Jennifer Vassel struggled with accepting the uniqueness of her birthmark for many years.
Now in her adult life, she has learned to embrace the things that make her different. But for Vassel this isn’t just a personal journey. With the launch of her new children’s book titled, “I Am Unique!,” she’s raising awareness about the importance of self-love to benefit children everywhere.
We spoke to Vassel about the inspiration behind the book–which follows a young girl named Erin who has a unique birthmark on her face–and how she found the courage to embrace who she really is.
Tell us a bit about you.
I am an introverted tea-drinker based in Southern California, the first-born of Jamaican immigrants with a goofy personality and a knack for creating. Writing is one of my creative expressions – I wrote my first poem at age of 6. My interest in publication stemmed from hearing Bishop Dale Bronner say in 2012, “Don’t die with your gifts still on the inside of you. Impart to others what was entrusted to you.” In 2014, I published an Amazon #1 Bestseller called, “My Channeled Energy,” a book of poems and short stories written from age 6 to 26.
What inspired you to write your book, “I Am Unique!” and why did you decide on the subject of a unique birthmark?
My childhood insecurities about having a birthmark was the inspiration behind “I Am Unique!” I was born with a birthmark clinically known as nevus of ito, which covers a quarter of my back. Growing up, I would avoid wearing certain clothes that exposed my mark.
I remember my first feeling of insecurity was in 3rd grade, and I held on to it up until I was a senior in high school. Thinking back to my prom – May 28, 2005 – I got my makeup done and I had the artist cover up my back with foundation so the birthmark could blend in with the rest of my complexion. I distinctly remember thinking, ‘Wow, I finally feel beautiful.’ I look back at that moment and realize that no one should ever feel like they need to cover up a part of themselves in order to be who they truly are.
Erin is the main character of “I Am Unique!” and I gave her a unique birthmark for two reasons. The first one is that I haven’t come across any books with diverse characters addressing the topic. In a sense, I wrote this book for the little me who once questioned her mark’s existence. While I have grown out of my insecurity, I want this story to inspire young girls to step outside their insecurities and into their greatness.
The second reason for writing about a unique birthmark was for metaphorical interpretation. This story lives within all of us. Whether it is a birthmark like Erin’s, crooked teeth, or even something we can’t physically see, we all have something about us that could trigger insecurities. When we live in a time where media largely influences our perceptions of beauty, esteem, and success, we have to be sure that young girls and women alike know it’s okay to just be all of who they were destined to be.
What can potential readers expect from the story?
Readers can expect to witness the power of self-love and be inspired to live their lives undimmed.
More and more women are starting to flaunt and celebrate the things that make them unique. Why do you think this sort of shift is taking place?
I can’t speak on other people’s “why” but I started sharing more about myself and my gifts because of Dale Bronner’s quote that I mentioned earlier (“Don’t die with your gifts still on the inside of you. Impart to others what was entrusted to you”). That was an “ah-ha!” moment for me. My shift happened because I was tired of not using my creative gifts to their fullest potential. I was not operating in my greatness. I learned that by sharing my uniqueness and vulnerabilities, it helps people arrive at their breakthrough. It gives others permission to walk in their purpose, on purpose. This realization starts a ripple effect, and we begin to build empowering communities where we can thrive and flourish among one another, incessantly.