By Josh Saunders
A woman has spoken out after her ‘Phantom of the Opera’ birthmark was confused for Halloween make-up.
Shelly Wasley, 38, from Birmingham, West Midlands, suffered the shock when a stranger believed her port wine stain to was a part of her costume.
She was dressed as the character Moira O’Hara from American Horror Story last year, a maid missing an eye, when the purple markings on the left side of her face were mistaken.
Thankfully, Shelly saw the funny side in it and at times has even played along with strangers who believed she has been in an accident or that it was part of her costume.
Her birthmark, which is caused by a gathering of blood vessels under skin that make the area to swell and turn a reddish to purple colour, was caused by Sturge Webber Syndrome.
Despite the confusion and mean comments growing up, including ‘Ribena face’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ she loves her birthmark and even dresses to enhance its appearance.
Shelly said: “At Halloween people are amazed and think I have the best make-up, what I don’t tell them is that it’s half natural.
“People genuinely have thought my birthmark was part of my costume and even commented how good it was. They told me, ‘Oh that’s amazing makeup.’
“My friends were a little embarrassed, I think they didn’t know whether I was going to say it was ‘makeup’ or tell them ‘No actually it’s not and I’m a bit offended.
“But it was funny and good. I only need to make half the effort everyone else does at Halloween.
“People that I knew thought it was amazing, but for others I would say it was just really good make-up.
“It was only recently that I embraced being different, which has been thanks to a lot of the amazing body positivity movements.
“I realised There are far more people who look ‘flawed’, and that is actually becoming normal.
“I love it and it defines who I am. I don’t want to get rid of my birthmark, I just want to keep it healthy.
“Growing-up I always wished I could change it, but now, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Shelly refused make-up to cover her port wine stain believing it looked like she had been ‘painted’ and chose to show her birthmark instead.
She felt proud of her difference but struggled and would often ‘overcompensate’ by trying to trying to be her personal best.
Shelly said: “When I went to high school there wasn’t bullying, just comments made.
“I took it on board because I knew I looked different than everybody else and everyone remembered me very easily after seeing me.”
Shelly stopped pulse dye laser treatment to reduce the appearance of her birthmark at 14-years-old due to the pain it caused and lengthy recovery process.
It was only at 26, after being diagnosed with Sturge Webber Syndrome – which caused the birthmark – that she realised she needed to restart the procedures.
Shelly said: “When I stopped them it felt like I was coming to terms with who I really am.
“Then when I was diagnosed with Sturge Webber Syndrome I realised the birthmark would thicken and darken the older I get, now I have laser treatment to maintain my health.
“I’ve had a couple of treatments recently, to help to keep it healthy and not develop bumps or blebs, as they’re called, but I don’t want to get rid of it.”
Since resuming treatment last year, her most recent procedure last month marked 13 in total – despite this, Shelly hopes it doesn’t reduce the appearance of her port wine stain.
She believes campaigns like Be Real, which encourages body positivity for everyone, have encouraged her to feel more confident.
Shelly explains who within the last year, her opinions towards the birthmark have rapidly changed.
She said: “In the past I always acted like I was super confident with it, but I really wasn’t.
“I tried to embrace it but also try to make up for my difference in other ways.
“I thought if I was skinny or perfectly dressed or my house was perfect etc, people would except my other flaws.
“But now I know that’s rubbish and I really love my birthmark.”
Shelly hopes that others will learn to accept and embrace their differences rather than hiding them and feeling insecure.
She said: “It’s so much better to accept you are different, I’m not trying to hide away.
“People will hone-in on any kind of difference or insecurity you have, you have to be happy with yourself and not worry what other people think.
“Personally, I would much rather people approach and ask me about my birthmark, I’m confident enough to answer them rather than others who may not be.”