A young woman who suffered horrific burns and was left fighting for her life aged just eight has realised her dream of becoming a model. Labonya Siddiqui, 21, who was born in Bangladesh, sustained 40% burns after a kerosene lantern exploded in her face during a power cut in the country’s capital, Dhaka, in May 2000. She was rushed to hospital and spent five days in a coma, which doctors feared she may not wake up from. When Labonya woke from the coma she was unable to recognise members of her family or remember past events. She underwent three months of intense treatment in hospital before returning home where her paediatrician mother, who now works at the Royal Blackburn Hospital with her father, treated her burns.
In 2002 the family moved to Burnley in Lancashire where Labonya wore a scarf at school to hide her scars. “It was not until autumn the year after – 2003 – when a friend pulled my scarf away and told me to try being without it the next few days. I remember the next day I walked into class with no scarf on and I was met with mixed responses. I faced severe bullying for almost the whole duration in high school which led me into depression for some time. I was even ganged upon by some girls and the few friends that I had always had to watch my back.” Labonya battled post traumatic stress disorder for 12 years after the accident but it was leaving an abusive relationship which finally prompted her to follow her dreams.
“Modelling is something I wanted to do since I was a little child. Posing in front of mirrors and even after the burns incident when no one was in sight I would go up in front of the bathroom mirror and pose fantasising about being a model. It wasn’t until 2011, after the end of an abusive relationship where my ex had a habit of comparing me to other girls, always putting me down as not beautiful enough and emotionally manipulating me that my life took a swift turn. When the relationship ended I was fed up of feeling sorry for myself, I was tired of letting my inferiority complex and insecurities making me vulnerable and thus decided on further encouragement from friends that modelling was the first step forward. And I braced myself to face the lens and follow my dream.”
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She approached an agency and had some professional photographs taken. Since then she has done modelling from bridalwear to boudoir, ringmaster, fashion and creative while studying for a degree in chemistry at Bradford University. She has now become a model for the UK clothes retailer Next “For me modelling is art and it’s my passion. I find my confidence in front of the lens at the same time it lets me discover my ability to be versatile and creative as well. I represent all the burn survivors who have gone through similar experiences and I continue to model so that by seeing my work they will find their own confidence and strength that they will be just as comfortable being themselves as I am with my scars.”