Woman dubbed ‘Phantom of the Opera’ for facial birthmark loves her differences despite it being confused for halloween make-up
A woman who was cruelly dubbed ‘Phantom of the Opera’ for her facial birthmark has learned to love and embrace her differences despite it being confused for Halloween make-up.
Shelly Wasley, 38, from Worcestershire, adores her ‘flaw’ seeing it as beautiful and even dresses to exacerbate its appearance.
She was born with a port wine stain – a gathering of blood vessels under skin that cause the area to become raised and reddish to purple – caused by Sturge Webber Syndrome.
Growing-up she felt like a ‘minor celebrity’ because everyone recognised her due to the birthmark that covers half of her face.
Despite this, strangers often would believe it was caused by an injury and even have thought it was part of make-up for the ghoulish celebrations on October 31st.
She used to focus on ensuring every other aspect of her life was ‘perfect’ to ‘overcompensate’ for her difference, until last year when she decided to start loving it instead.
Shelly said: “I used to get called ‘Phantom of the Opera’ quite a lot and generally people would ask what I had done to my face assuming I was hurt.
“At 14, when my boyfriend was in an ambulance, the drivers asked what happened to me as well believing I was injured too.
“People will often tell me ‘Oh, what a shame’ and other things that just make me laugh.
“At Halloween people are amazed and think I have the best make-up, what I don’t tell them is that it’s half natural.
“People genuinely have thought my birthmark was part of my costume and even commented how good it was.
“Before I always tried to overcompensate being different by being perfect in every other way, I always tried to look and dress perfectly.
“It was only recently that I embraced being different, which has been thanks to a lot of the amazing body positivity movements.
“I realised There are far more people who look ‘flawed’, and that is actually becoming normal.
“I love it and it defines who I am. I don’t want to get rid of my birthmark, I just want to keep it healthy.”
Shelly refused make-up to cover her port wine stain believing it looked like she had been ‘painted’ and chose to show her birthmark instead.
She tried to be proud of her difference but struggled and would often ‘overcompensate’ by trying to trying to be her personal best.
Shelly said: “When I went to high school there wasn’t bullying, just comments made.
“I took it on board because I knew I looked different than everybody else and everyone remembered me very easily after seeing me.”
Shelly stopped pulse dye laser treatment to reduce the appearance of her birthmark at 14-years-old due to the pain it caused and lengthy recovery process.
It was only at 26, after being diagnosed with Sturge Webber Syndrome – which caused the birthmark – that she realised she needed to restart the procedures.
Shelly said: “When I stopped them it felt like I was coming to terms with who I really am.
“Then when I was diagnosed with Sturge Webber Syndrome I realised the birthmark would thicken and darken the older I get, now I have laser treatment to maintain my health.
“I’ve had a couple of treatments recently, to help to keep it healthy and not develop bumps or blebs, as they’re called, but I don’t want to get rid of it.”
Since resuming treatment last year, her most recent procedure last month marked 13 in total – despite this, Shelly hopes it doesn’t reduce the appearance of her port wine stain.
She believes campaigns like Be Real, which encourages body positivity for everyone, have encouraged her to feel more confident.
Shelly explains who within the last year, her opinions towards the birthmark have rapidly changed.
She said: “In the past I always acted like I was super confident with it, but I really wasn’t.
“I tried to embrace it but also try to make up for my difference in other ways.
“I thought if I was skinny or perfectly dressed or my house was perfect etc, people would except my other flaws.
“But now I know that’s rubbish and I really love my birthmark.
“Before I always wished I could change it, but now, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Shelly hopes that others will learn to accept and embrace their differences rather than hiding them and feeling insecure.
She said: “It’s so much better to accept you are different, I’m not trying to hide away.
“People will hone in on any kind of difference or insecurity you have, you have to be happy with yourself and not worry what other people think.
“Personally, I would much rather people approach and ask me about my birthmark, I’m confident enough to answer them rather than others who may not be.”