By Nicolas Fernandes
A woman who was nicknamed “Scarface” by bullies has embraced her port wine stain thanks to supportive friends who taught her to see past it.
Kellie Maddox, 30, of Spokane, Washington, USA, was tormented and outcasted as a child for the large birthmark that covers her left cheek, but now she considers it an important part of her identity.
The birth defect affects about one in 3,0000 people and is caused by a gene mutation that leads to enlarged blood vessels, permanently leaving an area of the skin stained pink, red or purple.
She dealt with name calling from her classmates who thought she was “ugly” throughout elementary school and middle school.
As a teenager, it caused her self-esteem to drop because none of the boys in school gave her attention.
After opportunities to get laser surgeries as a child, Kellie decided that it was too expensive to ask her family to pay for and is now grateful to keeping her reddish mark.
She also tried covering it with a special makeup at one point, but stopped once she realized she no longer looked like herself.
After going through a divorce at the age of 25 and battling her ‘worst’ self-esteem issues to date, she decided to spend time with more positive people as well as close friends and family members.
Their friendship and support allowed to see she was more than her unique mark, which led her to love herself and her birthmark.
Kellie, a dental assistant, said: “I really think it’s a positive thing now. It proves that we’re all born with something unique and should love every part of ourselves.
“When I was a kid, a lot of my classmates would tease me and call me ‘Scarface’ or ‘ugly.’ Hearing those things at such a young age really brought me down.
“When the bullying finally stopped, I was a teenager and I felt very hurt when none of the boys paid attention to me.
“I would get upset when I saw other girls and I thought they were prettier than me.
“As a teenager, I would have really liked to get rid of it if the surgery wasn’t so expensive, but looking back, I’m happy that I didn’t go through with it.
“It wasn’t worth all the effort covering it up for something that hid part of who I am. I looked weird without it.
“I had a lot of people around me who saw me and not my birthmark.
“My family and friends never saw it as a big deal. They’ve been able to see past it and accept me for who I am.”
After her divorce, Kellie made sure she only dated men who cared about more than just the way she looked.
When she later met her husband Bryan, the topic of the port wine stain didn’t even come up right away.
He assumed it was bruise at first until she later explained that it was a vascular anomaly she was born with.
Kellie said: “People who are worth my time actually get to know me without focusing on it.
“Bryan was curious, but he didn’t make a big deal out of it. When we first met, he thought it was a bruise, but after a while when it wasn’t going away, I explained to him what it was.”
While it used to be the reason for her bad self-esteem, she now sees it as something that has made her more confident and better accept unique parts of herself.
Kellie said: “It has even taught me not to feel insecure about other things about my body that used to upset me.
“When I start thinking that I’m overweight or that my thighs are too big, I stop myself. I have learned to block out those negative thoughts and love myself for who I am.”
Kellie has become so proud of her port wine stain that she posts photos online showing it off.
She has received positive comments from friends and strangers who have been inspired by her positive attitude and self-love.
She also gets messages from concerned users who think she is being abused, but always lets them know that she is not.
Once in a while she will experience cyber-bullying, but it doesn’t bother her much anymore.
Kellie said: “One woman commented saying that she wishes she could embrace her stretch marks the way I embrace my birthmark.
“A lot of times, people see my posts and comment saying, ‘If you’re in an abusive situation, you should get out.’ It’s very sweet and I do appreciate their concern, but that’s not the case.
“Once in a blue moon I get a comment saying that I’m ugly, but those people are basically just internet trolls. I don’t know them, so I don’t care what they say.”
Kellie still gets a lot of stares when she’s in public and always hears loud kids asking what is wrong with her face in the grocery store.
She does not get upset when kids react to it and enjoys educating them on what it is.
She said: “Pretty much every time I walk past someone who has never seen me, they do a double take. They’re not looking at me, they’re looking at my birthmark.
“Kids in the grocery store will say, ‘mom, what’s that on her face?’ The mother will always get embarrassed, but I tell them it’s okay and if they have time I’ll tell them about it.
“I like to teach kids about it, so that maybe next time they see someone with a port wine stain, they won’t react that way.”