#OurStories: Skin Positivity Campaigner Lex Gillies Talks Empowerment, Self-Confidence, & Public Perception

To kick off our new interview series #OurStories, we sat down with skin positivity ambassador Lex Gillies to get her unique POV in regards to the growing movement online.

Lex Gillies
© Sophie Harris-Taylor
Lex Gillies

Representation is an often talked about subject in media. Far too often are we pushed unrealistic depictions of men and women that perpetuate low self-esteem, negative body image and ostracization.

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To fight this, we here at Oh! My Mag have launched a new interview series where we put a spotlight on people with unique stories in the hopes to amplify their voices and make sure their message reached the masses.

To inaugurate our new interview series #OurStories, we sat down with blogger and freelance Pinterest manager Lex Gillies—a.k.a Lex Talonted,—responsible for the series 'How Do I Look?' which aims to bring to open up the conversation on the relatively undiscussed skin positive movement.

We previously covered her a little while back after one of her posts were deleted by Instagram on the grounds of it being 'undesirable' (seriously?). Following the deletion of her photo, she started the #undesirablesofinstagram campaign to call out utterly cruel guidelines.

That resonated with us so much that we decided to reach out and talk to her. From her personal journey to the impact she's making in the world today, this is her story.

Empowerment is doing whatever you can to feel the most like yourself.

First of all, what exactly is rosacea and how does it affect your day-to-day life?

Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition. For me, it presents as persistent facial redness, broken veins, eye irritation, and facial swelling. For others, it can also involve pustules and skin thickening.

I have had rosacea for 15 years and I feel that it's mostly under control. However, it's something I think about every single day. Many of my triggers are things that are unavoidable (extremes of heat or cold, stress etc) so I have to make hundreds of micro-decisions every day to minimise the impact. From what I eat, to the temperature of my apartment, to the skincare I use, to the detergent I wash my bedding in... it's a lot to think about and can be exhausting.

From a psychological point of view, my confidence has been hugely affected by my skin. When the most visible part of your body looks different from other people's, and your appearance is completely out of your control, it can be a hard thing to deal with.

Skin conditions can be isolating, they can make you turn in on yourself, but finding like-minded people online has been lifechanging for me
View this post on Instagram

As I've been posting a lot of beautiful artwork interpreting this photograph, I thought it was only right to repost the original. This incredible photo is by @sophieharristaylor as part of her 'Epidermis' collection. ⁣ When you have rosacea, you stare, analyse, and obsess but you stop really *seeing* your face. It becomes harder to consider your face as a whole because you only focus on the redness, the heat, the discomfort. ⁣ Sitting barefaced in front of a stranger with a camera was scary, but I'm so pleased I did it. These photos have completely changed my perception of my skin. Sometimes you have to see yourself through another person's eyes to appreciate the things you can't see.⁣ ⁣

A post shared by Lex - Skin Positivity 💕 (@talontedlex) on

Can you tell us about your path to self-acceptance?

It's still ongoing. Being diagnosed with a chronic skin condition at a young age was incredibly hard and I still struggle with the fall out of that now. However, I'm in a much better place than I was a few years ago and that is almost entirely down to the online communities that I've found. I have filled my social media feeds with people who look like me, people who don't fit the very narrow media definition of 'beauty', people who bare their soul to the world and have fun doing it. Skin conditions can be isolating, they can make you turn in on yourself, but finding like-minded people online has been lifechanging for me.

Tell us more about your series ‘How Do I Look?’

I've been sharing my rosacea story for 7 years, but from engaging with the Skin Positivity community online I realised that stories from those with other skin conditions had similar themes. I wanted to use my platform and influence to educate people about conditions they may never hear of and to hear the experiences of those who live with visible differences in their own words. To date, I've interviewed 16 people about topics covering vitiligo, psoriasis, trichotillomania, acne, scars and more. Each interview is a joy, filled with useful information and powerful messages—it's one of the things that I'm proudest of.

View this post on Instagram

For #rosaceaawarenessmonth I wanted to dedicate my How Do I Look? series to rosacea. I started my blog to tell my personal story, but I often stress just how different we all are: triggers, lifestyle, skintype, access to help... So it has been fascinating to talk to three other rosaceans this month; to hear their individual stories that were separate to mine but still had me nodding along!⁣ ⁣ Today's interview is with the wonderful @halliebing, who those in the #skinpositivity community will no doubt recognise. She's a vocal member who offers support and a kind word whenever anyone needs it. I've put a direct link to her interview in my stories, or just go to talontedlex.co.uk to read it 💕

A post shared by Lex - Skin Positivity 💕 (@talontedlex) on

What impact has makeup had on your self-confidence?

Makeup is transformative for me, and not just in regards to my appearance. Unfortunately, we live in a society that judges people (especially women) on how they look. People with rosacea are often accused of being alcoholics. Studies found that subconsciously people deem those with rosacea to be more shy, less fun, less trustworthy. These judgements have very real impacts on careers, relationships, and dating so I refuse to criticise anyone for wanting to wear make-up to avoid these judgements.

Do you look at any women for inspiration? If so, how do they inspire you?

Katie Piper, Sinéad Burke, Jeyźa Gary—strong, knowledgeable women who empower by spreading awareness and campaigning for fairer treatment of others.

Katie Piper (@katiepiper_) proudly posing for a selfie on Instagram. Piper is the founder of The Katie Piper Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of burn victims.

Are there any pressures that come with being the voice of skin acceptance?

I definitely wouldn't call myself the voice of skin acceptance! I am one of many people trying to raise awareness, offer support, and educate people. However, I do feel an enormous amount of pressure to represent the rosacea community. Compared to the acne community, for example, we are very small and there are very few dedicated rosacea bloggers/influencers. People come to me for advice and support that they cannot get elsewhere: I receive hundreds of comments, DMs, and emails every day, many of which have long and heart-breaking stories - but unfortunately there aren't enough hours in the day to respond to everyone, especially as I have a full-time job on top of blogging.

The emotional impact of baring my face and sharing the most vulnerable parts of me is high, and taking on the hurt and trauma of my readers on top of that can be a lot to handle. I take regular breaks from the internet and try to be gentle with myself, knowing that I can't be all things to all people.

I wanted to use my platform and influence to educate people about conditions they may never hear of...

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Take better care of your skin! I wasn't diagnosed with rosacea until 21 and before that I barely thought about my skin and didn't look after it very well - harsh scrubs, sleeping in make-up, no SPF... the list goes on and on!

How do you define empowerment?

For me, empowerment is doing whatever you can to feel the most like yourself. It doesn't have to be big; it doesn't have to be ground-breaking, and it doesn't have to be noticeable to anyone else but you. It is tiny choices and changes every day that brings you closer to who you truly are.

We'd like to thank Lex for taking the time to sit down with us for this interview. If you're interested in giving her a follow, you can find her Instagram profile here. To see the full interviews from her 'How Do I Look' series, you can check out her official website at talontedlex.co.uk. Header photo courtesy of Sophie Harris-Tayloryou can check out her Instagram here.

Have a story that you'd like to share with the world? Contact our editorial team at editorial@ohmymag.co.uk with your idea and we'll see if we can work together.

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