"As a child I possessed a persistently wild imagination. Before I was old enough to attend school, I rarely dressed myself in anything other than the costumes that my grandmother made for me. I fell in love with a theatrical makeup kit that my parents gave me for my ballet recitals, which is what began my passion for makeup artistry. I've always been thankful for how much my creativity was nurtured during those early years of my life. Honestly, I can't even say what I wanted to be when I grew up. Perhaps a mermaid or a vampire, but I had no particular career aspirations then. I loved playing outdoors with imaginary friends and looking at the world around me as if it were a fairytale."

"What's my story? I often wonder that myself. Every day feels like a story of its own. My life has never been boring, that's for damn sure. Sometimes I would kill for a little bit of boring. Well, I was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida but also raised in Southern California (divorced parents). These days I continue to split my time between the two coasts. 

My father moved away to Hollywood to chase his dreams of becoming a screenwriter in the early 90's and now operates a private Salvador Dali gallery in Orange County. 

My mother is the most wonderful person that I've ever known. Without her unconditional love and guidance, I'm not sure I would have made it this far. When I was in elementary school she was diagnosed with breast cancer after recently becoming a single mother. Not only did she kick cancer's ass, but she did everything in her power to make sure that my life remained normal no matter how sick she was. I was oblivious to this as a child, but as an adult I now know how much strength that truly requires. She has continued to be my "rock" for my entire life. I'm incredibly blessed to have such a strong and loving human being for a mother. 

I suppose I will get back to talking about myself. I am a professional makeup artist and on again off again psychology student. I knew since I was seventeen that I wanted to work in the beauty industry, but another part of me also felt a responsibility to walk down a path where I could potentially help other people who had been through the trauma that I endured. Perhaps one day I will continue along that path, but for now I'm enjoying living and growing as an artist. 

These days I stray from publicly talking too much about the traumatic events in my life. I'm thankful to be a part of a project where I'm encouraged to speak out about what I've been through, it has been quite a liberating experience. I can't lie, it is horrifying to put some of this out there. Heck, sitting fully nude in the woods with ants crawling up my ass was more comfortable for me than answering these questions. However, I've learned over time that putting yourself in the situations that scare you the most is the first step to no longer fearing those situations like you did before. 

There are so many defining traumatized ic events that I could list, honestly. In my life I have experienced mental and physical abuse, rape, death, substance abuse and psychological disorders. However, I can't deny that I know which experience has truly shaped me as a person most of all. 

One week and a few days before my sixteenth birthday, my older brother passed away from Metachromatic Leukodystrophy, a terminal illness that he had been living with for nearly half of his life. The doctors had no good news. His illness was in the rare disease category, meaning that too few people suffered from it for there to be any incentive for research. We could only treat his symptoms and make him comfortable during however much time he had left. 

I was ten years old when he was diagnosed. I had always feared death as a child, not my own but the death of the ones I loved. That fear began shortly after someone planted the concept of heaven and hell into my five year old mind. Fairly often I would lie awake at night in tears because I was so horrified of my family being taken from me. Suddenly, there it was, in the flesh, right before my eyes. Before then I had only imagined outliving the adults in my life, but not my brother. That's when I realized just how fragile and fleeting life can truly be. Uncovering that truth hurt more than anything I had ever felt before. I held a silent scream inside of me for many years because I couldn't handle the reality of losing him. When I finally did, I tried to silence that scream with drugs for several years. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was trying to mask my suffering instead of coping with it. They say these things hurt less as years go by, but it has always been a struggle for me. I've never been at peace with the fact that some terminal illnesses are deemed worthy of research while others get shoved onto the back burner. I hate that there are other people out there that can relate to how hopeless and devastating it feels when you are told that all you can do is sit back and watch your loved one die. This experience shook me right out of my fairytale dreams and planted my feet into the soil of a very cruel and real world. 

Although this story is a sad one, it can't be told without saying that my brother was the only person I've ever known that found a reason to smile every single day of his life, despite the fact that he had every reason not to. The first thing that comes to mind when I remember him has nothing to do with his illness. I remember his laughterechoing through the halls and his smile that was so big it reached the outer corners of his beautiful eyes. I remember how he found joy in the little things that other people constantly overlooked and how contagious that joy was to anyone around him. 

As a child suffering with a terminal illness, he possessed more strength and bravery than any adult I've ever known. MLD confined him to a wheelchair and had taken his ability to speak by the time he was thirteen, but this never seemed to hinder his intuition or ability to help people. He was always the one smiling at me from across the room when I was having a bad day, doing anything he could to make sure I didn't feel alone. Some days when I feel down on myself I try to pretend that he's still there smiling back at me. Even though he was only around for a small portion of my life, he made an impact on me that will last forever."

"Truly, the lessons I've learned are countless, but here are the first few that come to mind. 

As with any loss, I've learned to cherish the good times with the ones I love because everyone's time on Earth is temporary. Never take anyone for granted. 

I also learned how not to cope with loss, because I failed so miserably at it early on. I learned how to be brave. I'm still not perfect, and I never will be, but I've come a long way. I still struggle with being comfortable showing my true emotions to other people, the very thought of crying in front of anyone still frightens me, but for years I was afraid to even cry alone. I saw myself as weak, so I used substances to make me feel strong. Now I know that crying your eyes out and not running from your feelings takes great strength and bravery, it isn't a weakness by any means. 

One of the most important lessons I learned from my brother was to find a reason to smile every day, and that little acts of kindness towards everyone around you can give someone else a reason to smile too. You never know what strangers are going through, your kindness could make someone's entire day better.

Stop living your life to please people who abuse and don't give a damn about you. They will never love you, but that's not your fault, it's a flaw within themselves that they are unable to love. Give your love to people who give it back to you, and only those people. 

Also.... Stop over plucking your eyebrows!!!!!"

"Working in the beauty industry definitely makes me more hyper-aware of my appearance than most people. It's honestly kind of disgusting how these insecurities are implanted into our minds these days. Social media influences and beauty "gurus" on YouTube are relentlessly trying to sell you whatever product someone paid them to endorse, thus implanting more insecurities into your mind so that you keep buying beauty products. I can't watch most makeup tutorials anymore because they are really no different than watching infomercials. 

I struggled with anorexia as a teenager, and it took a long time to get to a happy place with my body. Some days there is still a voice in my mind criticizing the cellulite on my legs or telling me that my pores are too big. Quite frankly, there are bigger issues to be concerned about than the dimples on my ass. Not to mention, I wouldn't feel insecure in the first place had someone not decided to create these things for people to hate about themselves so they could profit off of them. Once you see it for what it is, you stop sweating those small things as much. 

I do work in the beauty industry, but these days it's rare that I even wear makeup. I don't tell myself or my clients that they need anything in order to be beautiful. Perhaps this makes me horrible at the business side of my career, but I don't want my legacy to be implanting physical insecurities into the minds of other people. The artistry aspect of my work is where my heart is, and I don't see that changing." - Danika

Special thanks to Leelee's Blooms for this amazing bouquet! 

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