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Learning to be beautiful with Tess

Beauty is a perception and a feeling.

Can a person learn to be beautiful?

No matter how many people may say it, sometimes it’s hard to believe, let alone feel beautiful especially when one is suffering with a disorder which leaves the whole body in pain.

I met Tess while being in York, UK and was fortunate to have a chance to photograph and hear her powerful story.

Below Tess shares her struggle with fibromyalgia and learning to be beautiful again.

branding photographer ania volovique

Learning to be beautiful again after becoming chronically ill or disabled is very difficult.

Most of my life I have been very ambitious: I dropped out of school at 13 because the work didn’t challenge me enough, and five years later I was running a drama company.

I wrote and produced fifteen plays, some of which won awards.

I wanted to conquer the world.

We always tell ourselves when we’re children that if we work hard enough, we can achieve anything. That just isn’t true when your body doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.

Last year I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes severe and constant pain in your muscles and means that you have flu-like symptoms all the time.

It has also largely taken away my ability to walk and leave the house.

I used to work fifteen-hour days then party at night, now some days I can’t even walk up stairs.

branding photographer ania volovique

The thing I miss most though, is feeling beautiful. It’s like when you have a cold, you look in the mirror and all you can see is puffiness and dark circles – you don’t look like you, you look like the illness.

And when you’re disabled, your priorities change.

If you can’t give yourself a bath how can you feel beautiful? It’s very reductive, your concerns are just about the bare minimum.

branding photographer ania volovique

Going down to meet Ania didn’t feel real, people like me didn’t have photoshoots!

I took my walking stick because I wanted to incorporate it into my style rather than have it as a sad mechanical crutch.

Looking at these pictures woke up something in me:

I recognized the color of my eyes, the shape of my mouth.

These pictures allow me to see myself in a way that I can’t in the mirror.

They make me feel beautiful.


Thank you Tess for sharing your story. You are beautiful and may you never have to struggle to feel it!

Photographed by Ania Volovique for Discovering Wings.

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