Inspirational YouTube star Talia, 13, dies of cancer

SINGAPORE - She was just 13 when she became a honorary face of CoverGirl, a US cosmetics brand.

Despite being diagnosed with a terminal cancer, Talia Joy Castellano from Florida believed in being upbeat about it and inspired millions with her make-up tutorials on YouTube.

After a six-year battle with neuroblastoma, Talia passed away on July 16 in Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Florida.

Hollywoodlife.com reported that she was surrounded by friends and family at the time of her tragic death.

Her family took to her Twitter and Facebook accounts to break the sad news to the world. "It is with a heavy heart that we share with all of you that Talia has earned her wings at 11:22am," one tweet read.

"Please lift her beautiful soul, her beautiful light to heaven and please send your love and prayers to her family during this most difficult time. God speed little one, may you be free from pain and suffering, may your soul feel the light and love that you brought to so many of us on this Earth during the short time you were her with us. We will miss you more than you will ever know baby girl."

On her Pray for Talia Facebook feed, her family shared details of her final moments. "Talia woke up again and asked for more to drink. Her family and friends in the room started showing her the packages and fan mail again."

"After a few minutes, Talia paused. She looked around the room and said 'I could cry right now…' Her Mom got up real close to her and said 'What's wrong baby?.. Don't cry..' And Talia said 'I'm just so grateful… I'm so grateful for you guys…' Her family said that 'This all melted our hearts.'"

Talia was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma on Valentine's Day in 2007. The cancer is a tumour that develops from nerve tissue in infants and children.

She was seven then. Following chemotherapy, surgery and radiation she was cancer-free for one year, but in September 2008 doctors found the disease had spread to a small lymph node near her heart. For the next four years she received various treatments, but after periods of remission the cancer kept on returning to other parts of her body.

Last year, she revealed that she had neuroblastoma and leukaemia at the same time. Doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant as a possible remedy, but she decided to forgo another painful surgery and enjoy her remaining days. She said that although the chances of surviving were slim, she would continue her videos "for as long as I can".

Talk show star, Ellen DeGeneres, also cited the youngster as an inspiration.

Talia was bursting with positive energy when she appeared on the DeGeneres show. When asked how she stays so positive, Talia quoted a line DeGeneres used in her role as Dory in Finding Nemo.

"When people ask me that, what do you want me to do, be depressed?" she said. "I mean a little fishy told me, 'Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!'"

Talia said her make-up tutorials were conceived out of her distaste for wearing wigs. "I don't like wigs... When I have on a wig I feel, not fake, just not me.

" When I put on my make-up I feel like I can embrace those features that I really like about myself. I feel if someone's looking at me, they're looking at my make-up, not looking at my bald head.

"Having cancer has been a gift but it's a horrible, horrible thing," she said. "The journey of having cancer was amazing but every journey has an end.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES