Elisa Relyea

Elisa Relyea

The woman who can't smile
Country: USA

  1. A Woman Who Can't Smile
  2. Diagnosis
  3. A Life Without an Authentic Smile
  4. A Family Legacy
  5. A Mother's Love

A Woman Who Can't Smile

Alice Raley is a 42-year-old resident of New York who is unable to smile. She was born this way - from childhood, little Alice grew up without a smile on her face. Life has not been easy for her - many people refused to understand how Alice 'cannot' smile, believing that she simply enjoys being serious or even grumpy. Today, Alice recalls how there would occasionally be a smile in her childhood, but no matter how happy or excited she was, her face always remained impassive, like a mask.

Elisa Relyea


Concerned about her daughter's condition, Alice's mother suggested she see a doctor. It turned out that Alice suffers from Möbius syndrome, or facial paralysis. Malfunctioning cranial nerves affect facial expressions, leaving her face frozen like a mask. At the age of 17, Alice agreed to undergo surgery, which allowed her to make an effort to portray something remotely resembling a smile. Although such operations cannot radically change the situation, they can partially alleviate the condition, as was the case with Alice.

Elisa Relyea

A Life Without an Authentic Smile

Alice understands that her smile does not look natural, but it is the best she can show. Despite the lack of a dazzling smile, Alice got married. In an interview, she revealed her surprise that her future husband, Tim, was not scared off by her unusual diagnosis. Perhaps all the mockery from her peers greatly lowered Alice's self-esteem. Nevertheless, Alice and Tim Raley now have two children - a little girl named Emily and her older brother Caleb.

A Family Legacy

When Alice and Tim discussed having children, Alice warned that the chances of their children having Möbius syndrome were 50/50. Alice inherited her condition - her father, brother, and sister also suffered from Möbius syndrome. However, the family noticed that the disease seemed to become milder with each subsequent child. This gave Alice hope that if their future children were born with Möbius syndrome, it might be less severe than her own. Unfortunately, their son Caleb was also born with Möbius syndrome.

A Mother's Love

Despite raising her children without a smile, Alice is confident that she is doing everything a good mother can do for her children. Her husband, Tim, smiles on her behalf - he plays around with the kids, makes funny faces, and sometimes it makes Alice very sad that such simple joys are not available to her. Interestingly, when she cries, her face remains motionless - only tears betray Alice.