A young woman who suffered horrific burns as a child has overcome post traumatic stress and bullying to model clothes for high street fashion giant Next.
Labonya Siddiqui, 21, was involved in an accident at just eight years old, when a paraffin lamp exploded, causing horrific burns and painful scarring over her lower face and upper body.
As a self-conscious teenager Labonya covered up with layers and scarves to try and disguise her scars and avoid bullies, but one day a friend encouraged her to show her face.
She said: “They pulled my scarf away and told me to try being without it. I remember the next day I walked into class with no scarf on and I was met with mixed responses.
“I faced severe bullying for almost the whole duration in high school which led me into depression for some time.'
To make things harder, she dreamed of being a model. “I used to look at magazines when I was a teenager, wishing I was pretty enough to appear on the glossy pages.
“I was fed up of feeling sorry for myself, I was tired of letting my inferiority complex and insecurities making me vulnerable and so, encouraged by my friends, decided that modelling was the first step forward.”
Labonya didn’t have any luck until Next spotted her and invited her to model for the launch of its new store in Burnley. She’s now hoping to become a figurehead for burns victims, to encourage them not to be ashamed of their scars.
She said: “I want to represent all the burn survivors who have gone through similar experiences and I will continue to model.
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“I hope when other people like me see my work they will find their own confidence and strength so that they will be just as comfortable being themselves as I am with my scars.”
Labonya’s accident occurred in Bangladesh, where she was born, when she tried to light a kerosene lamp during a power cut.
I’d picked up a match and lit it from the wick’s flame and held it close to the oil compartment.
She explained, “The match dropped and there was an explosion and in blind panic the maid threw the oil gallon at me.
“As all the kerosene covered me I was engulfed by flames.”
The accident put Labonya into a coma for five days and she was lucky to survive. Two years later the family moved to Burnley, and now both her pediatrician parents work at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
A spokesperson for Next said: “We are thrilled to have Labonya here and it gives real glamour to the opening of our new store in Burnley.
“She is a beautiful girl and we wish her all the best in her modelling career.
“It just goes to show that beauty goes much more than skin deep.”