Katie MeehanKatie Meehan

The beauty blogger with a facial disfigurement

Katie Meehan

I love make-up. I love the creativity, the control, and the artistry that’s involved.

I’ve channelled that passion into my work as a beauty blogger, and I’m constantly thinking about the next product to try, or the latest Instagram inspiration to experiment with.

As someone with a facial disfigurement, people often assume that make-up is just something for me to hide behind. But it’s the opposite. I love make-up because it let’s me take back ownership of my face. It’s empowering.

I was born with cystic hygroma, an incredibly rare condition that leaves me with cysts on the left side of my face, tongue and neck. When I was born, the doctors thought I’d never be able to speak, eat or even breathe properly. One actually said to my Mum, “don’t expect your daughter to make the catwalk when she’s older”.

Katie with her motherKatie Meehan

When I was still a baby, a local fundraising campaign rallied around to raise £60,000 for the pioneering surgery I needed. It was completely life changing. They removed nearly half of my face, and chopped a lot of my tongue off, so that it could fit inside my mouth.

And here I am, 21 years later. I can assure you that these days if I’m not speaking, I’m probably eating.

I’ve had additional bouts of surgery since then, and I do still have cysts. They can flare up or get swollen and infected, but it’s manageable. I don’t let it rule my life.

Katie With Professor Ian JacksonKatie Meehan

The idea that people came together to raise that kind of money to help is quite overwhelming. It’s really defined who I am, because whatever I do, I have the weight of that on my shoulders. I just want to make my community proud.

I studied business management at college and now teach small business owners how to use social media through one-to-one sessions. My real passion though is my blog, where I review beauty services and products. I hope I can inspire others, and let them see that it’s ok to be different.

I’ve found the online community amazing. It’s hard to get my head around being a role model, but I’m always so touched when people with the same condition reach out to me.

The only thing I do find difficult are the groups or threads online where expecting mothers discuss terminating their pregnancy, because their baby has the same condition as mine. That’s really full on. So I really just remove myself from any kind of situation like that.

I think everyone expects me to have been bullied and receive all these negative comments, but it’s not the case.

I have received so many genuine, kind comments from people, which have actually been this huge source of confidence for me.

Because I don’t want my story to come across as this, ‘oh woe is me’ tale. In fact, the message I want to spread is, ‘look how much anyone can recover’. It’s not a sob story. It’s anything but.

Katie MeehanKatie Meehan

As much as I hate the word, I know that if I looked 'normal', I wouldn’t be the same person I am today at all.

I really believe my disfigurement has made me see the world differently. I didn’t have the average childhood, being in and out of hospital a lot, as well as in the media. It’s all made me realise that life isn’t about what you look like. For me, it’s about love and support and how if you pull together, you can survive any odds.

My facial disfigurement is just part of my life now. It always has been and it always will be. If I woke up tomorrow and it wasn’t there, I think I’d freak out a bit – because it’s me.

As told to Catriona White