The 'I Am Beautiful' campaign: challenging beauty standards
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Lanuzza was diagnosed with psoriasis at age 13, following her father’s death. She initially opted to cover up her skin, while she was still grieving her father’s loss and dealing with GCSEs at the time. Despite a difficult start Lanuzza found support through her mother, who also has psoriasis, and her confident spirit also helped her get by.
“I wouldn’t allow myself to get bullied that way”, she says. “I’m quite a confident person. It’s that small man syndrome, isn’t it? The little tiny man with a big voice. That was a bit like me in school – because I was tiny, I had to be big.”
Even so, Lanuzza still covered up her skin for several years before deciding to take the plunge and show it all of.
“I was about 17 when I decided I needed a slap in the face, and I needed to change the way I thought about myself”, Lanuzza says – and she has been steady with her mission ever since.
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That’s not to say the journey has been without its ups and downs. Lanuzza recounts a visit to Thailand in which her psoriasis completely flared up. She contracted a throat infection, and because psoriasis is linked to throat glands, her skin swelled up to such an extent that she couldn’t even smile – it was all over her lips. She was taken via emergency speedboat to the hospital and became famous with the locals for her skin.
“It’s such a contrast from in Asia to here, how you’re treated with something like that… I was different, but they all wanted to help. They weren’t afraid of asking questions and pointing and staring”, Lanuzza says. “It was the way they did it. It wasn’t offensive or anything like that to me. Whereas you come to England and people don’t want to ask you questions. They might look at you, but as soon as they catch you looking at you…it’s just such a different response.”
Although the trip had to end early because of the incident – something she calls both the best and worst time of her life – it made Lanuzza realise the importance of her mission to help others feel confident.
“When I say how low it got for me, it made me see that people are dealing with that every single day and they’re not able to bounce back like I have”, she says.
Her next step in the campaign is to help change standards set by the fashion and beauty industries. Lanuzza is a photographer, but she focuses on images you wouldn’t find in Vogue – she wants to emphasise unique traits, something photographer and portrait artist Brock Elbank, who is also part of the campaign, echoes in his work.
“We follow the magazines and the models”, she says. “We follow these people thinking this is how we should look, even though these people are all aware that they’re photoshopped and they’re airbrushed and they’re pinched in and [...] things like that.”
But so far, so good. Lanuzza has received a warm response from friends, family and strangers alike, and will continue with her 'I Am Beautiful' campaign.
“The response I got [when first opening up about psoriasis] was completely overwhelming”, she says. “And it does make me really proud. It makes me want to cry.”You can follow Lanuzza on Twitter and Instagram, and see more work from Brock Elbank here.