What would you do if an life-altering accident changed your face? Morenike is a gorgeous fashion influencer with a unique look. At the age of 6, she was forced to grow up with burn scars on 30% of her body, mostly found on her face and arms. While this childhood incident caused Morenike to experience trauma in her adolescent years, her growing love for fashion became a safety net. Now, at 29 years old, she’s built a successful social media platform that shows women how to love every inch of themselves through fashionable expression.
Morenike was a young girl when she was met with an unfortunate accident. “I am originally from Nigeria- Lagos to be exact. On that afternoon, I had just walked back home from school with my childhood best friend. After we walked in, we noticed the smell of gas- this was usual when the propane gas tank was being changed in the house. As I recall this time in Nigeria, propane tank gases were used to provide power for the fire stove top- the gas tank was usually right next to the stovetop,” Morenike explained. “Long story short, my friend and I went to rinse off our dishes in the kitchen. My two aunts were also in the kitchen checking on the meals they were making. As we were about to walk out, I walked towards my aunt closest to the stove to get a taste of the meal she was making all of a sudden, the kitchen exploded with the door slamming shut and locking us in.”
The pain that Morenike would endure would come from more than the accident itself. The aftermath would be a life-long adjustment to a new face and new body parts. An altered appearance can shape a child’s confidence. If a sense of self isn’t instilled during adolescent years, a person can run the risk of feeling less than, unattractive, or undesirable. As a result of her scars, Morenike experienced years of bullying and no outlet to help her process the traumatic experience and the possible long-term effects.
“I say to myself all the time and sometimes I cannot believe I say this, the fire and years of treatment after was not as painful as trying to build a life after. My parents became super overprotective to the point of never letting me leave the house. There was this overwhelming feeling that something was wrong with me. This in part was due to bullying, kids making fun of me, calling me names, and we as a family not dealing with the trauma of what had happened. I was supposed to ‘get over it’ I heard so many ‘we thank God you survived’ and this was the end of that. We didn’t discuss it as a family, we were almost on autopilot on how to ‘fix me’ so I can be beautiful again. Because we never talked about it, it stunted my outlook on relationships and friendships. I felt such turmoil inside and I had no one to help me process so I internalized everything. My thinking was if I could not come to my parents about what I was going through internally, how could I bring it to anyone, especially friends? Thinking that everything about me was too much of a burden for others, I just built a barrier between me and the world. It was my defense mechanism which led to me being alone.”
In search of an outlet, Morenike fell in love with how fashion made her feel. It allowed her a space to safely express herself. “Fashion was my one outlet where I thought I could be. I cannot truly put it to words.. I could use it to express how I was feeling and also a protective barrier. I was made to feel that since I had the privilege of surviving, I did not get the choice to complain, to hurt, to be angry. Fashion and creating was how I lost myself- I was a crafty thing and would crochet, make earrings, make beaded purses, sew. It felt like a fantasy world, I could escape to it because I was in too much emotional and mental pain. An oasis you could say. It kept me mentally positive because I felt like I finally had a chance to be without the expectations.”
Morenike’s confidence is infectious. Her huge smile and welcoming spirit radiates a light so strong, and overwhelming. While she says it’s something she’s still working on, through her Instagram account, you’d never know. “With my platform, I don’t believe that I have truly scratched the surface. I shy away in saying I have built a strong platform because I still deal with crippling self doubt which holds me back. However, I do see that when I connect with people on a personal level, a level where we can see each other in our experiences. This has been the most gratifying part of building a platform. At the end of the day, fashion is just an instrument I am using to hopefully encourage others and myself as we walk out our journeys. Simply said, my platform is as much your voice and mine.”
Her work as a fashion influencer has allowed her the opportunity to be a brand ambassador for Shoedazzle, H&M, and SheIN. “What I love the most about fashion is the freedom to try anything, be anything. To me fashion means freedom. It represents my moods – bold, stoic, flirty, culture. It spoke for me when I didn’t feel like I had a voice. Growing up, with my self esteem and confidence in the toilet, fashion loaned me a space to dream, it brought me joy. I love the fact that each one of us can interpret an item however many different ways. It gives me an insight on how we each see the world.”
Morenike has overcome a lot but her journey is never-ending. Through the highs and lows, she’s perfected a few strategies that keeps her going. “I give myself grace and try to celebrate my accomplishments. Even the tiniest of wins are important to me. I have mini dance parties celebrating myself even when I don’t feel like it. Take a break and please enjoy each moment- it’s not going to be easy and there will be loads of self doubt. And sometimes I put on a badass outfit and just hype myself in the mirror.”
Morenike’s scars have helped her grow and develop into exactly who she was created to be. Through the bullying and lack of emotional support, she was able to find her passion and herself. For others who may be struggling with something, she offers sound advice. “Be authentically yourself. Don’t get lost on the light shining on others. It is your journey and you matter every step of the way. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Be vulnerable and dream big! Find and build your community – they become family. Have fun even through the hard and painful times. And if you fall, are broken or bruised, get back up again.”
How Fashion Helped Morenike Elisabeth Love Herself Through Her Scars was originally published on hellobeautiful.com