By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans
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Videographer / director: Kadeh Farreira
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Mariana Mendes, 24, was born with congenital melanocytic nevus, a type of birthmark that occurs in an estimated one percent of infants worldwide.
Mariana’s unmissable birthmark covers the centre of her face and, while many struggle to accept their birthmarks, Mariana has always fully embraced hers and encouraged others to do the same.
She told Barcroft TV: “I have always been aware that I have a birthmark, but it has always been something that has made me feel more special. It’s a different kind of beauty.
“I choose not to cover it up because I know that the birthmark is part of me. I know it’s a piece of me. It’s part of my personality.”
The model has never used make up to cover her birthmark up and she has never considered removing it.
Now Mariana works mostly as a print model for clothing designers and she has launched a career as a digital influencer with 21,000 Instagram followers.
The Brazilian beauty hopes her boldness will help break down barriers in the fashion industry and inspire more people to proudly bare their birthmarks.
Mariana said: “The main thing I try to say with my photos is that you don’t need to fit into conventional beauty standards to be a model.
“You don’t need to be thin and tall with all the characteristics that the media now demands.
“Everyone has their own type of beauty even if you have characteristics out of the normal beauty standard, that’s your own kind of beauty.
“We have to accept ourselves as we are.”
Mariana’s boyfriend, Lucas Dutra, has taken on the role of Instagram photographer to help launch her career, as well as assisting in the art design of her YouTube channel.
He said: “The first time I saw her I didn’t realise it was a birthmark. I thought it was her hair on her face. But then I realised what it was and I thought she was beautiful anyway.
“There’s lots of types of beauty and everyone can have their own kind. I think she really represents that to people who need it.
“I think it’s cool that she’s giving so many people someone to look up to, saying that beauty is more than just the standard.
“Her beauty is different and she’s giving people an example of that.”
As a child, Mariana was aware that she was different from her peers, but her parents support helped her embrace her uniqueness from a young age.
She said: “Even as a child, I was aware of having a birthmark on my face. But for me, it was never a bad thing it’s always been something that has increased my self esteem.
“When I was a kid I realised that I had a spot which was different to other children. But, due to the way my parents explained it to me they always explained and made me feel comfortable when I talked about the subject.
“Whenever I asked, ‘why do I have this and other children don’t?’ My mum was always very natural with me, always very sincere saying it was just a characteristic I had that other children didn’t.”
Since launching her modelling career, Mariana has heard from other proud owners of birthmarks thanking her for speaking up and sharing her standout beauty with the world.
She said: “I receive a lot of messages from people thanking me for speaking about this because they don’t feel alone in the world anymore.
“When someone talks about this subject other people see their own reflection in that. We don’t have to be obsessed with one beauty standard and social media helps me a lot with that, and it helps me help other people.”
Now that she’s gotten a taste of the modelling world, Mariana hopes to continue using her platform to inspire more people to embrace new kinds of beauty.
She said: “I feel very comfortable taking photos because I know I love what I’m doing, I Iike what I am doing. I like seeing the results. I like realising my client’s expectations when I do photos for clothing brands.
“They expect me to shine in the photos and I love it, I want to do this forever.”