SOUTH LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Whether it be a personality flaw, a scar or even a birthmark – everyone has their insecurities. It took one woman over a decade to bring her insecurity into the spotlight, through a children's book.
Jennifer Vassel’s birthmark, a darker toned area that covers her right shoulder and a majority of her back, has been a purposefully hidden piece of her life for the last decade.
“People kept asking questions about it like, ‘Oh. Is that a bruise? Did you get hurt? What is that?’ So that kept me feeling insecure about it and I felt like I needed to hide it,” Vassel said.
Vassel became aware of her birthmark when she was about seven years old. But as she got older, she learned to embrace it. That’s why she wrote her children’s book, I Am Unique!. She wanted to help others turn their insecurities, like birthmarks, into something that they could one day embrace.
“I saw that it was something different. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me with a birthmark. I didn’t see a children’s book author who talked about birthmarks, insecurities or self-love for that matter. So I felt like I was writing for the little girl in me,” Vassel said.
Charisse Sims is the director of the Hidden Gems: Preschool and Enrichment Center in South Los Angeles.
She said that as children grow up, they are quick to point out what they see.
“It’s a very impressionable age and it’s a very great time to open children up to the differences between one another and teach them that everyone is different, everybody is unique. Some people have unique marks on themselves and we teach them how to respect and honor those things,” Sims said.
Vassel’s book follows the story of a girl overcoming her physical insecurity to become an actress in a school play. Her next step is to bring the book to life as an animated series.
“Everyone was born with a natural gift and a natural talent. I wanted them to be inspired to overcome whatever they may feel is hindering them and to share their unique gifts with the world,” Vassel said.
Vassel hopes the book will help others build self-confidence and leave a lasting mark on young readers as they go through life, learning to love who they are.