If someone were to judge 22-year-old Naud's beauty, using all of society's impossibly lofty standards, she'd pass with flying colors. Incredible dancer's body? Check. Shiny brown hair and exotic hazel eyes? Yes to both.
But the professional dancer, who hails from Alberta, Canada, has been told by casting agents that to be truly perfect she has to get plastic surgery to remove a sizable dark brown birthmark that sits under her right cheek and is covered in hair.
The procedure is risky. Because her birthmark is several layers deep into her skin, surgery could lead to scarring or leave her with a lazy eye.
Her parents refused to have it removed when she was a baby. And, instead of criticizing them for that decision, Naud praises them — because she says she considers her birthmark a part of who she is and a feature that has never held her back from succeeding in life.
It's unusual for any woman to accept herself the way she is, even without an obvious "flaw" that can't be covered up with makeup or clothing. So many of us are constantly working on changing at least one part of ourselves at any given moment. Today: flabby arms. Tomorrow: unruly eyebrows. The day after tomorrow: dry hair.
Since there's a solution to practically every one of our beauty problems, we sometimes look at women like Cassandra, who refuse to buy into any of it, and think: What's up with her?
I know one of the first questions on my mind was: Her parents must have done something truly amazing — but what? (Admittedly, I was slightly suspicious). What secret words did they say to her when she was 13 that resulted in a lifetime of self-confidence and the strength to ignore bullies who taunted her in her teens (and they did)?
The answer may not be what they said, but what they didn't do.
By refusing to put their daughter's health at risk so that she can have a typical "perfect" face, they sent the message to her at a very early age that a woman is beautiful when she is driven. When she values herself and her unique identity. And when she refuses to bend to others' beliefs about how she should look because she is good enough the way she is.
Thank you for inspiring us, Cassandra.
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