“It was my way of not letting them destroy my confidence," says Olivia Holm Poulsen.
Image via Instagram
Last year, 18-year-old student Olivia Holm Poulsen made headlines when she posted a picture of herself with a large patch of glittery eyeshadow smeared across her neck. The glitter, it turned out, was actually covering a birthmark of the same shape and size. But it wasn’t 'cover it', rather than enhancing it. The teen, who lives in West Jutland, Denmark, had had a bad day. People had been pointing at her again, laughing at her birthmark, as if it was some kind of defect. Frustrated and upset, Olivia decided to reclaim the situation by posting a picture that highlighted her supposed ‘imperfection’ as a thing of beauty. Needless to say, the post went viral, so she decided to do it again, and again, swapping purple eyeshadow for green, blue for red. Here she offers her notes on beauty.
“I was born with a large birthmark on my neck. So I struggled with my self-confidence growing up, but as I grew older I also grew to love my birthmark. I realized it’s part of what makes me unique. I was also born with hip dysplasia, which meant I had to go through a lot of surgeries but I finally got a new hip five years ago. I walked very poorly and I got teased because of it. This struggle of accepting that I am ‘different’ has been my biggest challenge.
As a kid, I never felt beautiful or confident in my body or self-image. I just wanted to look like the other children. My family and friends have always been great at telling me that I’m unique because of my birthmark and now prosthetic hip. They’ve helped me to embrace who I really am, so much so that I’ve become very confident in myself and I’ve learned to love standing out from the crowd.
"I just found an old eyeshadow palette with glitter eyeshadows and thought it would look cool. It was my way of not letting them destroy my confidence."
My earliest beauty-related memory must be watching my mother putting on her make-up, and looking through her make-up bag wishing I could put it on too. I used to experiment a lot with mascara and a concealer that was definitely not my color. It wasn’t very pretty. I never used make-up as a form of expression when I was younger, I only saw it as a tool to become prettier and to hide my imperfections. I felt like I only looked pretty if I was wearing make-up. Now, I use make-up as a tool to embrace and highlight my imperfections, especially my birthmark.
I think things really changed for me when I turned 13 and joined Instagram. Through it I was able to discover other people who also looked unique like I do. I saw a lot of people being creative in the way they used make-up to highlight their imperfections and I really wanted to give it a try. I’d just been through a day where I’d been stared at a lot, so I decided to cover my birthmark in glitter, photograph it and share it on Instagram as a way of handling the frustration. I just found an old eyeshadow palette with glitter eyeshadows and thought it would look cool. It was my way of not letting them destroy my confidence.
My whole point with the glitter birthmark selfies really is to inspire people who are insecure about their imperfections, encouraging them to highlight their flaws instead of hiding them. We all have them, no one is perfect. The positive reaction I got was surprising at first. Then it made me really happy. It really just made me want to continue to embrace who I am. I still get negative comments. They used to really bother me when I was younger which didn’t help my self-confidence. Now, it doesn’t’ really bother me at all. Of course, I have some days where it does and I just want to look “normal”. People who have never seen a birthmark of my size stare and some even point. The pointing still bothers me a lot.
The pressure to look a certain way haunts us all I think, I am guilty of it myself. There are so many different approaches to beauty on social media and it’s so easy to feel some kind of pressure to look like the “perfect” girl. But social media also really helped me to see so many amazing people embracing their approach to beauty and that made me create my own approach. I still don’t understand beauty and I don’t think I ever will. But I try to challenge what people consider to be beautiful, and what they consider not to be — because at the end of the day, who are they to tell what is and what is not beauty?
To me beauty comes from within, you cannot feel beautiful on the outside before you learn how to feel beautiful within. There is nothing more beautiful than a person feeling 100% content and confident with who they are and how express that on the outside. Be yourself and embrace who you really are instead of wanting to blend in.”