For the first time in history an acid attack survivor has become the face and the spokesperson for a fashion brand. Laxmi Saa was chosen by Viva N Diva to represent the ‘Face of Courage’ fashion campaign.
Laxmi’s heart breaking story made headlines around the world in 2005 when a 32-year-old man doused her in acid because she refused to marry him. Laxmi was just 15-years-old at the time.
“The first time I saw myself in the mirror after the attack I did not want to live anymore. I did not know how to live my life with this face,” Laxmi told BBC. The acid changed more than Laxmi’s physical beauty; it altered her life completely. “I had to leave my studies and I lost my childhood… My friends and relatives, everyone left me.”
According to a press release from Viva N Diva, the idea for the campaign came to designers when they were looking through a calendar shoot featuring victims of acid attacks.
The co-founder of Viva N’ Diva, Rupesh Jhawar, said the images caught his eye because they weren’t featuring typical fashion models with flawless skin. He thought the images of the survivors were both inspiring and disturbing.
“For a moment we had seen beauty in a very different way, and all we thought was to capture it, to give it a meaning, to remove any speck of being a victim from those eyes and give them a stage, an employment, a platform, and a medium to flaunt it with style,” Viva N Diva stated in the press release.
In the years following the attack Laxmi has undergone numerous reconstructive operations and has become one of India’s most outspoken advocates against unregulated sales of acid. She also has two non-profit organizations, Chhanv Foundation and Stop Acid Attacks, which work on rehabilitating and counseling other acid attack survivors.
This opportunity gives Laxmi a chance to send a message to society: “..with such attacks life is not over for a girl. She can still have the courage to come out and make a mark.” She says girls like her can still have confidence and make a difference no matter their physical appearances. The Face of Courage fashion campaign is helping Laxmi gain confidence. “When I went to the photo shoot and saw my pictures I felt really good about myself,” she told BBC. She is very fond of wearing dresses.
With the help of Laxmi, Viva N Diva hopes to change the outlook of people towards fashion and beauty “by spreading awareness that beauty is beyond mere physical attributes.”
In modern America society is obsessed with physical beauty and appearances. Physical beauty exists and is valued by many people, but there is a deeper intrinsical beauty represented by this fashion campaign. It comes from inside of us, and no one can take it away.
You can watch a behind-the-scenes video of the Face of Courage fashion campaign below!
Related: At least three acid attacks occur every week in India.
According to Stop Acid Attacks, Laxmi’s non-profit campaign against acid violence, six to eight reconstructive surgeries is necessary to restore the face to a reasonable level of function and aesthetic appeal. However, a single surgery is too expensive for many families in India.
Donateaface.org, a social media campaign for acid attack survivors, encourages people to take a “faceless selfie” in order to raise awareness and money for the acid attack survivors who can’t afford reconstructive surgeries. Head to their website for more information!