"When I first started to lose my hair and my eyebrows and eyelashes, I thought, 'This situation is so sick with irony because of my job,'" Rye told ABC News. "I would say it jokingly to people but I was really crying on the inside. I think that was the first step on my journey."
At one point, the 41-year-old decided no woman should ever feel the way she did. That's when she decided to pose for a photoshoot and post the pictures to Facebook. Her aim was to encourage and inspire other "pink ladies."
“With cancer comes destruction," Rye wrote in the post. "However, it has also provided me with the opportunity to rebuild from the inside out. I have shed what is no longer necessary and quite honestly, impeded my growth.
Rye noted that when she first started modeling 20 years ago, women of color did not embody the “American concept of beauty.”
“I was told I was too dark, too light, too curvy, or that my hair was too dry, too curly, or too big,” she wrote on Facebook. “Then the curvy Brazilian girls took over the fashion industry, God bless them, and my career took off.”
When she was diagnosed with cancer, she faced similar adversity:
"Many of the celebrated parts of a woman that our culture defines as beauty I no longer have: eyebrows, hair, eyelashes," Rye wrote. "Chemotherapy wreaks havoc on your body slowly. My sum of parts once interconnected and harmonious are now dissembled and out of tune."
And yet, Rye said cancer has helped her become confident and comfortable with being “alone:”
“When I say I am alone, I mean free of a man, career, role, or title I may have clung to in the past to define myself," she wrote. "My happiness does not depend on the love, reassurance, loyalty, or approval of another. I am simply Mieko. I have nothing to hide. I have stage 3 breast cancer, and I have never felt more beautiful in my entire life.”
Rye plans to have a bilateral mastectomy soon -- a decision she said was inspired by her 7-year-old son.
"I'm more happy now because I know myself so much better and I love myself so much more," she told ABC. "I'm going to own this and I want other women to be inspired and own it as well. It's more about the inner beauty and when that shines through, you're just as beautiful. You haven't lost anything. You've gained it."