Mum who spent decades hiding 4th degree burns embraces skin to be bikini model

A mum who spent 45 years covering her burn scars has learned to embrace them – and she's now a successful model.

Sylvia Mac was just two-years-old when she had a life-changing accident.

Her mum left a bowl boiling water on the floor in the bathroom because they kept having power cuts, which the toddler then fell into by accident.

She was left with third and fourth degree burns, which also had an impact on her mental health later on in life.

Sylvia was bullied when she learned how to swim and even locked herself away as an adult due to cruel comments she would receive.

She told MyLondon: “I can’t remember the accident itself but I do remember constant hospital visits and being wrapped in bandages from neck down to my feet.

"I almost ended up losing my life and I have a really supportive family but when I reached my teenage years things just went downhill. I had severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

“I’d been burnt from a very young age and been living with it for a very long time and I tried to find some sort of support group but I couldn’t really find that much out there that directly related to what I had been through or had similar scarring to me.

"Especially like in the media, you only ever see people with scarring on their faces and they’re usually the baddies."

Sylvia's turning point didn't come until a few years ago, when she decided it was time to stop caring what people think.

She recalled: “There was one day about five years ago when we were at the pool and I noticed some guy trying to take a photo or video of me and my scars.

"I felt awful and I was ranting to my mum about it.

"I walked down to the water and I saw my mum's head hanging low and I could tell that it wasn’t just affecting me but had affected her as well and I decided enough is enough, I’m going to live my life and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

After Sylvia’s epiphany on holiday, she decided to set up Love Disfigure, a network to help raise awareness and show support for those living with a disfigurement. She now embraces her scars and loves showing them off.

When she was 20 years old she was scouted by a modelling agency who told her they weren’t interested when they saw her scars.

She found the negative response heartbreaking at the time but this and last year she walked in London Fashion Week.

Sylvia has also won three awards, including one from Theresa May and Woman of Year.

Her latest campaign is #ShowMySkin, which aims to get people on Instagram sharing pictures of scarring to celebrate more diversity in the media.

Sylvia added: “It’s ok to be you. There are so many great support networks and groups now that you can connect with and talk with and go out.

"Don’t ever worry about what other people think of you.

"Having a scar shouldn’t change the person that you are. It’s really what comes from within. It’s what is in your heart and mind that is important.”

For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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