I must confess I had never heard of burns survivor Turia Pitt until one of my Twitter followers in Australia sent me a picture of The Australian Women’s Weekly‘s July edition. And, as you can see, its cover is a photo of the remarkable and beautiful Turia.
The reaction has been effusive, with BuzzFeed describing it as ‘probably the best women’s magazine cover ever’. Quite a statement that, and perhaps also an unintended criticism of that sector of the magazine world where the emphasis on beauty is constant, and the cover photos are practically always gorgeous women – and men.
Women’s Weekly dared to be different and in doing so was pretty courageous, but also
reflective of the diversity of women, whether it’s a disability, race or a facial difference. It also acknowledges her strength of character in turning her life around following a horrific accident and the amazing love of her partner Michael Hoskin, who was there before, during and after her ordeal.
Turia’s story is shocking and uplifting. A mining engineer, she and several other competitors were caught in a bushfire during a 100km race. She suffered 64% burns to her face and body, lost some fingers and one thumb, spent two years in hospital and endured numerous operations. She had so little skin left for grafts she had to wear a special body suit and face mask until reconstruction surgery could begin. All the while Michael stood by her side.
Turia responded to adversity by rebuilding her life and staying positive. There is not a trace of self pity or anger in her words, and it’s no surprise that her fortitude, bravery and courage, her refusal to allow negativity to consume her, has turned Turia into a powerful motivational speaker, and tireless charity worker.
Her appearance on the cover of a women’s magazine speaks volumes, though, about the
media’s obsession with body image and beauty. They set the agenda, and help ensure those who don’t fit the ideal feel inadequate. They also ensure young people get the wrong
message. We live in a world where not to conform to the norm almost defines us as freaks. And yet most of us will never look like George Clooney or Charlize Theron. Turia and, in Britain, Katie Piper – who survived an acid attack – challenge that world.
We need more magazine covers that show our diversity as human beings, and for TV shows to accept us as being normal people, with feelings just like everyone else. Unfortunately, too
often those with facial differences are seen only in TV documentaries, the occasional
newspaper article, and heard on radio. How many times do you see them present or appear on TV shows, apart from Piper, of course?
I salute The Australian Women’s Weekly for thinking outside the box, for daring to show a woman whose skin may be less than flawless, but whose beauty shines through from the inside out. I hope Cosmopolitan, Elle, Hello and other women’s magazines follow suit, and sooner rather than later.