yoocan - Nicholas Nikiforou - Nik s #Art4voice

Nik s #Art4voice

Rare Disease & Syndrome

Nicholas Nikiforou

How can I make this change

I no longer have the mindset that I did when I was younger that ‘things need to change’, but instead I now think ‘I need to help make this change’ and ‘how can I make this change?’.  This is at the top of my goal – if I do something for someone, they will then do something for someone else and it will just keep going. Education to me is very important. Everyone deserves an education and no one deserves to feel like they cannot go to school because of bullying. This is something that means a lot to me and I want to try and encourage positive change to help everyone unite through community action.

My vision has been for all individuals to be accepted in society for who they are. My outlook on life is - if we all embrace each other’s differences, no matter who they are the world will be a better place. 
I have a passion for facial equality. I campaign through my art, singing, and motivational speeches to envision a future of kindness reaching out to people in different communities cultures throughout the world. 
I was born with a pre-cancerous large congenital melanocytic nevus. This covered 2/3 of my face which was removed, leaving me with a lot of scarring on my face. I’m considered ‘disfigured’ by terminology under the 'Disabilities Act'. This is a term I strongly disagree with and whilst I want equality, I also advocate for facial equality. 
I have been severely bullied all because of the way I look. It took a long time for me to realize the good impact I could have on the world, I believed people when they told me that I was worthless, when they told me I wouldn’t be anything because of the way I looked. But throughout the years, I have learned that what we look like doesn’t define us. 
The only thing that can define us is our drive for change, the dreams we have, and our actions. But, throughout all of it all, we must always remain humble and true to what we believe in.
Three years ago, my life changed for the better. Kinder Chocolate opened up competition in the UK, for children to send a self-portrait of themselves and if you won, then your face would appear on the chocolate bars across the UK.
This really made me think...what did I see myself as? When I was in year 1, my teacher asked the class to draw themselves. I just drew a face as any child would. I didn’t see myself as different, just a round face with eyes, with a nose, with ears, a mouth, that’s it. This is how I saw myself in the mirror.
But when I got slightly older and people started picking out faults they believed were wrong with my face, I then noticed lines and scars….and it made me think ‘oh I have scars’. And whilst they were telling me, these were ugly and were using these scars to make me feel bad about myself, I realized that actually these scars, were simply scars. Nothing more, nothing less.
My scars simply told me and showed everyone that I have been through something, A long hard journey of countless surgeries and I am still here standing. 
I am a survivor, I am not a victim. 
So, when this competition came out, I thought‘…yeah, I have scars on my face, but this is me’…I am proud to be me. 
So, I entered the competition, my art piece took me 3 days. I looked at myself in the mirror and drew myself. Whilst I loved embracing me, I also felt sad, not because I didn’t like my face but because I was frustrated that I had to even experience what I did, all because I had simply scars on my face. I couldn’t understand why someone would go out of their way to say something unkind to me or pick something different about me and make me feel bad about myself.
I sent it off not thinking much of it, I was just proud I drew myself…my true self…not that round head with just 2 dots as eyes, 1 dot as a nose and ears…. but me…with all my perfections and imperfections.
After a couple of months, I received the news that my entry had been chosen as one of five winners in the UK. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. Kinder Chocolate chose my self-portrait where I embraced all my scars, and I felt so proud. 
I became the first-ever person in history, a person with a facial difference, on a famous chocolate bar. I couldn’t believe it.
But then...something still didn’t sit right with me. 
When Newspapers in the UK were writing about me, I had a lot of support but then I noticed some newspapers saying ‘Birthmark boy becomes Face of Kinder’. I sat in my room repeating ‘birthmark boy’. Just in shock.
Is that really what I was seen as by some?
A birthmark boy?
Rather than someone who has made history, I was seen as a ‘birthmark boy’.
This wasn’t good enough for me. Why are we in the 21st century still being defined by the way we look? Why are we being discriminated against based on things that make us all different and unique? 
I don’t have the answer and I still don’t know. But this is my vision, the world needs love. This is why we are on this earth, to give our whole self to the world to make it a better place for future generations. I was inspired to change something. If you feel passionate about something, you can make that change.
I want equality. 
This started me on my journey which is why I am privileged to be able to reach individuals through my art, singing, and speeches. I know the more people who join me on my journey, can help change the world and make the world a better place like my role model, Princess Diana. 
Doing art was something that I found comfort in, as I lost my voice during my ordeal with bullying. It was not just physical bullying but verbal and emotional. 
Art was a place that I could be myself without any prejudice. 
My art always has a meaning behind it, and it advocates for kindness, love, and compassion. I decided to come up with the initiative of printing my art onto thousands of cards and just handing it out to the public wherever I went. Even such a small act can have a big impact. My art has gone global, all the way to America, Greece, Australia, Dubai, and so on.  This idea was so I could make people feel even a little bit better because we do not know what people go through every day in their lives.
I suffer from anxiety, which was much more severe before I found coping strategies with my family. At my lowest point, even from the age of 5, I wished I was never born. But I am proud of myself, I had the courage to change my life around and know that I must be going through what I was for a reason. My ‘difference’ will not go away with age, with more surgery…it will always be there. But I am happy with that, I am proud to be me. I want to dedicate my whole life to have equality. 
The point in my life where everything changed, was when my mum sat me down to watch a ‘Wonderful Life’. I was only 5 but I understood the whole meaning. I just sat and cried. I felt bad that I had ever wished I wasn’t born. It really stuck with me. All our lives had a purpose and our lives should be viewed as a gift. I wanted things to change, and I realized that sometimes even the smallest of gestures can have such a big impact even if they seem small. If I wasn’t born, then I wouldn’t have ever had the chance to make that change for our world. Each and every person can have a positive impact on other persons’ life without realizing.

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