An actress with a facial birthmark has posed make-up free to encourage others to embrace their “flaws.” (Photo: Caters News Agency)
There’s a reason photo-editing tools and apps such as Photoshop and FaceTune are so popular. With the touch of a finger or the click of a mouse, zits, blotches, and other perceived flaws disappear. But one actress has decided to step away from the filters, and even makeup, and posting images that put her facial birthmark on display.
Paige Billiot, 23, was born with a port-wine stain mark covering her left cheek. Growing up in Los Angeles, Calif., the actress and filmmaker was subjected to cruel bullying because of the birthmark, which lead to her feeling self-conscious about her looks. “When I was younger, the birthmark was hard for me to deal with,” she explained. “It was part of feeling vulnerable. I experienced a lot of verbal bullying and name calling. Sometimes it even got physical. We moved around a lot so I had to explain over and over again when a child asked what it was.”
The Flawless Affect Project sees Paige working with photographers to accentuate her birthmark in different ways. (Photos: @flawless_affect/Instagram)
But it was when she understood that it was her peers’ lack of education that resulted in the taunting, she decided to make a change. “I realized the bullying had lot to do with the unknown,” she said. “In the end the moving helped. I got sick of answering the same questions and stood up in front of class and I introduced myself. After that stares stopped and it helped me accept it more.” Now, the mark is a defining characteristic and she can’t picture herself without it.
Paige was born with a port wine stain mark covering her left cheek. (Photo: Caters News Agency)
This confidence led Billiot to pursue an acting career, but it wasn’t without setbacks. “From a young age I wanted to be in front of camera. Unfortunately, a lot of people have the same mentality of having the perfect face and the perfect body whereas my face was too different,” she explained. "In the beginning it was hard to accept. But growing up made my skin pretty thick so I had the right mentality and because of the rejection, I started making my own movies.”
Overcoming prejudices in Hollywood inspired Paige to spread her positive message to others and last year she launched the Flawless Affect, a blog and Instagram project dedicated to reducing the stigma of so-called “flaws.” For the project, she works with photographers and artists to create photos that accentuate her birthmark in different ways. Now she hopes to encourage others to celebrate their own individuality.
"It’s 2016 and being different is the new normal,” she said. “I wanted to inspire other people. If I can be successful in this industry, nothing can stop them either. I am two faced, I have this giant thing on my face and I can be happy and content.”
Billiot hopes the success of the Flawless Affect project might help to redefine beauty and tackle stigmas in the fashion and beauty industries. "You must have the mentally that a flaw is flawless,” she said. “It will still take a while, but it’s about perspective.”