“It was life changing. I had been like that for 32 years. For that to change… it was like, ‘Who are you? Who are you now?'” The internet can be a cruel place, especially in an age where anyone who doesn’t conform to typical beauty standards is made to feel ashamed about things they have no control over, like their hair, their skin, their body, or even their smile.
That’s what happened to St. Louis woman Jessica McDaniels, who was targeted by hateful cyberbullies because of her overbite and damaged teeth. But where the bullies hoped to drag McDaniels down, their venom ended up inspiring a reaction that would change her life forever.
NEVER LOOK LIKE WHAT YOU BEEN THROUGH OR GOING THROUGH NOW……
For years, McDaniels had struggled with health issues, first in her ears and then with her teeth. Though she had wanted to see a cosmetic dentist for years, this single mother raising three kids has to work long hours as a hairstylist just to keep things together. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one dentist had quoted her a rate of $3,000 for all the necessary procedures.
But try as McDaniels might to accept and love herself as she was, when a friend posted a picture of her smiling with her misshapen teeth, it went massively viral as it was hijacked by cruel cyberbullies.
The bullies showed no mercy, saying that she “should be in a zoo,” calling her a “donkey,” and saying she “shouldn’t even have children” all because of her teeth, as she told WBIR in Knoxville. For McDaniels, embarrassment and shame about her teeth were nothing new, but she just couldn’t understand the hatred that her picture had unleashed.
“I am not weak,” McDaniels said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You can be the prettiest person in the world and have the ugliest attitude.”
These touched my bottom of my feet I got chills reading these #igottafigureoutawayicanhelpotherswiththeirsmiles
But what these awful bullies weren’t ready for was the groundswell of support that would take over after McDaniels was targeted. It started with tons of people who had had braces, dental surgeries, and other teeth issues posting to express their sympathy and support. They told McDaniels that she was beautiful and to ignore the haters.
But McDaniels’s old high school classmate Crystal Starks decided that wasn’t enough. She wanted McDaniels to feel more beautiful and show the bullies that they couldn’t win. As Starks said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “for a person doing something innocent, for them to be caught off-guard and taken advantage of like this is horrible. For what? For likes on Facebook?”
Starks started a GoFundMe Campaign to help raise the money for McDaniels to get the dental treatment she needed. As she wrote on the campaign page: “instead of criticizing and tearing Jessica down, let’s support her dream of making her smile perfect. As citizens, we need to band together and turn this negativity into positivity.”
SAME PERSONALITY SAME 💕 DIFFERENT SMILE #iluvME #2boys1stylist #jessUs3
But it wasn’t just Starks and the over 270 people who donated money that helped tip the scales; it was also Dr. Maryanne Udy of Northwest Oral Maxillo-Facial Surgeons and Dr. Thomas Matthes, a prosthodontist, both of them working in the St. Louis area. Dr. Udy heard about McDaniels’s case and knew she could help. Amazingly, she agreed to take on the case completely free of charge!
“I definitely wanted to help her because of how she handled her situation…and I just thought ‘man I have the ability to help her,'” Udy said to WBIR. Dr. Udy became a wonderful friend and ally, and McDaniels had the support of her tough mom, Pat McGee, who never stopped believing in her.
As surgery approached, she told her daughter, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “be strong, God has your back.”
I THINK AS SURGERY DAY IS GETTING CLOSER I THINK IM GETTING NERVOUS IN MY MOUTH HURT ALL DA TIME NOW
After the surgery, McDaniels and her mom couldn’t believe the change. She had her smile back. “It was life changing. I had been like that for 32 years. For that to change… it was like, ‘Who are you? Who are you now?'” she said to WBIR.
But McDaniels is the same tough, feisty mom that she always was. “I look good before. I look even better now,” she said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.