With a whopping 92,000 followers on Instagram, Jokiva Bellard is used to garnering attention on social media.
But she’s not your average influencer.
The 22-year-old is making it her mission to shine a light on Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease she was first diagnosed with at the age of 17.
“You get a lot of people that judge just based off looks,” she writes.
“They don’t read the books, they just judge the cover.”
Jokiva regularly a post snaps showing off the painful lesions she’s developed at the hands of her illness, while also sharing practical advice with other suffers.
Lupus is a serious condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. While it commonly affects the skin, it can also result in damage to the kidneys, lungs, heart, brain and blood vessels.
“You can have a flare up where your skin is bleeding or you feel too weak to even get up out the bed,” Jokiva explains.
“I have moments where I can’t even eat.”
Speaking with Yahoo Beauty, the Atlanta woman admits that these symptoms have had a significant affect on her confidence, leaving her struggling with self-love.
“This disease really impacted my life in ways that I never thought I would even have to experience as a young individual,” she says.
“It prevented me from having a normal social life. It has taken my identity at times and also kept me out of school. Financially, it has even kept me from being employed."
“I would be doing chemo and my doctors did not feel that I should be working nor going to school because my body needed essential rest.”
It’s estimated that at least 17,000 Australians have Lupus, with the majority of those diagnosed women aged between 15 and 40.
And while treatment can reduce the symptoms and help prevent long-term damage, until a cure is found Jokiva will continue to raise awareness and educate those who are battling with their own diagnosis.
“I want to give them a voice – that’s exactly what I do it for,” she says.
“And if it takes me to show my life just to do it, then so be it.”