When lifestyle photographer Michelle Gerovac from Toronto was just five years old she was diagnosed with morphoea – a disorder of the skin collagen – after a red patch appeared on her chin.
“It’s also spread to my neck, forehead and scalp,” Michelle said.
It wasn’t until she started school that Michelle’s skin condition started bothering her as people would make mean or ignorant comments about her appearance.
“At school I was bullied by the other kids who made up mean nicknames about me because of how my face looked.
“I’d also be told by adults at school to ‘wash my face’ or that I had a dirty face. This made it hard for me to make friends and I spent most of my time alone.”
Today Michelle is more confident in her own skin but says she only decided to embrace her condition after researching it for her final college project. The 24-year-old explored how morphoea is portrayed in photos.
“I have a core group of friends who always tell me they don’t even notice my morphoea. I’m better at explaining what the disease is and I’m actually trying hard to raise awareness for this rare condition.
“When doing research for my thesis project in college I started to notice how scary all of the medical morphoea images online looked.
“They were all harshly lit with barely anyone’s faces in them. So I started taking self-portraits for my project to create images that showed the beauty of the person who may have the disease.”
The young woman then started sharing her self-portraits on social media.
“I started getting messages and emails from other people in the world who have morphoea.
“They were telling me about their story and it broke my heart to hear how some of them felt about themselves and their beauty.
“So now I share pictures of myself with my morphoea showing because I want the young people who’ve shared their stories with me to see more of a variety when it comes to the people they see online.
“Today’s society is so full of the ‘perfect’ photoshopped bodies and models that we forget what someone who’s real or different actually looks like,” she said.
There’s no cure for Michelle’s condition yet but there are some treatments such as injections that can weaken the immune system to prevent further damage and creams that can be rubbed on the area.
Michelle’s friends and family are proud to see she no longer covers her face.
“They share my blog posts and pictures online to help spread the word and are my greatest support team,” Michelle said.
“My message to some who might be feeling upset or self-conscious about their morphoea or any facial or body difference is to remember that they’re truly unique and beautiful in their own way and that they aren’t defined by their illness or how they might look.
“If someone is saying cruel things about them because of their morphoea they have to remember they’re so much more than what they may look like.”
Source: Magazine Features