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An act of anger has morphed into a representation of strength and beauty. Indian fashion retail brand, Viva N Diva, has signed acid burn survivor and activist, Laxmi Saa, as the face of their latest womenswear collection.  The retail brand fittingly dubbed the campaign, “The Face Of Courage.”

When Saa was 15-years old, she declined a marriage proposal that would go on to change the course of her life.  The suitor, angered by Laxmi’s rejection, sought revenge.  Someone approached her from behind on a crowded street, tapping her on the shoulder. When she turned around, she had acid thrown on her face and neck.  “It felt cold at first. Then I felt an intense burning. Then the liquid melted my skin,” Laxmi recalls. The attack left her face marred.

However, through several painful surgeries and a passion for activism, Saa is rising above the distress. She created her own campaign to stop acid attacks in India.  “Nobody came forward to help me when I was attacked with acid that day. I remember asking for help from people who were present there but no one came forward,” she remembers.  Through her activism, Saa met and fell in love with Alok Dixit, a former journalist; together they run it out of a small office in Delhi. Over 50 acid attack survivors are involved in the campaign, which meets traumatized victims, providing them financial and emotional support and resources.  Laxmi Saa was also honored in 2014 by First Lady Michelle Obama, as the recipient of the International Women of Courage Award.

The Viva N Diva campaign is further bringing her activism to light and challenging representations of beauty in fashion, supporting a growing trend in showcasing variations of beauty.  The fashion industry has often been criticized for focusing solely on “a type” of beauty.  Nevertheless, in the past few years we have seen a rise in representation of size, age, and disabilities.

Co-Founder of Viva N Diva, Rupesh Jhawar, said the inspiration for the campaign came after he saw a calendar featuring attack survivors. It was disturbing and inspiring to this retailer, who had grown accustomed to looking at dolled up fashion models everyday.  He explained the purpose of the campaign was to,

“Remove any speck of being a victim from those eyes and give them a stage, an employment, a platform, a medium to flaunt it with style.”

Kudos to Viva N Diva for helping Laxmi Saa further her reach in activism for burn victims as well as shine in her on unique beauty, despite what is considered “societal norms.”  The power of this campaign illustrates the courage of not only for retailers straying from the marketing “norm”, but also for Laxmi Saa showcasing her looks so, well, beautifully.

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