Three years ago, Em Ford went viral when she uploaded a YouTube video showing the world the hateful feedback she's received from posting makeup-free selfies to her My Pale Skin Instagram account. The "You Look Disgusting" video, which has amassed 28 million views, shows Ford surrounded by the nearly 100,000 negative comments people have written about her — all in an effort to humanise the person behind the screen and end the stigma around acne and acne scars.
Since then, Ford has continued to spread her skin-positive message on Instagram, where she frequently shows and talks about her scars with more than 970,000 of her followers. So, when Huda Beauty, the brand run by the hugely popular beauty blogger and entrepreneur Huda Kattan, used her image to promote an article on Facebook all about getting rid of acne scars, with a caption reading "The only thing worse than a breakout is the little scars they leave behind," Ford fought back.
The issue ran deeper than the brand using her photo without her permission. It was the fact that the brand used her face to promote an article that spreads a message that's antithetical to the one Ford's been spreading for years.
“Dear @HudaBeauty, I wanted to say thank you for using my #skinpositivity images to tell the world that my face full of scars is worse than active breakouts," Ford wrote on her Instagram story. “And for reinforcing that narrative that anything less than 'flawless' is something we should feel ashamed of, or want to fix and 'get rid of.'"
According to Ford, the message Kattan's brand was spreading is part of what causes so many people to feel ashamed of the appearance of their skin in the first place. “Headlines like that are the reason I receive thousands of emails on a daily and weekly basis from women all over the world," Ford continued. “Some of whom are made to feel so ashamed of their skin, it affects every aspect of their lives. And couldn’t even dream of enjoying themselves on holiday without applying a full coverage foundation.”
Ford left Huda Beauty with one question: "Do you want to be part of the problem? Or part of the solution?" Huda Beauty quickly removed the Facebook post, and Kattan herself took to her Instagram stories to take responsibility for the mistake, apologise to Ford and the people the post had hurt, and express her admiration for Ford and her message.
On Tuesday evening, Ford then revealed on her Instagram story that Kattan had personally reached out to her via e-mail and apologised directly. "We're cool. I don't hold any grudges, ill thoughts or hate towards you," Ford said in her email back to Kattan. "When women empower other women, amazing things can happen. So my next question is: How can I help you to empower others."
She then encouraged her followers to spread some positivity not only on Kattan's page but others' too. In her words: "You can use words to lift someone up... or tear someone down. You have a choice. What's it going to be?"
Refinery29 has reached out to both Ford and Kattan for comment and will update this post when we hear back.