When Charlene Cerros was little, her classmates used to tell her she had “bird poo” on her face. Now, as a 30-year-old and mother of four, she hasn’t forgotten those hurtful words, but thanks to her five-year-old son she is slowly learning to love what the kids in her class used to tease her about.
Cerros has freckles. They cover her face and are speckled about all over her arms. They give her skin a unique look but are definitely not contagious.
“At work, one customer didn’t want to come near me because of my freckles – they thought I had a disease and was contagious,” Cerros said in an interview.
Many of Cerros’ family members have freckles, going back to her great-grandfather.
Growing up, Cerros faced countless cruel comments about her appearance, which led to a lack of confidence.
“I just wanted to feel pretty and I didn’t think I was with my freckles,” she said.
She felt so insecure that when she was a teenager she bought a product to bleach her skin. Luckily her father discovered the bleach before she could use it. But that wasn’t the only time she attempted to cover up her skin. Right before she got married she purchased more bleach, but her soon-to-be husband found it and talked her out of it.
Cerros also says she tried using makeup to cover up her freckles but it never turned out right. Her skin is too dark, so the end result would always look “muddy.”
For years Cerros tried to change her appearance.
The mother of four endured years of people asking if she was sick or staring at her, and she says that not once did she receive an apology from someone after she explained that she simply had a lot of freckles.
Finally, one day a comment from her five-year-old son changed the way she looked at her freckles.
“Look mum I’ve got a freckle like you,” the little boy said.
All it took was a few words from her son to change her thinking
Cerros has said that some of her children have started to develop freckles and she wants them to embrace what makes them different.
“I didn’t want my voice when I complained about my freckles to become her [Cerros’ daughter] inner voice,” she said.
Although her son’s comment did have a major impact on how she viewed her freckles, it wasn’t until her husband encouraged her to submit a photo of herself to a photographer that she really started on her self-love journey.
In 2016, Cerros flew from Melbourne to London for a photoshoot with a photographer who was doing a series celebrating people with freckles.
“The first time I looked at the finished portraits I finally felt beautiful. I was so empowered and it taught me to embrace my differences – freckles and all,” she remarked.
Cerros hopes to encourage her children to embrace what others might see as flaws and learn to love themselves just as they are. She also has a message about what makes people unique and wishes that everyone learns to appreciate themselves.
Put your trust in the people who love you, rather than the people who don’t know you. If they say that you are beautiful, then believe them because they love you and will tell you the truth.