“I was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted when I was eight months old. I grew up in a small town in Northern Minnesota with my parents and three older siblings who were also adopted from Korea. Now, you may be thinking that sounds like a unique story, however I have another thing that makes my story different than most: I was born with a Port Wine Stain and Blue Nevus. Port Wine Stain is a vascular malformation. My veins are closer to the skin surface, which cause the reddish ‘stain’ on my skin. Blue Nevus is a blueish colored birthmark that resembles bruises.
Growing up, I never felt any different than any other kid around. My family was good at protecting me from feeling like anything about my physical appearance was unique. I started to realize I was different when I got into kindergarten. I recall walking through the store with my family and wondering why kids looked at me or stared at me. This is also when I started to remember my laser treatments.
Growing up, I did 25-30 laser treatments from the time I was a baby until I was 12 years old. My parents always did their best to make it a good experience. I would always be excited because it meant a special trip and I would usually get to pick where we ate and what we did. The anticipation of getting to travel with my parents and go to a special restaurant afterwards was exciting back then. The nurses were always so wonderful as well. They would give me all the popsicles I wanted when I woke up from my treatment; once I ate so many I got sick! The treatments initially proved effective, but by the time I was 12 years old, we were no longer seeing a progression in the lightening of my birthmark. We decided then to stop treatments.
When I was seven years old I went into treatment with a new doctor who was operating a new laser machine. Unfortunately, the settings were too high and I ended up with severe burns on my face. My parents had to take me to the doctor as soon as I returned home. I developed large blisters across my whole face. The pain of the blisters is still burned into my mind. I would lay on the couch crying while my mom gently applied cold compresses to my face. I went back to school and hated using the restroom because it meant other kids I didn’t necessarily know would see me. I would often stare in the mirror at myself, disgusted and wondering why me? I also remember being incredibly self-conscious of my face after treatments because of the ‘dots’ or bruising that appeared. I felt hideous and didn’t want to show my face to anyone besides my family.
While I had so many wonderful supportive friends, I also dealt with several negative experiences as well. In my town, the two elementary schools joined together in middle school. This meant there were new faces and kids who didn’t know anything about my birthmark. Sitting at lunch, one day one of my friends told me she had overheard one of the boys say my face looked like ‘crap,’ except he used a much harsher four letter word. I immediately felt sick from embarrassment and anger. This was the moment I felt like I needed to start hiding my birthmark.
As I became older, I became more and more self-conscious of my birthmark. Ugly thoughts began to creep into my mind, wondering how any guy would be interested in me when I had this massive birthmark across my face. I began to withdraw myself more and started to use makeup. Makeup became my security blanket, my mask I could hide behind. At this time I was using makeup specifically created for birthmarks and scars. This was my first time experimenting with makeup. I recall using several different brands and formulas, always feeling like I was being a fraud. The makeup stuck to my skin in an unpleasant way and always felt thick and cakey. However, I still used this makeup because of my fear of being different. This continued on through college. At this point, I hated makeup because I felt like I was wearing this mask both physically and figuratively.
About a year after I finished college, I began watching YouTube videos of different makeup artists. This is when I decided there had to be something better out there for me. I was sick of feeling like I had this heavy mask on all the time. I was giddy to purchase my first high-end makeup product. I remember feeling like this was the beginning of something special. I was still struggling with accepting the skin I was given, but I was beginning to come into my own.
After about three years of self-taught makeup application, I decided I wanted to pursue my Esthetician’s Certificate and become officially certified in skincare and makeup. December of 2018, I posted a photo of me with half a face of makeup and half a face makeup free. This was the first time I had posted a photo without wearing makeup on social media. Hitting that post button was one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life. But, to my surprise, the response was so positive. I had peers reach out to me telling me how proud they were and I felt like I was starting to truly accept myself.
When I started Esthetician’s school, those feelings of nervousness began to creep back in again. What would these girls think? Would they want to be friends with someone who looked like me? Thankfully, I met some of the most genuine and amazing women out there. They not only loved me for who I was, but I felt loved because I was different. This is when I really began to appreciate my birthmark and its uniqueness.
When I was finished Esthetician school, I began to pursue my career as a makeup artist. I started sharing my makeup looks on social media and my story. As I gained more clients and followers, I started my journey with self-love. I shared more photos without makeup, and once again I was shocked with the response. I began receiving messages thanking me for spreading awareness, from parents with children with birthmarks and individuals themselves who had birthmarks. It felt good to give others and myself a sense of community.
About a year ago, I joined TikTok on a whim. I didn’t really think it would take me anywhere; it was just something to do for fun and share my passion for makeup. Within the first month, I had over 75,000 followers. From there, things have only grown quicker. I was beginning to see what sharing something real could do. I feel like these days there is so much fakeness associated with social media. I have started to be noticed by large makeup companies such as Laura Mercier, Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez, Jouer, and more. All because I chose to share my birthmark with the world!
I wish people these days would stop comparing themselves to the ‘influencers’ of the world. Learning to love yourself definitely starts when you stop comparing yourself to others. We all bring so many different unique experiences and stories. It’s important to embrace these differences and lean into them. You never know, the thing you felt so worried about may be what makes you stand out in the crowd!
This thing I used to hate so much about myself has now turned into such a blessing. I’ve learned my birthmark has shaped so much of who I am. I was recently asked if I would ever remove it fully if I could, and as I thought about it I said no. Having a birthmark has created me to be an empathetic person, a person who gets to help others realize they are beautiful just the way they are, and has pushed me towards my passion in life. If I think back 10-year-old me, I would never believe I would be saying any of this. I am grateful for the journey I’ve been on and will continue to grow on. I hope to continue to be an inspiration to others in their journey of self-love and self-confidence and something like physical appearance shouldn’t stop you from reaching towards your goals.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Becca Lee. You can follow her journey on Instagram and TikTok. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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