By Nora Hakramaj @norahakramaj
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Per Christian Lind
Producer: Nora Hakramaj, Ruby Coote
Editor: Grant Hanson-Vaux
After battling autoimmune issues, Taylor Muhl from Los Angeles, California, was diagnosed with ‘chimerism’ - a condition in which a fraternal twin dies in utero and is fused into the surviving twin.
The condition is named after the chimera, a fire-breathing female monster in Greek mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.
As a result of her chimerism, Taylor has two sets of DNA, two sets of blood cells and two immune systems.
Taylor's physical abnormality appears as a straight line that runs down the centre of her torso dividing it into two different colours - the left side of the pigmentation being her twin’s genetic makeup and the right side being her own.
After years of constant doctor visits and numerous tests, Taylor was finally diagnosed in her twenties and has decided to allow the world to see her skin in hopes of raising awareness about chimerism and to encourage other chimeras to embrace their condition publicly.
Taylor told Barcroft TV: "I am my own twin because I have two genetic makeups within one body.
"It’s basically having totally two different humans under the same hood of the car, so to speak.
"When I grew up no-one said anything about my second colour skin pigmentation because no-one really knew. The only people that did know were probably my closest friends and family.
"Anywhere I went publicly I always kept it covered.
"My whole life I was always told that my second colour skin pigmentation was just a birthmark. Most doctors, even in this day and age, don’t know about chimerism because it’s that rare."
Determined to have a natural pregnancy and home birth, Taylor’s mum Alex Wood opted against having an ultrasound and so was completely unaware that she was due to have twins.
She said: "I had Taylor at home and I had two midwifes who took care of me. Everything was done naturally and part of it was to not upset the child. I just firmly believed it was something I did not want to do to the baby. I wanted it to be natural. So I never knew.
"As soon as Taylor was born, we just swaddled her and enjoyed the moment. Then after the midwife swept her away to bathe her and weigh her and then brought her back, it was like, ‘Wow! What is this?’ And there was this demarcation down the middle of her abdomen.”
Prior to being diagnosed, as a young child Taylor had a strange obsession with being a twin, constantly wanted to dress like her best friend and would even ofter ask her mother if she actually had a sibling of her own.
While working in the entertainment industry, she struggled to comfortably show off her torso, eventually leading her to try and laser off her ‘birthmark'.
Taylor said: "I think my very first appointment was so painful to the point that it brought me to tears.
"I was just blown away because I couldn’t understand why it was hurting so bad if it was just a birthmark.
"The doctor wanted me to come back for a second time and I just said, ‘No way, it’s staying on me.’ It was unbearable, so it cannot be removed. It’s been on me since the day I was born and it will be there till I leave."
After hiding her stomach for most of her life, Taylor decided to come out publicly last year to finally freely showcase her pigmentation to the entire world - and says it has even helped her modelling career.
Taylor said: "I definitely had times in my life I had been insecure about showing my torso.
"I was so scared that if I showed my torso on a job or a photo shoot, that clients would never want to work with me again. Or I might not book the job to begin with because I am 'different’.
"If there was a situation where I had to show it, I would always ask the photographer after like, ‘Please Photoshop it out of the photos.' I was very insecure about it because I didn’t want it to hinder me.
"Women in general, we all have our own insecurities and having a torso that is two different colours was definitely one of mine.
"What gave me the confidence to finally come out about being a chimera is I realised I have been hiding this my entire life, almost pretending like it’s not a part of my life.
"I have the opportunity to hopefully help others. All the people out there that are different like me, we can show them that you can be a model or you can be an actress or you can be a singer. Don’t let it stop you or hold you back because you are different."
Taylor added: "My message to the world is don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can't do something or that you can't be something that you dream about. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
“If you are different, if it is due to a physical abnormality or a condition you have, It doesn’t matter. There is a place for everybody in this world.
"We are all special we are all unique and we all have something to give.”
To follow Taylor’s journey visit her Instagram account at: https://www.instagram.com/taylormuhl/