Scarred | Melanie
The courage it took each of these women to have their picture taken and roar their stories and self love into the world is genuine, undiluted beauty.
Angie Batis of Lucky Pony contacted me earlier this year to find out if I would be interested in linking arms with her and a long list of fierce females on a very special project. Angie, Adi Koen and Nicola Cooper joined forces to create and shoot a series made up of sixteen phenomenal women (one of them Nicola herself) who proudly wear scars that they have from traumatic or in some cases life-threatening events. They met with all sixteen women to spend the day with them, listen to their stories, spoil them a bit and photograph their true beauty – scars and all. Once this shoot was done, they contacted fourteen local illustrators and artists to create unique works of art over the photographs that would elevate the pieces even further.
As some of you know from my projects, the female form, our scars and journeys mean a lot to me. It is something I have struggled with all of my life and I was truly honoured to create something special for this project. When Angie sent me the picture that I would be working with I was incredibly overwhelmed. I knew her! And I have actually followed a bit of her journey via social media.
A very long time ago while I was in my second year of graphic design studies, I completed an internship at an advertising company in Port Elizabeth during my holiday. There were two people working there at the time that I can remember, one of them being Melanie. I was so incredibly nervous and intimidated, but they were both kind to me and I appreciated them both so much.
I remember thinking what a pretty girl Melanie was and honestly did not notice straight away that she had scars. Sometimes I find that if you are looking into someone’s eyes, you don’t immediately see any supposed faults. She opened up about her cleft lip to me during a lunch one day and I was happy to learn a bit more about it seeing as it’s not something I was familiar with at that time. Sometimes knowledge is key to understanding what something is and how it has affected someone’s life both physically and more importantly emotionally.
As women we are so hard on ourselves. We have to be achievers, but still soft and feminine. We have to be gorgeous, but not obsessed with our looks. We have to be social, intelligent, beautiful, active, healthy and successful. We compare our lives to thousands of others on a daily basis via social media and it leaves us all feeling a little envious and empty in the end.
Projects like these brings meaning back into our lives. This is striking beauty, it is truth, it is art and it is as authentic and raw as you will ever get. The courage it took each of these women to have their picture taken and roar their stories and self love into the world is genuine beauty. It inspires me to rage against the voices in my head telling me I am not good enough, pretty enough and skinny enough. It gives me the courage to unfollow some social media accounts that displays women who are too skinny and airbrushed that is fueling my own self doubt on a daily basis.
I am beyond proud to be a small part of this project and even more proud that I got to work with this precious woman, Melanie. I had goose bumps when I saw that it was her photograph for me to work on and I kept it a secret so that she could be wonderfully surprised that two good old PE girls that briefly worked together years ago could be brought back together in this truly meaningful way.
For my illustration I decided to give her a headdress inspired by African royalty for power, grace and fierce beauty. I then cloaked Melanie in organic contour studies that speak to the many layers of her story, her beauty and her strength. These layers serves as a reminder to be kind to every person you meet. You never know what they have been through or what they might be suffering through right this very minute.
Be kind to people. Learn about their journey, their history and their scars. Share your own journey with others. Being vulnerable is a sign of strength and might inspire someone else to open up about his or her own scars. Remind people every day how beautiful they are and never hold back a compliment.
Melanie shared her thoughts with Angie on her blog, Lucky Pony:
“I was born in 1984 with a cleft lip, not palette. I have had seven facial and two jaw operations since birth and I am 34 this year.
Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional trauma, everybody has, at some point in their life experienced something that is going to leave a scar. I think it’s just how you use that to create your own story. Your scar isn’t you, it doesn’t define you, but it sort of creates your story. It’s personal, it’s yours.
I was born this way so there is nothing that I could have done to change it but I can learn to accept it. I’ve spent so much time hating myself and wishing that I could look like everyone else. Even when I take a photo of myself, I struggle to look at it. I always look around it, the makeup, the eyes, the hair, everything else. I wear gold shiny shoes so people notice my shoes and not my face. So I think now there is nowhere to hide because this is a photo of my face.
The shoot was terrifying at first, but it was also so empowering. I feel electric now.”
Thank you to everyone involved in this special project. It has been published in the November issue of ELLE magazine, get your copy in store to see all of the gorgeous photographs and artworks. You can also read about it straight off the lovely Angie’s blog here.
Photographer/art director: Angie Batis Durrant
Stylists: Adi Koen and Nicola Cooper
Make-up: Amy Rossouw
Illustration: Maria Magdalena Atelier