Lee Conderacci, 36, from Maryland, USA, has a large brown mark spanning her face, neck and chest. FOR years, Lee Conderacci hid the large brown birthmark spanning her face, neck and chest - fearing no-one would love her because of it.
FOR years, Lee Conderacci hid the large brown birthmark spanning her face, neck and chest - fearing no-one would love her because of it.
But now the 36-year-old, from Maryland, USA, has embraced it as a "blessing in disguise", which helped her "weed out superficial jerks".
The corporate trainer was born with a congenital melanocytic nevus (CMN) - and says strangers often stare at the brown mark.
Lee said: “The mind boggles at what adults think it’s acceptable to say. People seem to have this grotesque curiosity and feel entitled to ask whatever they want.
“I’ll constantly get people asking me what it is or giving me tips on how to hide it, and sometimes I’m just not in the mood for that kind of attention.
“One of the worst places is bars, as people are drinking so their inhibitions are down. I’ve been asked if it’s a tattoo or why I have paint all over me.
“Men have even used it as an ice-breaker! I try my best to handle it with grace and explain politely that it’s a birthmark.
“But I do get lots of positivity, too – particularly now I’m more confident about showing it off.
“I don’t mind people asking me questions, but it all comes down to what their intention is.”
Lee is now in a happy relationship with boyfriend Mike, who she met in theatre group four years ago and has been dating for 18 months.
But, when she was younger, she worried about how her crushes would view the birthmark.
She said: “When I hit my teens, while I didn’t feel my skin was ugly, weird or bad, I worried other people would.
“I wondered if I would ever find love but, in reality, my birthmark has been a blessing in disguise.
“It’s helped me weed out superficial, disingenuous jerks and I am now in a wonderful relationship.
“Now I know that, rather than hiding it away, it’s my birthmark that makes me special and meeting other people with CMNs has instilled me with even more pride and joy.
“I am proud of them and I’m proud of me.”
Lee, who's studying for a Masters degree in communication, grew up with supportive parents who made sure she never felt different as a child.
She said: “My parents were amazing, and it was never instilled in me that I had this condition.
“It was just thought of as my mark. They protected me, like any parent, but didn’t scaremonger or handle me with kid gloves.
“They told me all the time I was beautiful, powerful and strong.
“It was only when I got older that I realised how hard they would have had to work to make sure I never grew up afraid.”
But, when she hit her teenage years, Lee became more self-conscious and started covering up with big jumpers and long sleeved T-shirts.
She said: “Going out into the world looking like this gets lots of attention, and sometimes you simply don’t want to deal with it.”
Lee started scrawling the web for information about birth marks - and found a whole online community of people with CMNs.
She decided to stop hiding her mark away, adding: “I realised I had to go beyond accepting myself and embrace myself.
“My birthmark is what makes me special – it’s a part of me.
“I admit that the first time I went out with my birthmark on show, wearing a strappy top and with my hair up so you could see it all, did make me nervous.
“But I just kept telling myself over and over in my head that I should live life the way I want, and wear what I want.”