Like most women in their twenties, Livi Deane loves Instagram. The 24-year-old businesswoman from Horsham regularly posts photos and videos of herself to her 10,000+ followers and recently a modeling agency noticed her stunning looks and signed her up.
“I feel so lucky and so blessed because I never thought I could be a model and have done several photo shoots already including one for Vogue,” says the 24-year-old businesswoman from Horsham, in the West Sussex. “It’s amazing because everything I thought was holding me back in life actually opened doors for me.”
It’s not hard to see why the camera likes it. With her slender figure, radiant smile and caramel complexion, she is a natural beauty.
But Livi would be the first to admit that her looks are unconventional in terms of modeling.
Because this vibrant young woman only has one eye, the result of surgery that saved her life as a child. Plus, she’s more than happy to pose without the prosthetic eye, showing the bare eye socket below.
“I used to only post pictures of myself wearing my prosthetic eye and even then I deleted hundreds of them because I felt like I had a lazy eye,” admits Livi, who lives with her boyfriend Max, 25. “I was embarrassed about it and either cover it up or only show half of my face.
“But over the past four years, I’ve realized that I wear my prosthetic eye so as not to scare others. Every morning I see myself without my eye, and Max too. Why should I hide from the world? I no longer need the eye to feel beautiful and if anything i feel more confident without it but it has taken me several years to gain confidence in myself and i want to be able to inspire others.
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Livi was only 12 when a routine eye test detected a black lump in the back of her eye and she was transferred to hospital. Within days, she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer that usually affects children under the age of five.
“When I heard the word ‘chemo’ I knew it was really serious and that mom and grandma were both in shambles,” Livi explains. “I remember looking at the surgeon and saying, ‘I know this sounds really silly, but am I going to die? “. He assured me I wouldn’t, but the ‘worst case’ would be if I lost my eye. I was horrified but I had to stay strong. I never cried during it all.”
Livi underwent chemotherapy for six months, losing all of her hair, which made her lose confidence. “It was a difficult time,” she admits. “I was at the age where girls and boys started to love each other and I felt very lonely and I was always sick. A few nasty things were said about my appearance, although luckily I had a lovely group of close friends, but just wanted to be treated like everyone else.
“I went into remission but unfortunately a year later the cancer returned. Although I had more chemo, the surgeon said she had no choice but to remove my right eye. It was horrible for everyone and although I’m glad it saved my life at the time it was horrible. I woke up from the operation in agony. gave a prosthetic eye but hated it because it didn’t look realistic enough I was mortified having to wear it and was getting very angry and emotional But the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust referred me at Moorfield Eye Hospital who hand painted me a very realistic eyeball that I have been wearing for ten years. I was so much happier. “
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Last year, Livi made the courageous decision to post a photo of herself without her prosthetic eye on Instagram – and the response was life changing.
“So many other people with prosthetic eyes reached out to me to say thank you and Katie Piper (the activist who advocates for disfigured people) got in touch and shared the video. She was absolutely lovely to me and when a modeling agency spotted my video on their feed, that’s when they got in touch.
“I organized an awareness day in the summer and it was wonderful to meet so many people who had lost an eye, whether it was due to cancer, illness or an accident. A girl who had leukemia had never spoken of her own experience and it led me to Seeing each other’s confidence grow over the afternoon was wonderful and many of us have now kept in touch.
“Of course, I’ve received a few horrible posts from anonymous Instagram accounts, but the overwhelming majority have been positive. Having always been the odd one out and not knowing anyone with a disability, I feel like there now has a lot more people out if i could go back to my 12 year old self now i would say, “Although this is the worst time of your life things are going to change and you are going to be happy and healthy and you will be helping other people feel the same. “
To follow Livi go to @ livi.deane.
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