Written By: Jill Hopkins
Photography By: @KarloGomez
Sarah’s weekday coffee looks vastly different than her weekend cup of joe. On a Monday morning, Sarah’s coffee is pure and black; she quickly hurries out the door to face a busy week ahead. On Sunday morning, Sarah enjoys her coffee slowly; she adds cream, sugar, chocolate- the works- and sits back to savor every drop.
Sarah grew up in a small town in California surrounded by bronzed surfers and quaint coffee shops, where to her, everyone looked the same. Although everyone seemed to fit this California mold, Sarah was different; she was born with a birth defect. Sarah was born with a bilateral cleft lip, or a lip that does not form properly before birth. Growing up wasn’t easy for Sarah as she was a major target for bullying. “I was called every name in the book, some too inappropriate to even say now,” she explained. “I was so insecure, especially before high school. It was really tough.” Sarah said that she had difficulty looking people in the eye and would become extremely nervous around anyone unfamiliar, which made the bullying even worse. Luckily, Sarah had certain people in her corner that served as her pillars of strength.
As Sarah explains that this time was not only hard on her, but also hard on her parents, she becomes emotional. “They pushed me. They told me ‘you’re stronger, you’re better, you can do anything you want. They used to say, ‘they’re just jealous of you.” Sarah says that she has always had strong, empowering female role models as well as fierce, strong masculine ones. “I don’t have a huge group of friends but they are always there for me and I can always count on them. They are big supporters of me.”
After 7 or 8 surgeries, Sarah explains that you can’t even tell she has a bilateral cleft lip unless you are close up to her face, but it has greatly contributed to the person she is today. “People ask me if I would wish to be born differently and I say no- I embrace it, I wouldn’t change a thing- I’m strong and I admire that about myself, its beautiful.”
“The bigger the threat, the stronger I get,” Sarah says as she provides a quote she believes encapsulates her daily motivation. “Its something I live by- everything I was put through- it’s something that has made me stronger. All the nasty things people did to me motivate me to want to do more. Prove them wrong.”
Today, Sarah says she sees much more diversity in magazines when it comes to race, but she thinks society needs to keep pushing the envelope regarding all kinds of differences. “You never see a model at all with a cleft lip. Embrace that and push that more.” She wants young women to love themselves not because they look a certain way, but because they love all the things that make them different. Embrace your differences and don’t mind what others think- as Sarah says, they’re just jealous- prove them wrong.