By Danny Baggott @Dan_Baggie
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Videographer / Director: Adam Gray / Barcroft Media
Producer: Danny Baggott / Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
39-year-old Kiana Smith, who resides in Cumana, Trinidad, was born with a significant port-wine stain birthmark on the left side of her face.
With a dark purple pigmentation, Kiana’s birthmark is also visible on her chest and neck - and it has completely destroyed her left ear.
Kiana was subject to many harsh nicknames throughout her school life, including the 'purple people eater’.
But now, after five surgeries and specialised laser treatment to reduce her birthmark in size, Kiana is happier than ever and has become a global ambassador for the Vascular Birthmark Foundation.
Kiana told Barcroft TV: “The surgeries of my birthmark have helped so much. I mean I don’t have this bulk on my face.
“As I would describe it, it’s like having this huge one-inch steak, the weight of it hanging on your face.
“Sometimes I would feel the blood just running and pumping in my birthmark. But I don’t have that anymore. I am able to speak much better which is fantastic.
“I am now a VBF Global Ambassador for the Vascular Birthmark Foundation and I create awareness via my blog.”
A port-wine stain birthmark is the discolouration of human skin caused by the abnormal development of blood vessels.
Kiana realises that she is going through a strong and positive phase in her life with the current state of her birthmark, but she’s more than aware that it could easily grow back.
“It is something that will always be there, always growing,” she said.
“The birthmark will never go away. I have accepted that now.
“I don’t want my whole life focused on the fact that I have a birthmark. I don’t want it to keep me back from enjoying life.”
Despite finally learning to accept the way she looks, Kiana admits that she will never get used to the constant staring in public.
She continued: “People always stare at me when I leave the house. I mean I’m a human being.
“I also feel like I have been in difficult situations with children.
“You know children will often freak out, screaming, crying and everything and I have felt so bad because I’m the cause of their reaction.
“I think entering high school was when I really had those first confidence issues.
“I would get called, ‘prune face’, ‘purple face’ and one of the popular ones was the ‘purple people eater’.
“But my mother really helped me deal with this by treating me just as any other child.”
Kiana’s mother, Ann McCarthy, has always supported her daughter and she remained confident that she would eventually succeed in life.
Ann, 62, said: “I don’t think it affects her as much now as an adult as it did when she was much younger.
“She’s able to be in society as a human being and like a normal human being.
“I’ve always tried to emphasise to her, it is what is inside you that matters – not your external appearance.
“I am unable to really say in words how proud I am of her.”
Keisha Briggs grew up with Kiana throughout her school life and also helped her through those tough years of bullying.
Keisha, 38, said: “In school, Kiana was quiet.
“She more or less kept to herself, not much socialising. She had very few friends.
“I stood up for Kiana back then.”
But all of the name-calling and setbacks Kiana has faced in her life have only made her stronger and more determined to succeed. She is now very much looking forward to exploring her future.
Kiana said: “I don’t really know what the future holds.
“In terms of my birthmark, I’d like to have more laser surgery because that is critical.
“I’m not going to say that I’ll ever be perfectly happy with my birthmark, because I don’t love it.
“Despite everything, I am proud of myself and what I have achieved.”