Being noticed for our beauty can be a wonderful thing. Whether it’s receiving compliments for stunning blond hair or attracting blushes for a chiseled chin, acknowledgement from strangers regarding our radiance can often lift our spirits. But what about when those comments we receive are anything but pleasant? And worse still, what if we suspect that someone is making fun of our appearance? Ferrin Roy can certainly relate to that – not least because she bears a four-inch-wide birthmark.
Currently a resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Roy actually spent her childhood in the southern city of Rayne. And she now plies her trade as a counselor for those struggling with their mental health. But prior to that, the churchgoer learned to live with her distinctive feature as she grew up at home.
Refreshingly, Roy went about her business at school with few problems – and even her classmates accepted her appearance without ridicule. Thankfully for the Rayne youngster, too, she wasn’t exposed to any cruel teasing over the course of her education. Outside of the classroom, however, the girl wasn’t so fortunate.
Indeed, Roy experienced her first awkward encounter in the most unlikely of places. Yes, before she turned ten, she was subject to a shocking ordeal – the details of which we will return to later. Following that incident, though, Roy became incredibly self-conscious and even toyed with the idea of getting rid of the birthmark. But the young woman eventually changed her mind, leading to a big moment on her wedding day some two decades on.
Now, for people all around the world, looking good can be incredibly important. Hairstyles or body shapes can sometimes help define who we are as individuals, after all, while “looking our best” can be a confidence booster in public scenarios. But there are also those born with physical differences that make them stand out from the crowd – whether they like it or not.
Well, birthmarks definitely fit into that category, as they affect people in various ways over the courses of their lives. These distinctive blemishes usually crop up on different parts of the body, with some appearing on backs or torsos; lesions can form on a person’s face to boot.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) provides an in-depth look at the skin condition, however. On its website, the NHS says, “Birthmarks are colored marks that are visible on the skin. They’re often present at birth or develop soon afterwards. There are several different types of birthmark, and some of them are very common.”
The NHS post then focuses on several of those “common” marks. It continues, “The two main types of birthmark are vascular birthmarks (often red, purple or pink), caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin, and pigmented birthmarks (usually brown), [which are] caused by clusters of pigment cells.”
The NHS site then lists some examples of vascular and pigmented birthmarks, including the salmon patch and Mongolian spot. However, one type really stands out from the rest. Indeed, nevus flammeus – otherwise referred to as a port-wine stain – is arguably the most eye-catching variety of birthmark that someone can have.
“[The port-wine stains] can vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter,” the NHS revealed. “Port-wine stains often affect one side of the body and usually occur on the face, chest and back (although they can occur anywhere). Most are permanent and may deepen in color over time.”
So how do people develop birthmarks? Well, according to the NHS, it’s a query that still doesn’t have a definitive answer. And for an individual with a birthmark, this lack of an answer may be pretty frustrating. Nevertheless, the NHS post did offer further insight into how port-wine stains are formed.
The NHS explained, “Port-wine stains are thought to occur because the nerves that control the widening or narrowing of the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) don’t function properly, or there aren’t enough of them. This means that blood is constantly supplied to the skin in that area, which makes it permanently red or purple in color.”
But while the NHS reassured people that birthmarks are usually “harmless” and can become less prominent as the years progress, that’s not always the case. Those who have nevus flammeus will likely require treatment or surgery, for example, if they want the marks to go away.
And decades ago, Roy gave serious thought to that particular idea, as she has a rather distinctive, visible birthmark. Not only is it very obvious, but it’s also on her face. Yet while Roy didn’t go through with the removal in the end, her journey since then has undoubtedly been a fascinating one.
Roy actually wrote up a lengthy post on the lifestyle website Love What Matters. In it, she said, “I was born with a nevus birthmark, otherwise known as a pigmented skin lesion, on my right cheek. I refer to it as my beauty mark. The journey to accepting the way I was created has certainly been one of self-realization.”
Following that introduction, Roy looked back on her childhood in Rayne – and in doing so, she raised an important point. She continued, “Growing up, I can’t recall a single Barbie doll, action figure, cartoon or teddy bear that resembled my appearance. Having a birthmark like mine is a constant feeling of being in the spotlight.”
However, Roy’s life was made much easier during her time at school. In a welcome twist, she managed to avoid any issues with her fellow classmates, who accepted her unique appearance. And while speaking with TODAY Style, the Louisiana native explained why things had gone so smoothly for her during that period.
“I attended elementary, middle and high school with the same students,” Roy said in September 2017. “It made my childhood extremely easy because I grew up with the same children, and they were used to seeing me with my birthmark, so it wasn’t a big deal. I was liked. I had friends.”
Sadly for Roy, that comfortable period was brought to a shuddering halt after a trip to her local church. The southern resident was just a girl, in fact, when an adult “shamed” her in front of an audience. Incredibly, the youngster was put in a horrible position by one of the parishioners, who gestured at her sizeable birthmark. And while talking about the significance of that formative moment, Roy later reflected on what had happened next.
As Roy went on to explain to Love What Matters, “I was just nine years old. I was a part of a youth choir group, and I made eye contact with a lady who made a hand gesture for me to remove my birthmark from my face. I ignored her, but every time I would gaze in her direction, she would make the same gesture.” The excruciating awkwardness didn’t end there, either.
In fact, it became even more of a public display, as Roy went on to highlight. She added, “At the end of the service, the pastor asked if anyone had any final remarks. [The lady] stood up and stated, ‘I wanted the young lady to remove what was on her face, but I realized she couldn’t.’”
So, off the back of that encounter, Roy reached the point where she thought about getting rid of the birthmark. Unsurprisingly, it was a difficult decision to make, although she ultimately changed her mind – thanks in part to her mom. As it turned out, Roy’s mother had long encouraged her daughter to embrace her birthmark, styling her hair to show it off.
Roy revealed, “[My mom] taught me that my birthmark was a part of me. She was my voice and defended me when strangers would make derogatory comments. I personally can’t recall all of the times I was teased, but my mother remembers a few incidents that dampened my self-esteem.” What’s more, as Roy told TODAY Style, “[Mom] didn’t comb my hair a certain way to cover it.”
As Roy got older and ventured out of Rayne, though, she experienced more awkward encounters, prompting her to follow her mom’s lead. But although the Baton Rouge resident stood up for herself during those incidents, they began to take their toll. And the young woman therefore developed a new routine to help. So what was her strategy?
“I would talk to myself in the mirror. I would compliment myself and recite daily affirmations,” Roy explained to Love What Matters. “I recall my mom asking me so many times, ‘Ferrin, who are you talking to?!’ I would simply close the door in the bathroom and stare at myself and talk.” And that reinforcement of strength really mattered, as we’ll soon learn.
Roy actually explained what she got out of that particular practice. The counselor continued, “While looking into the mirror, I could escape the unpredictable comments and stares. In the mirror, I was the only one with an opinion. Most importantly, I was the only one with an opinion that mattered.”
Thanks to those private sessions in front of the mirror, Roy’s confidence shot up, as she accepted her physical appearance. After that, the Louisiana native put herself forward for a number of roles at her school, including a club presidency. She even joined the cheerleading team as well – truly putting herself on public display. In her mind, the birthmark wasn’t going to hold her back from living a normal life.
Roy then switched her focus to more recent times, reflecting on her positive mindset. She wrote, “Nowadays, people look at me and wonder why I’m confident or why I am not ashamed. I’ve had my days of embarrassment and my days where I wondered why my face was not ordinary.” And Roy’s thoughtful observations didn’t end there.
Roy told Love What Matters, “The person I am today is one who has continued to strive despite obstacles. My birthmark is a part of me, and the moment I accepted it as a part of who I am, stares or comments did not bother me. I live my life no matter who is watching.”
Roy’s life took an exciting turn, too, when she met her future husband. The couple actually seemed to hit it off quite quickly, as they had plenty of similar interests. And the birthmark wasn’t a problem for her partner, either, with her admirer describing it as “exquisite” during their time together. He also told Roy that she was beautiful.
Roy and her man then tied the knot in the summer of 2016 – but few could’ve predicted what happened next. In keeping with her confident attitude, the bride didn’t hide her birthmark at the nuptials, instead embracing the lesion on her cheek. But following the celebrations, she then stumbled across some news articles talking about her. It seemed that journalists had picked up on an Instagram post of her in her wedding dress.
As Roy recalled on Love What Matters, “Shortly after [the wedding], there were headlines that read, ‘The bride who refused to cover her birthmark on her wedding day!’ Yet, covering my birthmark was NEVER A THOUGHT! It’s a part of me, why would I cover it?!?” She also shared a number of photos from her big day on social media – all proudly showcasing the mark.
Now some three years on from the wedding, Roy and her husband are still going strong with their two young daughters. And as a result of her outlook, the mom noted that her girls weren’t shy in coming forward about her appearance. In fact, the duo have made some heartwarming inquiries regarding their own looks.
Roy told TODAY Style, “[My daughters] tell me [the birthmark is] pretty. They ask me if they’re going to get one when they’re older.” In addition to that, the girls have been keeping an eye out for people with similar appearances; they even spotted a dancer on television who had her own birthmark.
Roy also shared her positivity through the book The Mark She Kept: A Woman’s Journey to Living her Purpose Courageously! The publication was released in March 2017, and it’s since received plenty of praise. The work has earned a number of five-star reviews on Amazon from happy customers, for example. Yet the southerner acknowledges that not everyone who has a birthmark has to adopt her specific mindset.
But Roy told Love What Matters that her approach had changed her life, making her a better person in the process. She said, “Choosing to embrace my birthmark was my decision. I decided to be BOLD AND COURAGEOUS! Throughout my journey, I have grown. Every situation is different.”
Roy continued, “Some birthmarks have to be removed because of medical reasons. My removal would have been strictly cosmetic. I encourage you to take time to love yourself and do what’s best for you. If that means covering your mark or scar with makeup, that is okay too. Continue until you are ready to break the cycle. It’s OKAY to be different.”
At that point, the mother of two explained why she felt the need to share her story with the world. The Baton Rouge resident concluded, “I hope this… sparks the attention of anyone who struggles with being different. My ultimate goal is to encourage you because I understand the struggles you may encounter. And I’ve lived them as well.”
Roy’s inspiring message certainly had an impact online, with the story being shared on Facebook more than 28,000 times. The mom also highlighted the piece on her Instagram account in August 2019, with that particular post picking up more than 340 likes on the social media website.
Touchingly, after reading her tale, one Instagram user even got in touch with Roy in the comments section. And she left a particularly heartfelt message, writing, “I was drawn to your page from this article. You are so beautifully you! I love the energy and confidence you exude; you inspire me! Your beautiful daughters are so lucky to have such a strong force behind them. Thank you for sharing your story!”