Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
All throughout middle school, Leia Immanuel, a 14-year-old eighth-grade student from New York, has dealt with hormonal acne. She always knew that her acne was natural but, like so many teens, she struggled to feel confident in herself and her imperfect skin. As a way of coping, she started @artdr3am, an Instagram account where she could start documenting her skin struggles.
“It was supposed to be an account for just my friends,” explains Immanuel, who says she didn’t think much of it at the time. Except people caught on. Now, just over a year since making her initial post, the teen has nearly 90,0000 followers.
For years, Immanuel’s acne had been an up and down journey and constant battle with dermatologists. “I used to put on SO much makeup just to cover it up,” she recalls. Though she quickly realized that layering on concealer and foundation didn’t help her skin, walking around with the tiny red bumps on her face made her feel “as if I was a monster.” She knew she had to do something about it.
Thus, her Instagram account was born. She explains in an email interview to Brit + Co that for teenagers especially, social media can provide an avenue to connect and reach out to others who are going through the same struggles. For her, this has meant connecting with others via the photos she’s shared and realizing that her acne was, indeed, a normal and common part of growing up.
“I’ve grown more comfortable in my skin and body, and it’s changed the way I’ve seen people and the world,” she says.
Posting to her account daily made Immanuel realize that she was just a teenager who needed to live her life without dwelling on superficial details.
“The energy we spent stressing about body image is insane,” she says. “It could be saved or used for other things. Beauty is subjective and does not define you as a person; you define yourself.”
Each of her photos is usually captioned with something motivational or a bit about her day. The impact it’s had on her audience has been incredible. Since her launch, Immanuel notes that she’s had Instagrammers from around the world direct-message her with their own experiences and comment about how much she’s inspired them to embrace their own bare skin.
“Most of the times people say that they look back on my posts if they need a reminder on how to feel confident again,” Immanuel says. “That, in every possible way, just warms my heart!”
We love that Immanuel’s message of self-love and self-acceptance is spreading and we hope that more follow her lead in embracing their own acne and imperfections.