By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans

A TEENAGER with 95 percent burns covering his body once felt like a “monster” but is now chasing his modelling dreams

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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus

At four-years-old, Johnny Quinn, nearly died in a fire at his home and was saved when his older sister Leah pulled him out of the blaze.

Johnny, now 18, struggled to accept his scars for a long time, including experiencing anorexia as a young teen, but he is now embracing his scars.

The teenager from Millington, Tennessee, who has had over 80 reconstructive surgeries, is now pursuing his dreams of modelling so that he can inspire others to accept their unique scars.

Johnny told Barcroft TV: “So many people stare at me, every single day, every time I’m in public. That used to really get to me.

“After my accident, it was so much worse even than the physical burns that I had been through.

“Now I try to look at everything with a different perspective.”

Johnny was playing in the family shed in their back garden when a candle knocked over by the family dog caused a blazing fire.

He said: “I was burned 95 percent of my body - my arms, my torso, my legs. Obviously my face.”

His older sister Leah was babysitting her siblings when she heard her little brother’s screams. After several attempts to find Johnny, she was finally able to pull him out of the burning shed.

She said: “That day brings back a lot of different memories, feelings that are difficult to deal with - stressful, panic, terrified.”

Growing up, Johnny tortured himself with what had happened.

He said: “Why did I even survive? Why didn’t I just die in the fire? I questioned that all the time.

“I didn’t understand, until I was older when all of my trouble started when I was 10 and 11.

“I was becoming a teenager and appearance started to matter to me. I started to realise that I really don’t look normal. I really started to hate what I looked like.”

For a long time Johnny felt like a ‘monster' and his self-hatred eventually manifested as anorexia.

Johnny explained: “I felt that I was genuinely a monster and I shouldn’t have friends, because everyone was scared of me and I didn’t deserve them.

“I kept all this turmoil inside of me for so long, it turned into anorexia. Where I didn’t even want to take care of my body anymore, where I just stopped eating.

“I never realised how selfish I was acting, obviously I had a family that cared about me but I never realised it.”

Eventually Johnny, who now attends college, realised that he had to learn to embrace himself before his lack of confidence destroyed him.

He said: “I realised that confidence is a habit, it’s not a personality trait, it’s something you have to work at.

“Instead of looking in the mirror every day and seeing something that I hated, I started seeing what I could enhance and what I could accept.”

Now Johnny works with Courageous Faces Foundation to raise awareness of physical difference and to pursue his modelling dreams.

The foundation was created by Trish Morris to raise awareness of people with physical and mental differences and to promote fair treatment and equal opportunity.

Johnny said: “Courageous Faces foundation makes my dreams and passions seem like they are a reality. Things I’ve always wanted, they make obtainable.

“A lot of people call them a burn victim and I was totally a burn victim too, somebody who let their situation have control over their life.

“When you’re a burn survivor, you’re just surviving but I like to call myself a 'burn thriver' now because I’m actually thriving with my burns.

“I want to be the person who changes the people’s minds, that they can be comfortable in their own skin if I can be.”

Find out more about Courageous Faces Foundation at: https://www.courageousfacesfoundation.org/