Today we’d like to introduce you to Colette Pfeiffer.
Colette, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am the founder of Wicked Flaws, a positivity platform rooted in sharing the inspiration and beauty in our human flaws and differences. I began the project by telling my own story, which I had been reluctant to tell up until that moment. I was born was a rare congenital birth defect that left me disfigured, missing my coccyx and my right butt cheek. (For the lengthy dissertation, you can read my blog post titled “Advice From a Lannister.”) I lived the majority of my life trying, not very successfully, to conceal this flaw from all those around me. A couple of years ago, however, I was cast as a model for an editorial called “The Pretty Project.” Myself, and four other scarred and disfigured models were photographed and shared our stories via interview, about our struggles with beauty standards and what it entails to be or not be “pretty.” Unfortunately, like many pieces, it never went to print. I was so devastated. After a while, as the disappointment stuck with me, I couldn’t help but think to myself “I don’t need someone else’s platform to tell my story and share those of others.” I’m a believer that it’s on you to create that which you wish existed in the world.
So I made such a place. I chose the name because I was so compelled by this word, wicked. In the dictionary, it has two meanings, but these definitions are polar opposites. It means both “Evil, bad, intended to harm…” and “exceptional, brilliant, wonderful…” That just kept resonating in my head. What if we could see our flaws in the same light? That what makes us “marred and different” and” not as it should be,” is actually what makes us incredible, strong, and resilient? So, with more than a little fear in my gut, I launched Wicked Flaws a week before my birthday, and was off and running. In the less than a year, it has been live, I’ve made so many connections that have already made it such a rewarding endeavor. I’ve been reached out to by total strangers. I was contacted by a woman who was also an SCT survivor, who had never seen anyone else like us her whole life and had never worn a bathing suit. She said she cried at the thought of wearing a suit and feeling the water against her skin. I have been contacted by parents, saying their child has just been born with my same congenital deformity and they are so scared for them and the rough road ahead, and I try my best to give them hope and shed some light on what a beautiful gift being different can be. The more of these people that showed up, the more I knew I was making a place that was putting good out into the world. In our current climate of division and anxieties, can’t we all use more of that?
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t think anything worth having is easily attained, so no, of course it has not been without struggle. Anyone who lives with disfigurement has had their fair share of mean words, being treated differently, and pointing and staring. But I consider those hardships to be part of human nature. There isn’t a person out there with absolutely no insecurities, which is why Wicked Flaws doesn’t just relate to the disfigured community. It’s about embracing your insecurities and differences, regardless of who you are. When The Pretty Project was canceled I was so heartbroken because I felt the content mattered so much. It wasn’t another millennial article about the “Top Ten Brunch Items You Didn’t Know You’re Obsessed With.” It was a message that I truly felt could help others in a way I had once needed. But even in deciding to make my own platform, exposure doesn’t happen overnight. I was still struggling to reach those whom I felt I could help, and honestly not a day goes by that I am not still thinking of ways to gain exposure. And I use that word in a true sense…..how can I reach the most people possible? I grew up thinking there wasn’t another person in the world like me. I knew that couldn’t be true, theoretically there have to be thousands, but how would we ever find each other? I felt unrepresented when it came to finding clothing, nothing (from the waist down) was made for someone like me. And today, we live in a world where censorship laws have changed so much that nearly naked butts are absolutely everywhere; Instagram, advertisements, media; praised as if they are personality traits. Comparison is a daily ritual for me. I think it’s important to know even activists are still fighting their own inner struggles. They just believe they are battles worth fighting for.
One of my greatest privileges is being an adaptive ski instructor with the United States Adaptive Recreation Center in Big Bear, CA. Every instructor will tell you it’s humbling to work with disabled athletes, but very few of them are so close to the fence as I. It’s not lost on me that I am very lucky to be standing there as the instructor, not the student. I have dealt with a myriad of physiological hindrances because of my congenital deformity, but it did not take from me the ability to walk or to take care of my own basic needs. When I work with students who are not so lucky, it inspires me to push past my own physical frustrations and mental blocks. How can we feel sorry for ourselves if we are constantly being reminded we have much to be grateful for. In the very least, it gives me a lot more street-cred among the disabled community when I start ripping on myself and my missing butt cheek, and I learned a long time ago, humble self-deprecation brings some much needed laughter during life’s toughest moments.
What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
For myself, and the message I am trying to send, I believe authenticity is highly integral to my success. We live in an environment that is very conducive to inauthenticity. Our whole presence, on social media in particular, is a carefully curated image. Little squares of the best parts of our lives, our best angle, the most flattering photos you can find of yourself. This environment is highly orchestrated, which can lead to very unhealthy comparative practices. Today’s youth has some of the worst mental health in recent history, part of that being, in my opinion, the comparison of the “perfect” lives we see around us. I try to share myself and my experiences as authentically as I can because creating a feeling of community is a goal of mine. Media has come a long way amid the challenge of beauty standards, those of us fighting for it are perhaps the bra-burners of our own generation. Yet we still have a long way to go, and we can start by, as they say, keeping it real!
- Website: www.wickedflaws.com
- Instagram: @_wickedflaws
Andrew Heiser, John Kiefer, The Pretty Project