The wave of body positivity in recent years has sought to break apart established beauty ideals (white, skinny, blonde, unblemished) and called for a re-evaluation of what’s held up as beautiful.
Flawless, no longer makes the cut, because where’s the spice in being immaculate? We’re asking to see women who look like us, who we relate to and recognise. We want to see signs of a life lived – scars and all.
Google the word ‘scar‘ and it will tell you that it’s a “mark left on the skin after a wound or injury has healed.” Despite the negative connotations (synonyms for scar include maim, traumatise or blemish), when you think about it, a scar is a symbol of healing – of having been through something painful and coming out the other side. Of surviving.
But still, we live in a world where bodies that stray from those traditionally deemed desirable are being erased. Take the experience of photographer Sophie Mayanne, for example, who in April 2017 established a photography campaign, #BehindTheScars, to document and celebrate “scars of all shapes and sizes and the incredible stories behind them.” Last month, Facebook removed Behind The Scars from Facebook for ‘violating their terms and conditions’ after deciding those featured needed censoring.
She’s continued her work over on Instagram, proudly working with men women and children who have experienced cancer, car accidents, cesareans, skin conditions, burns, bombs and more – and emerged stronger than ever.
She’s not alone. Here are the beautiful ways people are showing off their scars
Last year, Hannah underwent an ileostomy after suffering from a critical case of ulcerative colitis. Part of her colon was removed and she had a stoma bag fitted. She’s spoken out about how comforting it was to seek out images of other women with the same condition as her and how important it is for her, in turn, to contribute to normalising bodies with stoma bags. She notes that after everything her body has been through, “I think I look like a complete bad ass.”
Sylvia created Love Disfigure, an Instagram account dedicated to those with scars out of a need to “raise awareness and support to those living with hidden and visible differences, bodily facial.” Despite being burned at the age of 3, it took her until the age of 48 to finally bare her scars for the first time. Since then she’s been working tirelessly to celebrate bodies in all their beautiful shapes and sizes.
When Iesha was around 12, they discovered their young niece pulling a hot of pot oil off the hob. After moving her out the way, Iesha took the impact of the oil and suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns. After nine years of keeping their body covered, a holiday last year where they stepped out wearing exactly what they wanted, marked a turning point. “I decided that my scars would not define me and that uniqueness is what makes us beautiful. I am proud of who I am and of who I am yet to become,” they say. “For all of my survivors of whatever it may be. Our scars are more than scars, they tell a story of strength, beauty resilience, if there’s anything to be proud of it’s that.”
Juliet was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016 at the age of 54. She battled through a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and Herceptin and in April 2017 was confirmed cancer free. A year later, to celebrate, she enlisted the help of her friend for a topless photoshoot, “to celebrate my new body shape and that I’m still here.” Since then she’s gone on to feature in several topless pictures as well as encouraging other cancer survivors to bare their scars in order to promote body acceptance.
Bianca developed keloid scars at the age of 13 after suffering from severe acne on her face. A reaction with the medication she was prescribed transformed her acne scars into keloid scars (which spread beyond the original area of skin damage). Now she regularly shares pictures on her Instagram account. “Years ago I got told I was ugly and shouldn’t exist because I have a skin condition. Now I’m trying to embrace my skin condition,” she says. And while she’s been open about her journey to feeling fully confident, she’s not afraid to celebrate her body, even painting her scars different colours to emphasise and define them.
Loving My Dots
Nathalia was born with a birth mark covering 40% of her face and scalp. The condition, congenital melanocytic nevus, only affects 1 in 500,000 babies. She was bullied in school and called named like “Freddy Kruger”, “ugly face” and “monster”. But “it does not define me,” says Nathalia. “I can do whatever I want. When I decided to love the way I look, everything became easier. Loving my dots helped me find joy and freedom to be who I am.”
Having spearheaded #BehindTheScars and taken over 470 photos celebrating scars in all their shapes and forms, Sophie is working on an ambitious plan to push the project forward.