Eleanor Hardie, 19, from Ascot, UK, was born with a port wine stain birthmark on her face but says she has never covered it up despite abuse from strangers in the street.
Eleanor was called ‘ugly’ because of her port wine stain by one girl, has since been shouted at when walking down the street on holiday in Croatia with a person driving by shouting, ‘what the f*** is on your face’ and has had people laugh at her on the train.
A port wine stain birthmark is a capillary malformation which is red or purple in colour. Most are permanent and may deepen in colour over time, they usually affect one side of the body and usually appear on the face, chest and back.
Having grown up with people noticing her for her birthmark, Eleanor has learnt to brush off the comments and defiantly never covers up with makeup as she loves her birthmark and is proud of it.
From the ages of six months to 16-years-old Eleanor underwent 24 laser surgeries under general anaesthetic to prevent her birthmark from getting darker or any bigger.
Thanks to her birthmark, Eleanor has been the willing subject for her friend’s art project showcasing different aspects of beauty.
‘When I first started to notice it I mainly just wanted to know why I had it and why it was me that had it and no one else because I’d met very few people with one, especially on their face,’ said Eleanor.
‘My parents always taught me to love and accept it and just to never let it hold me back. I have been having laser treatment since I was a baby and so obviously I didn’t understand when I was really young what it was, but when I did they always said it was my decision and if I wanted to stop I could, and they never wanted to push anything on me.
‘Having treatment helped seeing other people with birthmarks because when I went to hospital, I saw other children with them and then also at the Birthmark Support Group, which is a charity running family days where lots of people with birthmarks would go and it would be quite a fun day out and definitely helped seeing others there, and it really helped with confidence knowing it wasn’t just me.
‘Laser treatment is meant to make the birthmark paler and reduce it from growing and getting darker. I had 24 treatments and because it’s fairly large and goes over my eye they had to do them with general anaesthetic, which I had between the age of six months to about 16 and then I stopped because of GCSEs and A-levels.’
Despite all the treatment, Eleanor said that growing up she didn’t feel different to other people.
‘When I was at primary school kids would ask me what it was but I never really had any issues with it, they would usually just ask what it was and move on.
‘Apart from one time when a girl in the year below said I was ugly with my birthmark and that was sort of the start of me realising that people would be mean and rude about it. Also, because I was young, I never really noticed people staring or making comments when I was out.
‘At secondary school I had no issues with it, and I think because it was an all girls school there wasn’t that pressure of boys or anything and so it was a really good way for me to develop my confidence.
‘It’s mainly when I’m out and in town or something that it’s more of an issue, for instance I was walking down the street with my friend on holiday and someone shouted out of their car at me, 2What the f*** is on your face?”
‘The main issue is actually adults who are ignorant and rude and it was rarely that children actually make comments because usually it’s just out of curiosity and intrigue if children ask or stare at me and if I explain then they just move on and accept it.’
Eleanor went on to talk about how she deals with negative remarks she has received and how she felt when her friend asked her to be the star of her art project.
‘Obviously it’s not nice to receive nasty comments about my birthmark and sometimes it can really affect me like one time I was on the train and saw two girls laughing and pointing at me and I could hear them talking about me and making horrible comments,” she said.
‘However because I’ve grown up with this and always noticed people staring I’ve developed almost a thicker skin and can brush it off quite easily because people can be horrible but if you let it affect you then they’re the ones who are winning and it’s way easier for self-confidence if you just move on.
‘They’re obviously someone who isn’t worth your time if they’re going to be rude.
‘When my friend asked if she could take photos of me I was really flattered because she was basing a large amount of her A-Level around different areas of beauty and the people who aren’t usually shown in the media and so it was getting more awareness out there.
‘It was really nice because she did all my makeup and then presented the whole project really well.’
Not everyone living with a birthmark shares Eleanor’s self-confidence, but she hopes that through sharing her story birthmarks will become normalised in society and will encourage others to be proud of theirs.
‘I think for someone who isn’t quite as confident then they should know that there’s no reason to be because actually it is fairly normal and if one in three babies are born with a birthmark then there’s a lot of people out there with one,” said Eleanor.
‘Also, if it’s because people have been rude and nasty in the past then it’s a lot easier for you to try and move on and be the bigger person because the people who are rude are not worth your time.
‘If more people are confident and show off their birthmark then the more normalised it will become and the more acceptable it will be in the media and mainstream society.
‘I guess the message I want to convey is one of trying to get people to accept their birthmark as much as they can and to try and get people with facial differences in the media more so that it can be normalised, so soon we can be able to see people with birthmark and facial differences in the media more because currently there are very few, perhaps almost none.’
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