When she was 19, Catrin was in a coach crash, in which she sustained 96% burns across her face and body. After spending three months in a coma, and going through 200 operations over the last few years, Catrin is now at university studying physiotherapy, specifically around burns rehabilitation.
“At 19 years old my whole life turned upside down. I went from a young, confident, vivacious young girl to a 96% burn survivor fighting for life and for my identity. Before this happened to me, I believed that the way someone looks played a large part of what makes us who we are, and I still think that’s true. To have my appearance altered so dramatically put that all into perspective, that there is no ‘perfect’ way to look. A scar is just as beautiful as any other attribute, and I believe that it is the confidence with which you wear your scars with that shows off its beauty.”
Catrin has spoken openly about post-traumatic stress disorder and her experiences of losing her central vision and the challenge of learning to walk again.
“To be honest, my struggles in life haven’t been bullying or social exclusion or anything like that. My struggles have been coming to terms with a life changing accident and the impact it has had on my future, and my family’s life.”
As an ambassador for Changing Faces, Catrin has been involved with various campaigns, including Portrait Positive with the photographer Rankin, because she wants to make a difference to how people with visible differences are treated.
“I want to challenge people’s stereotypes or perceptions of people being scarred, that somehow they are bad or negative, and start a conversation about it.”
Challenging the media’s portrayal of difference, and the negative assumptions made about burns survivors is very important, says Catrin.
“Looking different in today’s society is terrifying as there is this idea that everyone should look a certain way to meet the world’s idea of ‘perfection’. There are people who may feel ashamed or embarrassed by their scars; by showing mine I wanted to make them feel more confident about theirs.”
Catrin supports Changing Faces’ corporate partnership work, which encourages brands and companies to commit to representing more people with a visible difference in their campaigns. Beauty brand Avon was the first to sign up and Catrin recently became a model for them.
“When I was receiving treatments for my burns I would read magazines to pass the time and I never saw anyone who looked like me – so to be a part of a mainstream beauty campaign is so important.
“Hopefully these campaigns will open people’s eyes to the need for more diversity in the fashion and beauty industry and the impact this can have on people’s confidence and self-esteem.”
Catrin’s incredible achievements were recognised when she won Welsh Woman of the Year, and she continues to be a powerful ambassador for Changing Faces.