Facebook banned a photo of this woman with a skin disorder — now she's fighting back
Lisa Goodman-Helfand wears makeup everywhere she goes. In fact, the mere idea of taking out the garbage with a bare face is absolutely terrifying to her. She suffers from scleroderma, a rare disease that causes the skin and connective tissues to harden. The only way she can hide the red and purple spots and blotches on her skin is by using three layers of foundation.
“My doctor says that I have more red and purple dots sprinkled over my body than any patient she has ever seen — not exactly the claim to fame a woman hopes for,” Lisa wrote in an article on XOJane this past May. “I religiously apply three layers of concealer to my face every morning before I let the world (beyond my family) see me. Sure, I may look like I’m caking on my makeup with a butter knife, but that beats the alternative; watching everyone I meet recoil in fear of catching some horrible rash, which really isn’t a rash at all.”
But Lisa — a teacher who has been blogging about her disease on her site, Comfortable In My Thick Skin, to raise awareness — decided to do something that she’s never done before: Post a picture of her face sans makeup on Facebook. Though the idea totally terrified her, she wanted to show support for a fellow blogger named Chanel White who also has scleroderma. Though Chanel’s face looks healthy and spot-free, her disease has spread internally, making her organs slowly harden. So Lisa decided to write a blog post in July entitled “You Won’t Believe The Story Behind These Two Faces,” showing the two of them side-by-side (below). The reason? To show how illness can manifest differently in different patients.
“Chanel is a gorgeous 23-year-old, and if you just looked at a picture of her face, you’d think she looked perfectly healthy,” Lisa explained to People. “But she is actually very sadly facing multiple organ failure. And my face, especially without makeup on, to say the least looks very different, but internally, the disease hasn’t taken its toll.” Lisa decided to share the post on Facebook, where it got 600 shares. In hopes of getting more shares and thus spreading awareness for her (amazing) cause, Lisa decided to pay $20 to make her post into a Facebook ad. But Facebook rejected it with the following message:
“It’s difficult to articulate how much courage I had to muster before hitting the ‘publish’ icon and send my naked face out for public viewing for the first time in my life,” Lisa wrote in a blog post illustrating the experience entitled “Facebook Doesn’t Like My Face.” “. . . After 30 years of going to great lengths to conceal my face, I put it out there to illustrate how much more there is to people than what we see.” After checking Facebook regulations and finding that her advertisement did not break any of the rules, Lisa responded to Facebook, explaining that there must have been a misunderstanding:
Facebook responded once again, still not understanding Lisa’s point:
Lisa explained to Yahoo that she was not looking to start a war on Facebook — she just wanted to spread awareness about her disease and start a conversation. “Facebook has given us the opportunity to support one another, to vent, to talk about how we can beat this disease,” she told Yahoo. “It’s been a tremendous support to the community.” However, she hopes that Facebook will rethink how they monitor ads and ad violations. “Let’s re-evaluate when someone puts in [a question about] an ad promotion,” Lisa said. “Can we resolve things in a more humane, less digital way? . . . People who take two minutes to read the original article and two minutes to read the follow-up . . . have come out in full force. It’s been tremendously reassuring.” After the Yahoo article, Lisa got an apology email from Facebook saying that her, “ads were mistakenly disapproved, and we’ve re-reviewed and approved them.” Lisa excitedly reposted the article and paid the $20 to make it into an ad . . . only to get the exact same rejection email once again. Sigh. Lisa then decided to do something even bigger, she would launch an IRL event Face Off for Scleroderma and encourage people to share makeup-free selfies on social media. Over a hundred people gathered at the official launch celebration in Highland Park on Sunday, with thousands joining in via social media using the hashtag #sclerodermaselfies to spread awareness. “Come help me kick off #sclerodermaselfies by arriving in your bare and beautiful face (no makeup),” Lisa wrote on her blog. “Together, we will erase the fear of going bare with the help of our smartphones . . . This is not just for women and girls. This issue resonates with men and boys too.” Online people listened as well, posting fabulous makeup-free selfies to support Lisa’s amazing cause and event:
“It was just a day to celebrate being who you are without needing to conceal yourself, and yes, the absolute underlying mission here is to raise funding and awareness for scleroderma,” Lisa explained to People. “It’s taken on a life of its own, and [Sunday] was one of the most magnificent moments of my life, and the support I’ve received has been beyond my wildest dreams.”
The social media campaign also encourages those participating to make a donation to the Scleroderma Research Foundation; so far, Lisa has succeeded in raising over $1800. There you go, Facebook: turns out you’re not needed to start a revolution.
[Images via Facebook, Twitter]