From Insecurity to Impact: How This Woman's Birthmark Inspired a Self-Love Brand for Kids - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

We all have flaws, yet we often conceal the things that make us feel less than beautiful. But what if you used your flaws to your advantage? Well, meet Jennifer Vassel, a woman who turned a childhood insecurity into I Am Unique!, a book and global empowerment brand reaching children in the United States, Africa, United Kingdom, Philippines, and Australia.

Vassel was born with a birthmark covering a quarter of her back and for 10 years she did everything under the sun to conceal it—from refusing to wear tops or dresses that exposed her back to using a makeup artist for her prom to conceal the birthmark with foundation. Thankfully, college was a turning point for Vassel to feel free and comfortable in her own skin. “When I got to college, I thought to myself, ‘This is silly; I’m tired of hiding. If they stare or ask about it, I’ll just have to deal with it when that time comes,’” says Vassel. “It was liberating. My hope is that through my story, kids won’t be hindered by their own insecurities as long as I was.”

We caught up with Vassel to learn more about her journey.

Since the book launch, what are you are most proud of?

Our mission is to inspire girls to live their lives undimmed. There have been requests to have the book translated into both French and Spanish. This lets me know that this story is needed and self-love is a universal language.

I remember one mom purchased a copy and later called me to say how excited and surprised her daughter was to know that she had met an author in real life. She thought “all authors were dead”! Representation matters, and doing this work opens their eyes and mind to the limitless possibilities available in their own lives. We’ve also received photos and messages from people from places like Nigeria, United Kingdom, Philippines, and Australia who have connected with Erin’s story. One of my favorites is a video of a Kenyan girl reading the first page of I Am Unique! When we saw her face light up at the end, we knew we were on the right track.

You’ve published a parent guide and teacher guide to supplement I Am Unique!, tell us more about your plans to grow the I Am Unique! empowerment brand.

Not only will Erin’s story be told in the form of a books series, we’ve been creating different product lines to encourage self-love through various mediums. Whether it is a free “I Am Unique!” audiobook, a coloring book, parent and teacher’s guides, an Erin doll or app, we are creating a space where girls (and women) can go to be inspired. We want to inspire girls and women to overcome their insecurities so they can share their unique gifts and do more of what sets their soul on fire.

The goal is to position Erin as the face of self-love and partner with organizations who share the same message. We’re currently working to integrate our book into schools’ curriculum, where teachers will be equipped with common core aligned discussion questions and theme-based activities to drive the message home.

 

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