1 in 500 thousands is born with a melanocytic nevus. Their body is covered with nevuses, threatening to cause skin cancer. That is why these people usually cover themselves with clothes to avoid sun rays and curious glances. One way or another, there are some among them, strong and extraordinary personalities, that remind the world we should accept ourselves the way we are.
This Ukrainian woman, Yulianna Yussef, is one of such extraordinary personalities. She was born with a great amount of nevuses all over her body.
“Well, 90s, Ukraine, I was born — a child, with something dark-brown all over my back. Doctors were shocked. They told my parents I won’t survive even few hours. Suggestions were so crazy, Lupus, Chernobyl influence, and others even much more craziest. Fumbling attempts to figure out what was wrong with me lasted 7 years,” she says.
“My marks – moles/spots – are caused by a mutation of body cells during embryonic development called congenital melanocytic nevus (CMN) – which only occurs in less than 1% of the population worldwide,” says Yulianna. “There’s no known method of prevention.
Yulianna’s mother was thinking about doing a skin transplantation for her baby in France. But there were no guarantees.
As time passed, the girl learnt to live with this unique feature and accept herself the way she was born and now she’s very comfortable with her appearance.
“Sometimes I catch myself staring at other person if I find him beautiful or interesting. This person, of course, may notice my attention, and will probably think there’s something wrong with him. It is hard to blame one for staring, especially if he haven’t seen anything like this before. But, of course, I’d like a bit less of attention,” Yulianna says.
But now she wants to end stigma surrounding skin conditions.
“When I was a child it affected me, and more in my teenage age. But almost one year ago I decided ‘I need to stop hiding and I can’t live like this any more’.
“So I just analysed my life, and started the process of learning how to accept my skin and start to love myself the way I am.”
Yulianna shares her photos via Instagram with no doubts.
While she originally started her Instagram account a couple of years ago just to document her travels, she now also uses it as a way to campaign about being proud of your body.
For people with the same disease, she became a role model:
Hundreds of people have commented on Yussef’s photos, with many saying she has made them feel proud of their own skin.
Instagram user Kristina Wallace said: “I too have a birthmark and it is over half of my body, I have suffered severe anxiety and have no self confidence because of it. I’ve never been swimming or holiday in fear of wearing a swimsuit and people stare in summer [when] I wear trousers and jumpers.
“But looking at your page has made me realise how I shouldn’t feel this way we are all in beautiful in our own ways and a birthmark is nothing to be ashamed of. Thank you for being so inspiring.”
Danielle Bestoso added: “Thank you for posting. My daughter was just born with a cape nevus with lots of spots and it is so so encouraging to see such a gorgeous woman who is strong and confident with her birthmarks.”
While she used to be a manager in a restaurant business, a stewardess on a 5-star yacht and also trained in photography, Yulianna now works freelance, and spends all her free time trying to do something for the #bareyourbirthmark project.
“Because nowadays there are so many people who are obsessed about their appearance, I just want to show them that body is not everything and there are much more important things than how we look.”