18 September 2014

The SCAR Project. On beauty.

I pinch myself at the opportunities I've had these past few years. It is amazing to be asked to speak or write about what it's like to look difference - to such diverse audiences. On Friday I'm talking on a panel at The SCAR Project in Sydney.

"The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) is proud to host the Australian premiere of the international exhibition, The SCAR Project, created by fashion photographer David Jay.

The SCAR Project is a series of large scale portraits of young women with breast cancer. The images are unflinching, revealing the raw and honest face of breast cancer. They ask the viewer to reconsider beauty, permanence and the simple but immense power of our daily interactions. Ultimately, The SCAR Project is not about breast cancer, but the human condition itself; the images transcending the disease, illuminating the scars that unite us all."

Here are the details of the session I will be at:

What is Beauty? 19 September, 12.30pm - 2.00pm

Hosted by Eliza O’Hare, Associate Editor at Harper’s BAZAAR and brought to you by Estée Lauder

Exploring different definitions and challenging traditional views of beauty. The discussion will examine how society defines beauty, how beauty is portrayed in the media and the impact this has on society.

RSVP at beauty@nbcf.org.au

Numbers are limited and the session is FREE to attend, with refreshments and food provided.

NOTE: The SCAR Project exhibition is suitable for ages 16 years old and above, at the discretion of parents and guardians

Come along!

I've been thinking a lot about acquired visible difference lately, and the adjustment and grief over losing an appearance one becomes used to. The panellists and I have been asked to talk about our definition of beauty. Here are my thoughts on beauty - you may have read some of this prior, but I wanted to collate some of my thoughts in one small piece:

When I think of beauty, I think of outer appearances and also the mind and heart. Good writing, intelligent thoughts and creativity are as beautiful as a Cupid's bow lip and silky hair. Above all, it's a kind heart that is most beautiful. People get more beautiful the

People don't automatically see the beauty in difference. They stare out of curiosity or confusion or ignorance or disgust. People don't aspire to stand out by their difference - they want to be like the women dancing on MTV or on the covers of magazines. And many young men expect the women they date will look like supermodels. Little girls want to dress and look like Elsa from Frozen - blonde hair and porcelain skin, and a flowing dress. They don't want to look less than a Disney beauty ideal. I wonder if there were more diverse role models in children's cartoons and books, would they be less taken aback by difference, and and more inspired to embrace individuality.

I would like there to be a greater representation of diversity in the media, so we can normalise difference - so that we can see there's beauty in everyone. Body image and diversity is so much more than fat and thin, and it's so good that powerful women in the media like Turia Pitt, Francesca Martinez and Stella Young are bringing diversity into the mainstream. I also think blogging is at the forefront of diversity in the media- showcasing all types of people - their image and stories - and I'm so glad to be a part of this. I'd like girls to know that it is ok to be interested in fashion and taking pride in their appearance even though they have a facial difference or disability. I'd like wider society to see beauty in those who look different.

Lots of people stare at me and ask questions and ridicule. But so many more - the people who matter - see ME.

My love, he's got this joke with me. It's a play on everyone who intrusively asks me about my face.

"What's on your face?", he says.

Then he adds, "Oh it's just beautiful."

And boy do I smile when he says that. I am the luckiest.

I don't need anyone but myself to make me feel happy with my appearance. But it is amazing knowing and seeing how someone else sees me. It's such a joy to love and to be loved. And I love how it shows. This isn't vanity. It's seeing myself as my love sees me. When I see a photo he's taken, I see the beauty he sees in me.

How do you define beauty? Has the definition changed through your life?


  1. I think that some people can SEE better than others. My daughter is amazing - she finds beauty in people who have that 'inner' thing happening. And she is only 9. As I get older, I can definitely appreciate how beauty 'on the inside' will always find a way to the surface. You don't have to look that hard. I worry that a section of our society is so very focussed on cosmetic beauty - it frightens me a little. I suppose I have an 'aquired visible difference' after being treated for breast cancer myself this year. Do I try to look 'normal' (post mastectomy and bald) - I guess. I don't wear a wig, I wear scarves and smile. I wear a little padding in my bra, but am nowehere near the E+ I was three months ago. You adjust. I am one of very many with the same challenges and I feel very lucky that I HAVE been able to adjust - to find that my identity is not actually tied up with my hair or the size or state of my breasts.

    This exhibition looks interesting (and perhaps a little confronting). I too hope to see more variety of the human condition represented in the media - not as 'something different' but as a matter of course, without any attention being brought to 'the difference'. It's a lovely thought!

  2. I think you see the real beauty in people when you are not beautiful (in the conventional, western sense) yourself. When I was having chemo, I was bald, my skin was an awful yellowy colour, I was puffy and generally looked pretty dreadful. Yet the people who I love continued to love me just the same, and people who didn't know me either stopped and stared (idiots) or talked to me about what was going on in my life. Having one breast removed and keeping the other one in a box also presents challenges to the conventional notion of physical beauty, but most of the time these days I actually forget that one of my boobs isn't actually real!!

    1. I've got a boob in the bra, and one in a bag(for the pool) and another in my gym kit. Love having 3.... accumulate over 4 years, as I keep getting worried one will get chewed by the dog, or I'll stab my thumb through the back and it will spring a leak! It took me years to feel comfortable wearing 'normal' clothes as I was convinced you could tell the difference. Now I forget that I'm wearing it! It feels just so normall and it is not until I see myself in the bathroom mirror that I realise I am different.


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