Fighting the stigma of birthmarks

Image courtesy of Jessica Passecker Photography, via Flawless Affect

Inspired by a childhood marked by scrutiny and bullying due to the prominent port-wine stain birthmark on her face, Los Angeles-based model and actress Paige Billiot has launched a collaborative art project to try and reduce the stigma associated with birthmarks and other visible differences.

Called Flawless Affect, the project “provides a creative outlet that showcases participants’ flaws in a new and beautiful light through the medium of photography,” according to the web page at

In an interview with, Billiot said that she was frequently bullied growing up because of the birthmark, and some people were afraid of her, thinking she might be contagious. She said that she considered laser treatment to remove the mark, but decided she “did not want to look like everyone else.” Instead, she began to introduce herself and explain the mark to others. “I noticed a big change in how others reacted,” she said. “That’s when I realized that a lot of those harsh actions were due to a lack of education.”

With the assistance of a group of artists and photographers, Billiot has assembled a portfolio of images of herself online, showing off her birthmark as an object of unique beauty rather than something to be hidden or ashamed of.

“If doctors are able to encourage their patients to look into a campaign like Flawless Affect to see the community that they are in, patients might want to be involved,” she said. “If [patients] can have a role model with the same flaw that they are uncomfortable about, that can change their mentality.”

Images courtesy of Charles Contreras (above) and Paige Billot (below)


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