By Marina Chaker
A mum-of-four bullied and shunned for her ‘contagious’ freckles finally learned to embrace them when her son was thrilled to get his first one – because he wanted to look like his mum.
Charlene Cerros lived her life constantly embarrassed by taunts and questions from strangers about her freckles – even asking if they were spots or if she was sick – and considered bleaching her skin.
But the 30-year-old, from Melbourne, Australia, finally learned to embrace her sun spots when her five-year-old son Wyatt spotted his first freckle and was excited to be just like his mum.
Last year Charlene recently flew to London to star in a dramatic photoshoot focusing on embracing individuality and accepting differences after her husband, Francisco, 36, encouraged her to submit a photo of herself to the photographer.
Dispensary technician Charlene said: “I remember being in primary school and a group of school boys would laugh and me and ask why I had bird poo on my face as I walked past them, it was awful.
“At work, one customer didn’t want to come near me because of my freckles – they thought I had a disease and was contagious.
“Children ask their parents ‘mum, why does she have so many spots on her face’, and the parents would shush their kids because they were trying to be polite.
“I’ve never gotten an apology from anyone when I tell them it’s just freckles”
Charlene has a long line of family with freckles stemming from her great grandfather’s generation.
She always felt insecure about her spotted features – even buying skin bleach to make them lighter.
Charlene’s four children, Noah, eleven, Ariana, eight, Cole, four, and Wyatt, five, all have light freckles on their skin but have embraced these due to their mother’s positive outlook.
In 2016 the mum-of-four had her confidence boosted when Wyatt spotted his first freckle – but was thrilled when he looked just like his mum.
The 30-year-old said: “I always wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to look like everyone else.
“The first time I bought skin bleach I was 18 and my dad saw it, he didn’t want me to do it.
“The second time was for my wedding, but my husband found out and he talked me out of it.
“I just wanted to feel pretty and I didn’t think I was with my freckles. I’d try and cover them up with makeup but because my skin is so dark it just looks muddy and turns into the wrong colour.
“My son saw his first freckle on his face and was so excited, he said ‘look mum I’ve got a freckle like you’.
“My husband was motioning to him with his hand as if to say ‘cut it out’ but I loved it, he loves his freckles because he looks like his mum.
“Some of our children are now developing freckles and I don’t want them to have the same relationship with them that I had with mine.
“I’m trying to teach my kids that regardless of what someone looks like you should respect them because we’re all human, and they should be confident in their own skin.
“I’m conscious of how I verbalise my insecurities especially around my daughter. I want to set a good example about self-love and being acceptance.
“I didn’t want my voice when I complained about my freckles to become her inner voice.
“I don’t want my kids to grow up going through what I had to go through because of my freckles. I want to teach my children to love themselves, and that they have beautiful skin.”
UK photographer Brock Elbank contacted Charlene to be a part of his #Project 60 #Freckles series after her husband Francisco, 36, encouraged her to send through a photo of herself.
She flew to London last May to be part of the artistic photoshoot – which focused on models with different freckles and skin conditions.
But taking part in the photoshoot affected her so much that she gradually learned to love her freckles, and now teaches her kids to be confident in their own skin.
Charlene also uses the nasty comments and questions strangers ask as a teaching moment – to educate them on freckles and diversity.
She is urging other women to love themselves and embrace their differences.
Charlene said: “The first time I looked at the finished portraits I finally felt beautiful. I was so empowered and it taught me to embrace my differences – freckles and all.
“It was an amazing experience and before the shoot the photographer sits down with you and talks about your insecurities with you and how you can overcome them – it’s very empowering.
“Now when someone asks me if I’m sick or is rude about my freckles, I use it as a teaching moment to educate them.
“I want people to embrace what makes them unique and love themselves and the people that support them.
“Put your trust in the people who love you, rather than the people who don’t know you.
“If they say that you are beautiful, then believe them because they love you and will tell you the truth.
“Be confident in your own skin and learn to love yourself, even if it comes gradually.”