A model’s face is her fortune. So when Australian beauty ROBYN LAWLEY suffered a horrific fall during a seizure that left her appearance permanently changed, it required a rethink of her future
Model Robyn Lawley learns to love her changed face.
“Seeing your mum fall down the stairs would be an extreme thing to witness, and we always reiterate to Ripley that I’m OK now, and that she helped me. I don’t want that to be her first memory, although I’m kind of worried it might be.”
TWO MONTHS AGO, I was at my new home in upstate Newyork. I had been dealing with moving for the past few months, from LA back to New York, shifting furniture and unpacking, and all the exhausting fun that comes with relocating. I was overtired but happy. My personal things were scattered between the moving truck, the rental house and our new house, and in the chaos I hadn’t realised that I had forgotten to take my medication for a few days. I was with my partner, Everest, and my three-year-old daughter, Ripley. Everest and I had scheduled our first date in what seemed like years: we were going to a music festival.we’d hired a babysitter; it was going to be perfect.
I remember the start of the staircase, and then waking up to my daughter next to me on the floor. I’d had a seizure and fallen from more than seven feet onto hard tile, landing on my face.
I don’t remember falling. I do remember my partner telling me everything would be OK. I remember the stretcher and the ambulance in flashes (including the paramedics cutting my favourite Johnny Cash T-shirt off and me, hilariously, begging them not to when I was bleeding from my head and chin, and missing a tooth.) I don’t remember the initial pain. I think your body puts you into survival mode and shields your memory from pain like that. My partner and daughter had to endure more having to witness it; it must have been awful. I’m so grateful Everest was there. That would have been one hell of a situation to wake up alone to.
I’d been diagnosed with lupus and APS [antiphospholipid antibody syndrome] after Ripley was born, and this was only my second seizure. When I woke up in the hospital, it was such a shock, realising the pain was so real, despite the morphine. My partner and daughter had followed the paramedics, and when I was getting the stitches, Everest took a photo and showed it to me. I still have that photo. I look so out of it and confused; I had no idea what was going on.we shared that photo with my family in Australia, because it was then that I realised the extent of my injuries.the days after the accident in the hospital were the worst — it was a very down time. My lip was so big I could barely talk, and I had so much mouth pain, having lost my tooth, I couldn’t eat or sleep. But the nurses were really nice, and I was so appreciative. My sisters were really helpful after they’d seen the photo.they told me, “You’re so lucky.”and it’s true: I could have been driving; I could have had my daughter in my arms. I didn’t break anything. I could have ended up in a wheelchair. I’ll take a few scars over that.
I stayed quiet for a while, because, to be completely honest, my father is going through pretty hardcore cancer treatment. He was a fireman and one of the healthiest men I’ve known — he’s a fighter. So I know what real pain is. I know how it could have gone.that gave me the strength to realise that my accident was something I had to get through fast.you can find strength in the bad.
Since my daughter saw the accident, she’s been very vocal about it.we talk about it; seeing your mum fall down the stairs would be an extreme thing to witness, and we always reiterate that I’m OK now, and that she helped me. I don’t want that to be her first memory, although I’m kind of worried it might be.
Of course, anyone would be affected if they had their face smashed up, but I try to do more than modelling. I have a lot of hobbies; I’ve been filming and making music, and I try to just stay positive. I didn’t know what the damage would be long-term — I didn’t know if the fashion world would be ready for me with scars, so while I was recovering I kept telling myself, You’ll keep
doing music, filming and enjoying what you’re doing. I also follow girls on social media — there’s Elly Mayday, who writes about having ovarian cancer — and seeing someone like her has really helped. On social media, we’re constantly inundated with perfection, and this is the flip side.this is how other people are living as well.
When I posted a photo of my injuries and scars on Instagram — I’ve got a lightning-bolt scar on my forehead and scars on my lip and chin — I wasn’t sure how it would be received. I used to get cyberbullied, but now I take the bad with the good. In the past, I’ve had to delete Instagram; people can be very mean. But it was the constant perfection that was actually hurting me most.
I am really astounded by and grateful for all the messages I have received, and, right now, I’m feeling very loved. It helps to hear from someone who is going through what you are. And there are also so many people going through something hardcore and feeling ashamed about it. I don’t want people to feel that way. I thought I didn’t like my scars, but now I dig them. I think a chick with a scar is badass. I know the extent of how bad it was — seeing the blood on the walls when I got home — and I realise how good a job the surgeons did. Maybe being a model who’s not ashamed of her size helped me feel that I don’t need to be perfect; age also helps you to relax more when you see the bigger, more important, more pressing issues in life.
Scars are cool. They tell a story. Human bodies are full of stretch marks from growing or having babies or gaining and losing weight. I’ve always embraced those marks, so I thought, What the hell, this is what makes me different, and yet this is what connects me to the world. For two months, I focused on spending time with my daughter, and I went to my little studio downstairs and made electronic music. Music was one of the biggest things that helped me.iwouldl is ten to a lot of really heartfelt, emotional songs, and I’d cry at the drop of a hat. I had to give myself that time to let myself heal. But now I feel like me again — strong.
Everyone wants to give suggestions for how to heal and get better, but lupus is something I can’t control. I appreciate people’s suggestions, and enriching my diet with more anti-inflammatory food is something I’m trying to do, but you don’t want to feel at fault.through my daughter, I’m reminded how important it is to not be critical of myself. Sometimes she will say,‘mama, I’ve got big legs.’and I’ll say,‘you’ve got perfect legs.you’ve got tall, strong, healthy legs.’ I reiterate the facts: we’re both tall, strong, healthy.
My scar is one of my identifying features now. I could laser it away, but I don’t want to.and I think of Joaquin Phoenix and how great his scar is, how it makes his face so interesting. I want girls to stop wasting their time seeking perfection.they could be studying or getting better at their career or pursuing their hobbies. Don’t let that shit hold you back. I know that sounds a bit rich coming from a model, but that idea of perfection can eat away at you.
My other message is: if you do feel sick and you feel as if your doctor isn’t doing enough, change your doctor. So many women have symptoms that are ignored by the medical profession, perhaps because of their high pain threshold, or because it’s put down to ‘female pain’. Persevere. If you don’t feel right, it’s not right. Early treatment is so important.
For information on lupus and APS, visit healthdirect.gov.au.