After being mocked over her appearance online, a woman with a rare bone disorder has pledged to take a selfie every day for a whole year…
Just to prove her haters wrong.
Melissa Blake, a freelance writer and a disability activist, was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a rare genetic bone and muscular disorder.
The condition typically affects the mouth, face, hands, and feet…
And is known to cause an unusual physical appearance.
But, sadly, Melissa has found herself being cruelly bullied and trolled as a result of her appearance…
Predominantly online, of course.
Melissa recently discovered that she was the center of a cruel new TikTok challenge.
It was truly shocking.
The “New Teacher Challenge” required parents to show their children pictures of disabled people all while telling them that it was their new teacher.
They then filmed their reactions, which usually involved the children recoiling in horror or bursting into tears.
And it is only further embedding the negative stigma surrounding people who live with disabilities.
But, when Melissa saw that her face had been used in the sickening challenge…
Instead of allowing the trolls to get her down, she decided to issue a poignant plea to all the parents who think it is okay to use her image as a fun “prank” on their children.
Writing for Refinery, Melissa began by recalling the moment she realized she had become a victim of this challenge.
“‘Oh, look,” I deadpan as I read the latest message from someone letting me know that they saw my photo on TikTok being shared in a hurtful way. ‘Surprise, surprise!’”
Sadly, Melissa wasn’t at all surprised.
“I joke because I’m definitely not surprised. As a disabled woman, people ridiculing and mocking my appearance is practically the most predictable thing about social media.”
She thought she’d seen it all.
“But a few weeks ago, I discovered it was happening again on TikTok through something called the New Teacher Challenge. It’s the latest viral trend in which parents show their children photos of disabled people, who they say is their child’s new teacher. The kids’ reactions – typically frightened and embarrassed – is filmed, of course. And it’s all done for a laugh.”
“I’m not laughing, though, because none of this is funny. I’m utterly disgusted.”
Speaking to the parents involved in the challenge, Melissa wrote:
“Adults who actually think this is okay and worse… Even funny should know better. There’s absolutely no excuse.”
She stressed how parents should be teaching their children how harmful and hurtful these pranks are…
“Not laughing in the background as their child recoils at the sight of a disabled person.”
Pointing out that one in 4 adults in the U.S who suffer from the disability, she also noted that there is a dire need for disability representation.
“We need to normalize seeing people who don’t look like us or our family members. We need to teach the next generation that our differences should be celebrated, not feared or mocked.”
Melissa’s resilience is second to none.
And now, following a recent spate of online abuse, in which she was cruelly compared to a “blobfish” and told that she should be “banned from taking photos of herself” because she is “too ugly”, Melissa has decided to set herself a new challenge.
A selfie every day for a whole year.
Melissa refused to let the trolls get to her and responded to the hateful comments with a tweet, writing:
“During the last round of trollgate, people said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly. So I’d just like to commemorate the occasion with these 3 selfies…”
Every day for the last year, Melissa has uploaded a selfie to her Instagram account as a part of her defiance…
Which has actually seen a boost in followers, from 7,500 to over 200,000.
She recently reflected on this decision in another article published by Refinery.
Here, she described her selfie-posting routine as a “ritual” which has brought her “comfort and happiness, not to mention taught [her] plenty of lessons.”
Melissa stressed that she wasn’t posting the daily selfies “to be vain.”
“I often worried, though, about how people would react to all these selfies. After all, I’d seen first-hand how critics reacted to just ONE of my photos. What would people think about photos every day? Would that be too much? I didn’t post my selfies to be vain — that was never my goal. I posted selfies to unapologetically take up space and demand to be seen as a disabled woman.”
These selfies were incredibly varied.
“For each of the next 366 days (2020 was a Leap Year), I posted a selfie and tracked them with the hashtag #MyBestSelfie. Some selfies were serious, like the ones where I talked about disabilities or how I was feeling on not-so-good days. Some were fun and silly, like the ones that showed off my love for The West Wing and photo filters.”
But there was one thing each selfie had in common.
“Each selfie truly reflected my personality and who I was. Each was a celebration, and each carried a message.”
“I was getting to know myself in ways I never had. With each selfie, I felt more comfortable in my own body and discovered freedom I’d never really felt before as a disabled woman.”
Melissa, you’re incredible!
For more on the fight against disability discrimination, keep scrolling to read the heartfelt plea one mother wrote after her disabled child was persistently bullied at school…