Behind the scenes ~ Nathalia recently connected with me on the More Than a Face Facebook page and shared her YouTube channel with me. Her warmth and positivity are fantastic and I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for the website.
Thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed for the website. Can you start by letting the readers know your name, age and where you’re based please?
I was born with a giant birthmark covering 40% of face and part of my scalp. Also, I have satellites all over my body. I have a condition called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (CMN). When I was nine months old I started doing surgeries to remove part of my facial birthmark. There were a total of nine surgeries.
Do you mind me asking what ‘satellites’ are?
No problem. They are small birthmarks, such as moles.
Ah ok. Thank you. And were the surgeries for health reasons or was it to reduce the appearance of the birthmark?
It was mostly for cosmetic reasons.
Ok, so that’s a lot like my own son. As a young child, do remember any ways that your birthmark affected you growing up?
Yes, it was very hard. I was noticed very easily and wherever I would go people would ask what happened to my face. It was very annoying having to explain myself as a little girl. Sometimes people would react like they were scared or something.
When I started kindergarten it was worse. Kids were cruel and would often tease me, calling me names such as a monster, ugly face, Freddy Krueger… And I would just cry and be very sad.
Teachers would notice the problem only when we were fighting because I would react then they would take me to the office to talk to the principal like I had done something wrong. There was not a good school system. I only told my mom about what went on recently. Back then I thought I shouldn’t trouble her with my problems.
Oh wow, how did she take that?
She was really shocked and felt like she wanted to go talk to them today if she could.
I bet! So how did you deal with it? What things did you do to try to help your own situation? That’s a huge task for a young child!
I know, it was very hard. Every time kids would call me names and tell me that I shouldn’t have a face like that, I would cry and kind of agree with them. But when I was seven I started to think about their questions and to talk to myself in a positive way. I remember that like it was yesterday. I realized that I was born like that and it was not a choice having this condition. I would think “I’m healthy, it’s not contagious or anything. It’s just the way I look, I can do whatever I want just like any of the other kids.” Then I started giving them these answers anytime they would ask me anything or tease me.
Wow. That is a really mature way of looking at life at such a young age. Did that help?
I know, I had to find a way to deal with the situation. I was really tired and sad. I didn’t want that anymore and being quiet wasn’t helping so yes, it absolutely helped. Kids kept bullying, but they noticed that I didn’t care anymore so it wasn’t so often. Also, I started to feel better about myself and not care about what anyone would say about my appearance. I had accepted the way I was and started feeling good about myself.
That’s so great to hear! I guess that’s something that has always stayed with you through your life?
Yes! The way I dealt with that as a kid helped me to grow up very tough. I was able to build self-confidence that meant that I wouldn’t think about my condition or see my facial difference anymore. I was popular in High School, I had long-term relationships, a great group of friends and had a normal life like any other girl.
Fantastic. I love that your confidence set you free from other peoples attitudes. Has life always been straightforward from that point then or have there still been moments when you have had to deal with peoples reactions and views?
Thanks. I think I feel good about myself and don’t care what people think of me most of the time. I immediately feel like they are a fool and it doesn’t make sense judge me by the way I look. But of course, here and there I have felt bad about something. Like when I moved to California, I started using dating apps and I went through some uncomfortable situations.
In what way?
When you have a profile there are only your pictures and description about who you are. There’s nothing about your personality; if you’re fun, your energy… it’s just superficial. So, sometimes I would start talking to a person and we would have a great conversation, and decide to have a date and meet in person. But then he would go back to my profile and check my pictures again and ask if my face was due to makeup or something. I would explain about my birthmark and scars then he would disappear.
Did you get to meet any of the guys or were they all so superficial?
Yes, it happened a couple times but I met my partner through the app and we have been together for almost three years.
That’s brilliant to hear. And what about work wise and socializing? What do you do day to day?
My background is in marketing and I am currently working on my project where I tell my story and talk about body positivity through social media. Also, I give motivational speeches about bullying and how to improve self-esteem. Since I moved from Brazil and I’ve made a group of really good friends.
Brilliant! And what are the plans for the future?
I will be doing a mini-documentary soon and I have a couple of events coming up where I will be speaking in the next few months here and in Brazil.
Wow, thats really exciting. I know you mentioned your YouTube channel, what’s it called so that people can follow you?
Thank you! It’s called Loving My Dots and you can find me as @LovingMyDots on Instagram.
Fantastic, thank you. Finally, what would your advice be to anyone else who may be struggling with a visible difference?
I would say to start looking for support groups online, people who have a similar condition as yours and start exchanging experiences. It is much easier when you realize that you’re not alone. In school and wherever you go, try to find good friends, people who are kind and have good values. And if anyone says that you’re not good for them and they don’t want to be your friend, that’s their loss. I am sure you will find the good ones. Remember that our facial differences are just the way we look, it doesn’t define us. We are much more than an image. When we understand that and love ourselves the way we are, life becomes easier, trust me.
Ah I absolutely love that. Thanks so much for your time x