I was 12 years old when I had my first break out. I remember being in the 6th grade and learning how to apply concealer for the first time. I walked through the hallways wondering why I was the only girl with bumpy skin crusted over with foundation that I was too young to wear. I was thankful for it because at least it hid some of the redness.
My mother started taking me to the dermatologist by the 7th grade. I tried everything from topical medications to oral antibiotics. Nothing worked. Years went by and every day I would look in the mirror and pray that one day I would see a blemish-free face reflecting back at me. But that wish seemed hopeless as the cystic acne began to cover my chest and back in high school.
It was awful because there was no way I could hide it from the world…particularly mean boys. I was on the swim team and a dancer. Both activities exposed my chest and back in practice. Since I was in the water for swim team, regular concealer didn’t work. I found a heavy duty water-proof concealer that I would carefully put on my chest, back and face before practice.
I thought it was helping, but it always looked like a boiled crusty mess afterwards. I remember this boy I had a crush on asked me, “Do you have a disease, what’s wrong with your face?” Another girl at dance, pointed at my chest said, “Are you okay? Does that hurt?“ I felt so ugly and awkward. I felt like a monster with these dark scabs and unsightly cysts that hurt when I smiled as I warmed up next to the pretty dancers. I had a really pretty best friend and even the boys in our chorus class called her “the hot one” and me “the weird one.” Someone I really looked up to said, “It’s a shame because you’re too pretty not to be.”
So I forgot what it was like to have clear skin. I imagined what it would be like if doctors could replace the skin on my face, chest and back with the skin on my forearm. I would watch the Miss USA pageant every year and just stare in wonder at the girls’ flawless complexion and perfect white teeth…I thought, “Wow she must really feel confident. I wonder what that’s like. If I could be Miss USA one day, I would finally feel confident too.”
I also wore braces, rubber bands and head gear for most of high school. It had always been my dream to be Miss USA one day and my determination grew even more with every breakout. I just wanted to feel beautiful and lovely. Was that wrong?
My endearing nick name was deemed, “tomato face.” Most of the time, I was pretty strong about it. But a lot of times, I laid on the bathroom floor crying my eyes out after another painful lesion had surfaced right when the last scab was beginning to heal.
Finally, my mom took me to a dermatologist in town that we heard was more lenient with prescribing the most powerful medicine for cystic acne, Accutane. No other doctor would give it to me before. I was 18 and I told the doctor exactly what I wanted. He agreed, but only upon my consent to using 2 forms of birth control due to the birth defects Accutane can potentially cause.
(On way into dermatology appointment…this was on a good day)
I had made a decision to remain abstinent until marriage so I wanted nothing to do with birth control or my word being questioned. Finally, my doctor allowed me to use “abstinence” as my form of birth control and “none” as the other. I had to call in every month to answer a survey of questions about my abstinence to remain on the medication.
Ultimately, I went through two cycles of Accutane because the dosage wasn’t strong enough the first time. My face burned like it was on fire, was dry, red, peeling and broke out worse than it ever had. I had to fan it or put ice on it just to find relief sometimes. Finally, towards the end of the last cycle, it cleared up! For the first time in 7 years, I looked in the mirror and saw my original face…the way it was made in Heaven!
It stayed clear long enough for me to compete at Miss NC USA and Miss USA, which was a blessing! I was crowned with a dream come true when I won Miss USA on April 19th, 2009. But I soon realized that I didn’t get the approval from the world that I hoped would finally make me feel accepted. I dealt with cyber bullies and the constant comparison to former Miss USA’s and the contestants in the upcoming Miss Universe pageant.
Many of you have read my story of finding my true identity in former articles, but if you haven’t you can read here.
In all those years I felt ugly, awkward and alone, I was waiting to accomplish a worldly crown that I thought would take all my insecurities away and give me a confidence I only dreamed of.
Winning Miss USA was incredible and I soaked up every moment of my reign because I also loved that the job was all about making people feel seen, important and valuable.
But YOU don’t have to wait for that moment. I promise winning a pageant or a title or a boyfriend will not complete you or give you confidence.
Now, five years after the crown my skin is repeating a horrible outbreak again. But this time, I can be joyful and confident regardless of what I look like because my God says I have a royal identity in Him. I am His daughter, therefore I am a princess with or without a physical crown.
He says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling. I see no flaw in you.” Song of Solomon 4:8.
It’s not wrong to want to feel beautiful. It’s how God sees you. You should see yourself as beautiful.
I wish I would have really known my royal identity in Christ when I was a teenager and in my early twenties. To have known how God sees me then would have saved me a lot of grief, bouts of depression and isolation. I wouldn’t have placed my value in the approval of others because I would have known I am already approved by the King of the Universe.
I want you to experience that freedom and confidence now. I don’t want you to wait until your mid-twenties to discover supernatural joy and your royal self-worth. I don’t want boys to hurt you, peoples’ words to de-value you or for neglect to cause self-sabotage. You were made to stand up and walk into the royal identity that inspires others.
Your struggles, past, pain, circumstances, mistakes, family and shame do not define you unless you allow it to. I wrote The Sparkle Effect when I realized how to truly stand out and be confident in this life.
This is your time to release your radiance beyond beauty.
If this message blessed you, be a blessing by sharing with others.