A woman with a large birthmark on her face is redefining so – called ‘beauty standards’.
Mariana Mendes, 24, from Juiz de Fora, Brazil, say that her birthmark is often confused for a facial tattoo.
So she decided to take part in an empowering modelling shoot to defy bullies who told that her large congenital melanocytic nevus was ‘ugly’ and ‘strange.’
Mariana believes her birthmark makes her ‘unique’ and says ‘will never be ashamed’ of it.
At five-years-old the beauty underwent three laser surgery treatments to reduce the appearance of her birthmark.
Her mother feared she would be bullied but Mariana says she loves her birthmark because it ‘helps her to stand out from everyone else.’
Mariana, a stylist assistant, said: ‘I feel more beautiful and totally different from other people because I have a birthmark.’
‘Having a birthmark that is as large as mine is not common, so of course there are many people who stare and who don’t like it, but I don’t care.’
‘A lot of people ask me about my birthmark, sometimes they think it’s makeup or a tattoo but I don’t mind and explain it to them.’
‘Some people do like it, others don’t, some love it and others hate it – I get a very mixed response.’
‘I have been told by a few people that it’s “ugly” or “strange”, but it doesn’t bother me that’s just their opinion and I think it’s beautiful.’
‘I don’t get upset if a person doesn’t like my nevus (birthmark), to me it’s like any other part of my body, so I prefer to remember the praise I receive for it.’
‘I’m proud of having a nevus, it’s a part of who I am and how I learned to like myself.’
The type of congenital melanocytic nevi that Mariana has affects one in every 20,000 births.
This is caused by an increased amount of pigment beneath the skin and produces the darker mark.
In 1998, Mariana received lightening sessions to help make her birthmark less visible.
She explained: ‘When I was a child, for fear of me being bullied, my mother took me to the doctor for laser treatment to clear the nevus.’
‘As I only had a few sessions the results were very little and almost unnoticeable.
‘I’m glad I stopped because more sessions the more reduced it would have become.’
Despite her mom’s best intentions, Mariana says she’s happy she didn’t have any surgery.
Mariana said: ‘I don’t want to get rid of it, I’m glad no more treatments were conducted on my nevus.’
‘The laser treatment didn’t help to reduce its appearance too much thankfully.’
‘I’m grateful for that, because if I was old enough to understand I would never have wanted anyone to change my nevus in the first place.’
Now she’s hoping to inspire others to embrace their differences too.
Mariana said: ‘When people don’t know me they just stare and ask what it is, but the people who know me say that the don’t even realise I have the mark, to them it’s just another part of my body.
‘I find living with a facial nevus very easy because I like it a lot and I want others to feel as confident as I do about their nevi.’
‘I will never be ashamed of my nevus and feel good having it.’