Even as an infant, it was hard for 25-year-old California native Crystal Hodges to pass by under the radar.
The young woman was born with a prominent “port wine stain,” with the large and brightly colored birthmark covering half of her face.
Port wine stains aren’t necessarily dangerous. These eye-catching birthmarks are simply the concentration of capillaries in certain areas on a person’s body—though the dark coloration may be jarring to look at, and there’s the risk of them growing. Hodges has explained that the birthmark meant little more growing up than a few extra trips to the doctors over the years.
Despite their mostly harmless nature, though, the birthmarks aren’t always viewed with kindness and respect by others. So while Hodges insists that she grew up with nothing but support from her friends and family, she’s discovered just how mean people can be as she’s gotten older.
In 2014, a photo of her face, a selfie taken not long after a laser treatment to help prevent the spread of the birthmark, was taken by a man online and turned into a meme.
Her selfie had been overlaid with the caption “1 like = beautiful” and posted on a random Facebook page. Within days, it had hundreds of thousands of views and comments—and although Hodges has always been incredibly confident in herself, the barrage of hurtful words took their toll. People insisted she get plastic surgery, or accused her of giving the picture to the creator of the meme to fish for confidence-boosting compliments.
Standing in line at the post office today, there was a middle-aged worker helping us. Looking at me, he spoke up, "Do…
It was an incredibly hurtful time in her life. Instead of hiding away, though, Hodges has taken her sunny outlook on life and her unique physical appearance and used it for something good.
In the aftermath of the meme incident, Hodges decided to become a body positivity activist and a motivational speaker, using her unique condition to raise awareness about what a port wine stain really is, how words can affect others, and how to embrace our differences no matter what.
It’s been incredibly therapeutic for her personally, as she’s been able to watch her words make a deep impact on dozens of others with her condition around the globe. One such individual even got a chance to meet her—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more adorable interaction!
The 9-year-old Naomi, who has a similar birthmark to Hodges, was overjoyed at the chance to meet such an inspirational voice in the birthmark community. And for Hodges, their conversations were a chance for her to see just how big of an impact she’s really having on people.
When I first met Ai Lan in January, she ran up to me and exclaimed, "You have a birthmark just like ME!"This weekend I…
“Still wide-eyed in excitement, she told me, ‘It’s so nice to meet you. It’s so exciting … I never saw someone else in person who had a birthmark on their face,’” Hodges wrote of their interaction, which came while the motivational speaker was on the road.
“Three in 1,000 people live with a port wine stain birthmark (most commonly found on the face or neck), and at 9 years old, I was the first person she saw in person with the same beautiful purple hue on their cheek. It was the first time she saw someone away from a computer screen who looked like her.”
Last night I had the joy and honor to meet Paige Lauren Billiot and to collaborate with her on some exciting ideas….
Knowing that she was having that kind of impact on someone was huge for Hodges. And clearly, she’s having a similar impact on individuals like Naomi as well.
In a recent blog post, Hodges explained that she’d spent over 700 days resenting the person who had turned an innocent selfie into a hurtful meme. Now, though, she’s realized what good can come of the entire ordeal—and thanks to her, young girls like Naomi are gaining some additional confidence, as well!
For the first time, at the age of 24, I finally have a bear (and toy of any kind) that looks like me.It's kind of a big deal.<3(Thank you, Small Batches – Crafting with Care!)