“It’s so nice being accepted at last and I've gone much further than expected, despite thinking I wouldn’t get anywhere when I was younger.”

Ben Parsons' life story

Despite being bullied as a child, Ben Parsons, 21, has found success in adult life through his work for high profile brands, such as Smirnoff Ice, and his appearances on a couple of television shows, including Carjackers.

In the process, he has built up a following of over 30,000 Twitter followers, with the numbers growing all the time. In particular, he is grateful to the Skin Camouflage Service for providing him with the confidence he needs to perform in public.

Up until the age of eight years old, life was going well for Ben because he lived in a small village in Stamford, Lincolnshire, where everybody looked out for each other.

“I was born with a birthmark that was very noticeable at the time,” recalls Ben. “It covered a large area of my face, stretching from my right cheek, across my ear and over to my neck. But the atmosphere in the village was very supportive and local people didn’t treat me any differently.”

“However, when I was eight, we moved to Kent and I experienced an intense period of bullying at my new school. I remember being physically chased around the playground by a group of boys and girls. They laughed at me every time I answered a question wrong in class. They also poked me in the head aggressively and asked: ‘What’s that on your face?’. I didn’t want to go to school and found the whole experience extremely depressing.”

Eventually, he moved to another school, where the staff and children were briefed in advance about his situation to ensure that he would be treated with respect.

“I managed to develop a solid group of friends and when there were issues, the teachers acted upon them immediately,” says Ben. “It felt like life was back to normal again, just as it was in Lincolnshire.

“Secondary school was okay too because one of my teachers also had a birthmark. Since then, I have enjoyed sixth form college and university because everybody has been accepting of other people’s differences as something positive. I think people become more understanding when they reach a certain age.”

Throughout his life, Ben has had many operations, including 28 laser treatments between the ages of three months to 16 years old. His birthmark has now been reduced to a quarter of its original size. Although he found life hard at times, he drew strength during low moments from his auntie who had brown birthmarks all over her body. “I remember looking at her and thinking: ‘If she’s made it through to the age of 30 okay, it will get better for me’.”

In general, he thinks attitudes towards people with disfigurements have changed positively over the years. “Changing Faces is definitely making a difference in this area,” he adds. “Disfigurements are not portrayed as a bad thing anymore. It’s viewed more positively, even in the media.”

Ben also says he cannot thank the Skin Camouflage Service enough for its support. “My parents always used to read the Self-Help Guides. But my first contact personally with Changing Faces was when I was 16 years old. I was referred to the charity by my doctor. They arranged for me to visit the Medway Hospital, where the Skin Camouflage  was matched to my skin colour.

“When I’m with friends, I feel confident because they know me. I always put on a front. But when I’m in a nightclub, people can often upset me by accident. They feel too relaxed and say the first thing that comes into their head, which can be hurtful. It sets me back sometimes. However, when I wear the Skin Camouflage , the birthmark is not so prominent, which makes me feel less conscious.”

This confidence has led to him being very successful with part-time work in the entertainment industry during his time at Nottingham Trent University.

“Everybody loved me when I worked at Smirnoff because I gave them free drinks. And then I did a television show in 2015 called1,000 Heartbeats hosted by Vernon Kay. So this led to me recruiting loads of new Twitter followers. But the majority of them came on board last December when I was on E4’s Carjackers.”

“I’ve also been posting images recently of my birthmark on Instagram, which has attracted considerable support. Plus I set-up a hashtag called #whatwouldcraigdaviddo, which is all about me thinking about what Craig would do in the difficult situations I face sometimes.”

In total, Ben has had 15 part-time jobs at University and has a strong relationship with his agent from Smirnoff, which has led to him also working for Superdry, Virgin Media, BT, Captain Morgans and Just Be.

“It’s so nice being accepted at last and I’ve gone much further than expected, despite thinking I wouldn’t get anywhere when I was younger.”

Right now, Ben is the process of completing his Masters in business law and despite his experience in the entertainment industry, he is looking forward to a career in this area.

“Of course, if I get offered more roles in the entertainment industry I will take them but I’m enjoying the way they have come to me organically so far.”

As for the campaign for Face Equality, which is a big push for Changing Faces this year (with it being the charity’s 25th anniversary), he says plenty of progress has been made over the years but we need to pump up the volume.

“The support is so much stronger compared to when I was a child. Changing Faces’ new brand and the social media campaigns project a positive image of life with a disfigurement, to celebrate their differences. It makes you feel like everything is going to be okay.”

“I think more people should be prouder about what makes them different instead of dwelling on the negatives. The foundations are in place. We just need to keep pushing the same message but shout about it louder!”