Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Em Ford on being trolled over her acne posts

Em Ford has long been an advocate for skin positivity and here the My Pale Skin YouTuber reveals how it feels to receive thousands of hateful comments about her adult acne

‘My entire life changed the day I developed adult acne. I was 24 and had never suffered from skin issues before. My confidence dropped and I felt ashamed and worried about what people thought of my face. I also felt unworthy, ugly and embarrassed to be an adult with acne – which was ridiculous – but that’s the issue – we’re so used to scrolling through social media and seeing unrealistic beauty standards set by brands that it makes it impossible for us not to put ourselves down for our imperfections.

I started my blog, My Pale Skin, the year before I developed adult acne in March 2015. It was purely an outlet for me to be playful with make-up and try my hand at beauty tutorials. When I was made redundant from my job at a production agency – where I helped to produce documentaries and TV shows – I was devastated. I loved my job, but losing it pushed me to turn my passion of blogging into a full-time career. And little did I know it would go on to be such an important journey and platform for me.

At first, I tried to conceal my new blemishes with heavy make-up. Eventually I found the effort too stressful, and besides, hiding something so natural felt wrong. I wondered how many other people felt the same as me, and I decided I had to share my journey with others who were going through or had been through the same thing.

I filmed ‘You Look Disgusting’ in June 2015, after I had decided to go barefaced on Instagram and I started receiving thousands of hateful and negative comments every day. The video made public all the horrendous things people would say to me, and interestingly, all the lovely comments I would receive when I wore make-up.

Since I made the video live in July 2015 my social media following has grown to 859,000 on Instagram. I’ll admit, even though I’m 29 years old, I do find the responsibility of having a ‘voice’ overwhelming. But social media is also a platform for people to champion and support one another, and I’m grateful for my incredible followers and community members.

The beauty industry is changing positively, but not as quickly or progressively as I would like. Last year I started a project called Redefine Pretty, which looked at women’s relationship with their appearance and what society defines as ‘pretty’. The short film I created featured a range of women talking about how they perceive themselves. From visible skin conditions such as acne, scarring and birthmarks, it was a heartbreakingly real picture of how ‘beauty’ is measured.

In my opinion, beauty should be about how you feel, not how you look. So instead of constantly searching for a product which may make you ‘look’ a certain way, look for something which can make you feel a certain way.

My advice to girls or women who are experiencing real life or social media bullying, please believe me when I tell you it’s not you – it’s them. If someone is sending or leaving abuse online, they usually have personal challenges going on in their life and they are unleashing their frustrations on an available outlet.

I want to empower all girls and women with the confidence to live their lives without the feeling of being judged for their appearance. I hope you will join me in living by the motto: ‘true beauty comes from the inside’. I promise you’ll be a lot happier if you do.’

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