Beauty is most often cast as fun, frivolous, and vain. And though in the larger picture, things like mascara, blush, and lipstick indeed seem lighthearted — it is the business of appearances, after all — there’s also something remarkably potent about beauty. While the conversation has been dominated (and rightly so) by the changing representations of beauty, we rarely hear about the therapeutic and, yes, sometimes life-changing effect it can have. All this week, we'll be bringing you such inspiring tales of remarkable women who have used the power of beauty to cope, empower, heal, and survive. You’ll find their stories are far from superficial. Today, meet Audrey Mabrey, a domestic abuse survivor who used her ordeal to embrace her inner strength and beauty.
To call Audrey Mabrey brave would be an understatement. She survived a vicious burn attack by her then husband when she was 26. Now at 32, she’s had time to reflect on beauty, both inner and outer. Her revelations have been nothing short of inspirational — she now travels around the U.S. as part of the domestic violence awareness programme Break the Silence to speak with young women about beauty. "Before the fire, inner character did resonate with me but not in the same way. I did consider myself a beautiful girl in an all-American kind of way. I was always into makeup, and my hair was almost to my lower back. My hair was part of me. Having all of my hair gone afterwards was a big, big deal for me. "After all this happened, I was in the hospital and I was not allowed to get up on my own and walk. I would ask my nurse to take me to the mirror, but she kept saying no. She kept saying, 'This is something you want to do with your friends and family with you.' Unbeknownst to her, I went on my own to go look in the mirror. I placed my hands on the vanity, and my first thought was that I looked completely like a monster. Freddy Krueger was the first thing that came to my mind. I was devastated. The way God designed me to look, I knew I would never look like that again. "But I was determined. He had robbed me physically, but he wasn’t going to rob me emotionally or spiritually. I began to take the steps I needed to heal internally. As time progressed, my hair started to grow a little and I finally got it cut into a style. I remember putting on mascara for the first time. After a while, it truly wasn’t so much about the outside anymore. It was how much I’d grown as a woman; the inner beauty was pouring out and almost casting a glow over my outer — like a pregnant-woman glow. "I also found a lot of hope through products. The only moisturiser I was allowed to use at first was Aveeno. Later, I transitioned to raw coconut oil. Then, I moved to Mary Kay skin care and noticed a big difference in how my skin looked. I love MAC makeup — it has great coverage. My skin is 50-shades-of-I-don’t-know-what, and MAC has the ability to bring my skin to one skin tone. "Also, I’ve become a vitamin junkie. I took prenatal vitamins and vitamin D because I couldn’t be out in the sun. I took flaxseed oil and fish oil. The recovery was everything — mental, internal, and the outside, which was through beauty. "That’s not to say I didn’t hope for surgery. I wanted to rectify what he had done as much as I could. But I didn’t seek it out. The opportunity for Face Forward [Ed. note: The photos on this site may be disturbing to some.], which offered corrective surgery, literally fell in my lap. I was thrilled and immediately thought, Okay, this is my blessing because I focused on my inner — I’m Jennifer Aniston on the inside! After the first surgery, I definitely could see a difference. Before Face Forward, I would always say I held my head high after the attack, but I literally could not hold my head high because the scar bands on my neck held me down. The surgery gave me the ability to do so. "I’ve had three surgeries through them since, and I have begun to look more and more like I did before. Over time, I’ve more and more embraced my scars. I’m permanently tattooed by God. When I go around the country and talk, especially to the younger girls, I’m a walking testimony that people can physically see. "The one thing that I really try to get across is acceptance. When you accept yourself, people are almost forced to accept you because that energy resonates through you. If you think you’re awesome and beautiful, people sense that inner confidence and inner peace. It’s a cliché that beauty comes from within, but it really, really is true. The journey does get better with age as well. I think in their 30s, women get more comfortable in their skin. I was fast-tracked. But I can tell you that when I look at myself in the mirror today, I’m 100% more beautiful today than I was before."