. I get gas-lit on a regular basis.”

    Nicole talked about having to plan her day around how much energy she has. “I’m a very ambitious person and I want to be more than I am,” she said. “Some days I can’t get up and fold a load of laundry or do dishes.” Nicole explains in this YouTube video how the term “spoonie” is used by those with autoimmune diseases to prioritize their energy.

    I asked Nicole what happens if she doesn’t win the top prize? “I’m still publicizing, still advocating, still taking on the world with this new found empowerment,” she replied.

    Here is one last quote from Nicole:

    I have found that my life has been spent living half truths. How to hide my pain, how to be seen for what I wanted to be seen for and to smile. Smiling is the simplest way to throw off the scent of suffering in silence. I am now sharing my story. My experience living with and growing up with 5 health conditions 2 of which are autoimmune. My grandmother just found out because I have opened up during this competition. I am ordinarily an incredibly private person. This is my way of showing who I really am. Raw, unchecked. I am woman, autoimmune warrior, advocate; I am. No more silence. We stand together.

    Currently Nicole is in seventh place and voting ends August 4th. You can vote every day for free or you may purchase “warrior votes”. There is a cost of one dollar for each vote and the money goes to support Homes for Wounded Warriors in their mission to build and remodel handicap accessible homes for disabled veterans. Here’s the link to vote for Nicole.

    You can follow Nicole’s progress in the contest and see what she’s talking about with other Autoimmune Warriors here on her Instagram page.

    Editor’s Note: To learn more, here’s a link to the National Fibromyalgia Foundation. Here is a link to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

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