A woman who was born with a genetic bone and muscular disorder has defiantly shared a selfie every day for an entire year after an online troll said she was ‘too ugly’ to post photos of herself.
In an essay published by Refinery29, writer Melissa Blake, 39, from Illinois, opened up about how tweeting daily snapshots of herself using the hashtag #MyBestSelfie helped her feel more comfortable in her body as a disabled woman.
‘For the last year, I’ve followed the same routine every night before I go to sleep: I get out my phone, scroll through my photos, and post a selfie on social media,’ she wrote. ‘I suppose it’s become something of a ritual — one that has brought me comfort and happiness, not to mention taught me plenty of lessons.’
Hitting back: Melissa Blake, 39, from Illinois, has shared a selfie every day after an online troll told her she was ‘too ugly’ to post photos of herself
Born this way: The writer was born with as Freeman Sheldon syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by joint deformities and abnormalities of the head and face
Blake, who writes a blog called So About What I Said, has Freeman Sheldon syndrome, a rare congenital disorder characterized by joint deformities and abnormalities of the head and face.
While she’s had to endure 26 operations because of her condition, she refuses to be defined by her disability.
She explained that her journey to self-discovery and acceptance started when she wrote an anti-Trump op-ed for CNN. A conservative YouTuber responded by sharing her photo in a video, inciting hundreds of people to cruelly mock her appearance.
‘As a woman writer with a genetic bone and muscular disorder, who is also very active on the internet, I’m used to being called names like “blobfish” and “whale,” but there was one comment I just couldn’t shake,’ she recalled. ‘Someone said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly.’
Hard to handle: After being cruelly mocked for her appearance, Blake hit back by tweeting three selfies on September 7, 2019, and her post quickly went viral
Kind words: Thousands of people praised her for hitting back at her trolls
Instead of letting the comment eat away at her self-confidence, Blake responded by sharing more photos of herself online.
‘During the last round of trollgate, people said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly,’ she tweeted on September 7, 2019. ‘So I’d just like to commemorate the occasion with these 3 selfies…’
Blake’s post went viral, and thousands of people praised her for hitting back at her trolls. As she gained more and more media attention, her Twitter followers grew, and over the past year, she has gone from having about 7,500 followers to 109,000.
She spent the next 366 days sharing selfies, ranging from serious to playful, but she noted that they all ‘truly reflected’ her personality.
Journey: She spent the next 366 days sharing selfies, ranging from serious to playful, using the hashtag #MyBestSelfie
Blake said she never expected to share photos of herself for the entire year, but then she started to notice the positive effect it was having on her.
‘With each selfie, I felt more comfortable in my own body and discovered a freedom I’d never really felt before as a disabled woman,’ she explained. ‘I grew up feeling different (and looking different) from people my age, which definitely had an impact on my self-esteem and self-image.
‘With each click of my iPhone, I felt like I was able to have a conversation with my younger self, telling her all the things I wish I had known back when I was a teenager.’
Blake admitted that sharing the selfies wasn’t always easy because one of her biggest fears was how people would react.
Candid: Blake, pictured as a child, admitted that she never expected to share photos of herself for the entire year, but then she started to notice the positive effect it was having on her
Finding herself: ‘With each selfie, I felt more comfortable in my own body and discovered a freedom I’d never really felt before as a disabled woman,’ she explained
Inspiration: Blake admitted that sharing the selfies wasn’t always easy, but she knows the importance of disabled people being seen in heard in today’s ableist society
‘Disabled people fall outside the lines of beauty standards and, of course, it doesn’t help that disability representation is sorely lacking in everything from pop culture to politics,’ she explained. ‘We see very few disabled people in movies and TV shows or in leadership positions.’
She said other disabled people have reached out to her and have started sharing their own photos and stories, which inspired her to keep going.
Blake was briefly tempted to avoid social media last month after people started using her photo for the insensitive ‘New Teacher Prank’ in which TikTok users showed their children pictures of her face to scare them.
But she never stopped posting, and, for now, she doesn’t intend to.
‘Sometimes I wonder if I should stop posting so many selfies. But then I’m reminded of our reality in 2020: Disabled people have to fight to be seen and heard,’ she wrote. ‘These selfies are for every single disabled person who continues to fight every single day.’