Danielle Lipple, 28, was born with a large Port Wine Stain birthmark (also known as a vascular malformation – an abnormal development of blood vessels) across her lower face.
While she often attracts stares in public and comments on TikTok after sharing her story with millions of people, the young woman has learnt to embrace her unique look.
“I think my birthmark is incredible,” Danielle, from Detroit, Michigan, US, told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
“When I was little, before the internet, most of the reactions I got to my birthmark from others were just stares.
“I never really felt angry about this because people are generally curious if they see something that they have never seen before.
“I think that I was really lucky that most of my social media comment sections were very tame for a very long time in regards to my birthmark.”
Danielle started sharing clips of herself on TikTok, including the process of having laser surgery to lighten the mark – which initially makes it much darker – and pictures of herself as a child with the mark visible.
Her clips have garnered millions of views, and Danielle is passionate about educating people on her condition.
She said: “It took me a long time to learn about the many details of the medical side of it, but once I started to look into it a little bit more, I think it is so interesting what is actually happening physically in my face.
“And even more so, the fact that there are so many people out there in very similar situations.
“I knew that Port Wine Stain birthmarks were common, but being able to actually connect with people who look just like me, and who have gone through a lot of the same things that I have, has been an incredible blessing.”
As for her own journey? Danielle says self-acceptance has been key.
She said: “I think my birthmark has made me who I am today.
“I think that my parents did an amazing job raising me because when children grow up with medical conditions or visible differences, a lot of times, they can be very self-conscious or struggle with their identity.
“However, I have always known who I am, what I want, and what my self-worth is regardless of my birthmark.
“That does not mean that I’ve always loved it.
“My parents raised me to think more of my birthmark as something that is a part of me more so than something that happened to me.
“I can recognise that my birthmark is a part of who I am, but does not correlate directly to my self-worth.
“I am not lesser because I have a ‘defect’. “
But she hasn’t always been so accepting of her looks.
Danielle said: “While I don’t necessarily have low self-esteem, I have subconsciously created rules or conditions for myself as a coping mechanism that I have been working on recently to dismantle.
“When I was young, I never ever left the house without make up on.
“I would wash my face after all my friends went to sleep at a sleepover and wake up early before all of them to put my makeup back on.
“No one told me I had to do these things, but I created this reality for myself.
“I think it has to do partly with societies view of beauty, yes, but I think it happened more subconsciously.
“I wanted to be able to control who got to see my birthmark and when, because I could control that, but not the fact that I had a birthmark or not.
“My lower lip started growing significantly around the time of puberty and throughout my middle school and high school years, it grew dramatically.
“I had a few surgeries to debulk my lower lip and it is much smaller now than it was.
“However, the surgeries have caused a lot of scar tissue inside my lip, so there are some issues with numbness and mobility.
“I am blessed that I still have my speech and I’m able to use my mouth normally to sing, eat, etc.
“[…] I have to be honest that there are days that I wish I didn’t have to deal with my birthmark.
“I would love to be able to just wake up and walk out the door and I know that I can but most days I fight with the voice in my head telling me that it’s easier for me to put on makeup than to deal with people looking at me or asking questions, or feeling not as confident as I would with makeup is one that often wins.”
Now, she proudly shows off her birthmark on TikTok with her 129,000 followers – something she feels is important.
Danielle said: “I have met so many people who I can relate to or they can relate to me that it truly blows my mind that more people don’t know about Port Wine Stains.
“Most people confuse Port Wine Stains with other types of birthmarks that affect pigmentation of the skin, and not the vascular system, so I get questions like ‘can’t you just tattoo over it?’ a lot.
“I also think it’s really important to share that Port Wine Stain birthmarks are beautiful.
“Too often facial malformations or disfigurement are seen as scary or dangerous because we’re portrayed in movies, comics and TV shows as the villains or the victims.
“I want to see a port wine stain princess, so if Disney wants to hit me up, they know where to find me!”