Chelsea Campbell, 25, has learned to celebrate her unique appearance – and hopes that her Instagram will encourage others to do the same.
A self-styled “birthmark queen” is using her Instagram platform to encourage women to embrace their imperfections – after opting out of laser surgery to remove her own port wine stain in primary school, thanks to a comment from a friend.
Changing schools aged eight, Chelsea Campbell, 25, learned to celebrate her unique appearance after a little girl, who became her best pal, recognised her in a sea of unfamiliar faces, because of the prominent mark on the left-hand side of her face.
Waitress Chelsea, of Kent, Washington, USA, who is applying to study TV production at college, said: “I met my childhood best friend at school, and I remember her saying to me, ‘I remember you from preschool. I know who you are.’”
She continued: “We’d been to the same preschool two years before and while I had no memory of her, she remembered me because of my birthmark. I really liked the feeling of standing out from the crowd and everyone knowing who I was.
“Then, two years ago, I changed my Instagram account name to the ‘birthmark queen,’ as I wanted to start posting about my birthmark, because I love it – it’s part of me and who I am today.
“There are so many Instagram influencers out there who edit their pictures to the point where they’re not recognisable any more. But I want to show other people that if they want to be happy, they need to love their flaws and accept themselves.”
“I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” Chelsea added.
Born with a port wine stain birthmark – caused by the abnormal development of the blood vessels in the skin – on the left side of her face, Chelsea is now devoted to promoting self-acceptance online.
But, until she was eight years old, her parents, police officer Ronald and medical payment processor Barbara, both 50, took her for annual laser surgery, to reduce the size and impact of her blemish.
“I had surgery every year until I was about eight,” she said. “I was put to sleep under anaesthetic and I had a procedure which is similar to a tattoo removal.
“The surgery is supposed to lighten the colour of the birthmark and make it more subtle.”
Then, after the eighth procedure Chelsea, who says her body positivity is thanks to the support her parents have given her, told them she did not want further surgery, as she was happy to stand out from the crowd.
“I suppose my parents thought that if the surgery made my birthmark less obvious then my life would be a lot easier,” she said.
“But it just wasn’t something I wanted to continue to do. For one, I was a really active kid, and I hated having to stay still and rest after the surgery.”
And Chelsea – who has gained almost 5,000 Instagram followers since renaming her account ‘birthmark queen’ – said she soon learned not just to live with her birthmark, but to love it.
She said: “By the time I was about eight or nine, I’d actually started to quite like my birthmark.
“I’d always known something was different about me and I quite liked the thought of standing out. I’m instantly recognisable and you’d never lose me in a crowd.”
But Chelsea’s decision to embrace her difference meant that, growing up, she and her parents suffered insensitive comments from people mistaking her birthmark for a bruise.
“I’d get the odd comment here and there,” she said. “But the worst reaction was when adults would get the wrong end of the stick and think I was in danger. They thought I’d been beaten up and my birthmark was a bruise.
“Sometimes, adults would ask me if I was okay or they would just glare at my dad as if he’d done something wrong.
“It was hard to deal with – but it’s something you learn to ignore.”
Chelsea – who has one brother, three step-brothers, and two step-sisters – believes it made life tougher for her parents than it was for her.
“My mum was particularly affected, she couldn’t cope when people would stare at me and think there was something wrong with me,” she said. “She’s always worried about me.
“I think she still worries about me now.”
Chelsea also fended off some cruel jibes from other children.
She continued: “I’d get comments from kids all the time. They’d say stuff like, ‘You look like you’ve been hit with a frying pan,’ or ‘Who have you been in a fight with?’
“Those kinds of comments didn’t bother me too much. I’d just laugh it off and say something like, ‘You should’ve seen the other guy.’”
But things have turned full circle and today Chelsea not only rarely receives negative comments online or from strangers in the street, she feels positively “uncomfortable” when she covers her birthmark with make-up.
“I’ve had my birthmark all my life, there’s no point in covering it up, it’s part of me,” she said.
“When I do my make-up routine, I make my eyebrows more prominent, and put on eyeliner, mascara and some eye shadow.”
“I put on some foundation and concealer – because I get really bad bags under my eyes,” she added.
“I contour and highlight and finish off with some lipstick.
“I’ve covered it up on the odd occasion – say for a job interview or something – but it just makes me feel uncomfortable.”
Chelsea loves make-up, but to enhance how she looks and not to camouflage the mark on her face.
She continued: “I love make-up and I’m hoping to start a YouTube channel soon where I will do make-up tutorials.
“But I don’t want make-up to hide my birthmark – it would be like hiding who I really am. So, I make sure to do my make-up around my birthmark instead.”
Singleton Chelsea also mentions her birthmark when she is looking for love online.
“I’m on Tinder at the moment, and I’ve explained in my bio what my birthmark is,” she said. “I think it just helps if you’re upfront about it.
“To be honest, I’ve not had one bad experience. I think in recent years people have become a lot less ignorant and more accepting.
“The only comments I get from people I match with about my birthmark are positive ones.
“They’ll say things like, ‘I love how unique you are,’ and, ‘You’re perfect the way you are.’
“As much as it’s nice, it’s a bit cringe. I’ve always struggled to take compliments.”
Chelsea, who says her parents’ encouragement throughout her life has helped her to embrace her birthmark, is now determined to pass on the same positive message to other people.
“My parents always reassured me, telling me I was perfect the way I was,” she said.
“They were and still are an incredible support system for me. I don’t think I’d be who I am today if it hadn’t been for my mum and dad.”
“Not everyone will be as lucky as I am, or have as much support as I do, though, which is why it’s so important to help people online,” continued Chelsea.
“If by embracing my birthmark I can inspire just one more person to love themselves, then that will make my day.
“I love my birthmark and I love being different – I think it’s so important to get that message out there.”
“So many young people are under pressure to achieve looks that don’t exist, I want to promote the opposite – be who you really are,” she concluded.
“In order to get on in life people need to learn to love their imperfections – I love mine because that’s what makes me me.”
Visit Chelsea’s Instagram page at @birthmarkqueen
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