I have a love-hate relationship with my birthmarks. I used to have a large one near my stomach. It was a mole the size of a dime and it made wearing a bikini a self-conscious endeavor. Eventually, I ended up getting it removed after a worrying trip to the doctor. Now, all I have to deal with is an even smaller mole on my face. Even though I’m constantly worried about it in the sunlight, I can’t deny that I’m fond of it. It feels like this birthmark makes me “me.”
Taylor Muhl, a 33-year-old model and singer, isn’t a stranger to birthmarks. In her line of work it would be easy to Photoshop any blemishes out, however that’s not what makes her so special. Her birthmark isn’t just a mole or an odd pigment patch. Her skin pigment is split almost perfectly down the middle. Her right side is light while the left side of her body is noticeably darker. Was it simply a birth defect? Not exactly. In 2009, Muhl was diagnosed with a rare condition called Chimerism.
Chimerism is an extremely rare genetic condition where the subject shares different blood DNAs. Individuals typically share only a few cells of the zygote, however Muhl is an exceptional case. But where did this extra DNA sequence come from?
Muhl wasn’t always an only child. Apparently, that birthmark used to be her fraternal twin, which fused to her body. During the development process, Muhl absorbed her twin while in the womb.
In her youth, she admitted to having a fascination with twins. According to Daily Mail Online, she used to constantly ask her mother if she had a twin. Her mother was always confused by the question, so I guess even her mother didn’t know she was carrying twins.
Muhl had no idea she even had Chimerism until she watched a documentary on it, however she instinctively knew she was different. Aside from having her skin color split in the middle, Muhl also suffered from a weak immune system. She reported having terrible colds, migraines and horrible periods.
Despite learning about Chimerism while flipping through channels on TV in 2009, Muhl wasn’t officially diagnosed with the condition until visiting a throat doctor a week later. The doctor just so happened to work on Ripley’s Believe It or Not! medical cases as well. Muhl told him about what she saw on the documentary, and the doctor admitted that she was the first case of Chimerism he ever met. It was also rare that her mark was so large since Chimerism marks tend to be smaller.
Since she shares two different DNA sequences, that means she has two types of immune systems and blood streams. Her body is in a constant state of battle because both of her immune systems are clashing with each other. Muhl is hit hard during flu season, and she even found out that different sides of her body has different allergies. Despite her struggles, the model tries to learn more about her condition.
“I don’t want to be a human Guinea pig or viewed as a circus freak. I had always kept my stomach a secret, covering it up or having photographers Photoshop it out,” she said. “But now I want to embrace the way I look. I want to inspire people to feel beautiful and confident with their difference.”
Chimerism is so rare that people tend to only learn about it through a DNA blood test. Muhl’s markings are large compared to the usual cases, so the number of individuals with the condition may be inaccurate. So far, there are only about 100 known cases of Chimerism.