International Face Equality Week, 13-19 May, 2024, #MyFaceIsAMasterpiece

Mona Lisa

By Lisa Smant

Last summer I visited the Louvre. The whole experience was beautiful and overwhelming, with so many masterpieces in one place. Of course, most visitors flock to the Mona Lisa and her unique smile. Most viewers are surprised that the painting is smaller than what they imagined; some are surprised by her non-conventional beauty; and some are surprised they have to wait in line (again) to get an up close viewing.  So, I wondered what makes a masterpiece? Why is this piece of art such a big deal? The definition that the dictionary gives us of masterpiece is, “a work done with extraordinary skill. especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.” Da Vinci certainly displays master level work here. The Mona Lisa is a defining piece of Renaissance art, but how does that relate to me personally? How can my face be a masterpiece?

I think I would give masterpiece a slightly different definition. I would define it as something that evokes emotion. The Mona Lisa evokes emotion – we all wonder: What is she thinking? Was she happy? And, what is the deal with that background? I can acknowledge that my face is special, but a masterpiece? I am not the Creator (Like da Vinci was of Mona Lisa) of my face, if I was I would hope it might evoke things in me like perseverance and goodness. And I think it has.

I have a complicated relationship with my face. My face has certainly evoked emotions, in me and in others. For me personally, it has pushed me. I have always had to have determination to keep going, to not give up. Mostly because of my face, but also because of life’s circumstances. I think my face probably primed me for perseverance. I have always felt this, as many of us with Moebius do. My perseverance might look different that others’ but I know how it can be to live in the world with a facial difference. And I know what it can be to face challenges.  My friends used to call me “the fixer.” I give good advice and I always have an idea of what to do when life puts gets you stuck. I am sure my perseverance has something to do with this. And for this, I am thankful for my face. I wish things were different but I also see the goodness that has come.

I do believe in the good in people. I believe in the good in me. Sometimes it is hard, but I think a lot of us who have had to persevere have experienced the opposite of goodness. I hope that because of that, I always treat people with empathy and understanding. Most of all, I think that people who have differences understand what being genuine means.

For others, my face has evoked confusion. I sometimes forget that when people meet me, they do not know that I may be smart or fun. I love Kathleen Bogart’s recent quote in the MSF Newsletter to stand up for your face. She reminds those of us with differences to proclaim that paralysis does not equate dissatisfaction or lack of excitement. I love this simple mantra to the world that those of us with differences can still be excited and happy. It is so simple, but such a liberation. It is a gift to proclaim your happiness and I intend to practice this more regularly. That is why it is important for us to participate in these face equality weeks. Because we are a part of a growing movement of acceptance. And that is most surely a good thing.

Lisa Smant

Face Equality Week, May 2024