By Josh Saunders
A model with a large birthmark that’s often confused for a ‘facial tattoo’ is flaunting her difference to show others it’s beautiful.
Mariana Mendes, 24, from Juiz de Fora, Brazil, is defying her critics despite being told that her large congenital melanocytic nevus was ‘ugly’ and ‘strange.’
She believes her birthmark makes her ‘unique’ and has learned to love it, as it helps her to stand out from everyone else.
At five-years-old she underwent three laser surgery treatments to reduce the appearance of her nevus – as her mother feared she would be bullied.
But instead of being embarrassed, Mariana embraces her difference and has shown it off in a series of stunning modelling shots.
Mariana, a stylist assistant, said: “I feel more beautiful and totally different from other people because I have a nevus.
“Having a nevus 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, 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.”
Large congenital melanocytic nevi affect one in every 20,000 births and are caused by an increased amount of pigment beneath the skin – giving the area a darker appearance.
In 1998, Mariana received lightening sessions to help make her birthmark less visible.
She said: “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 mum’s best intentions, Mariana says she’s happy she didn’t have any surgery and that she’s pleased to still have a facial difference.
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.”