When Shalom Nchom was nine years old and living in Nigeria, an accident involving a pan of hot cooking oil left her with burn scars on her face, neck, chest, head, and hands. Over the years, she learned to do her makeup expertly to hide the scars but never really felt happy until she learned to love how she looked without makeup, too. She now posts makeup tutorials on YouTube under the username Shalom Blac.
Last week, she added her contribution to the "Power of Makeup" challenge, which involves making up one side of the face while leaving the other side completely natural. Her video showcases the transformational aspect of makeup, but she says she also hopes it inspires people to love their faces just as they are, makeup-free.
In another YouTube video she posted called Story Time, she talks about the accident that burned her and her sister. They were rushed to the hospital, where she remembers feeling like she "wanted to die." She eventually passed out from the pain.
It wasn't until a few days later, after her head continued to swell, that the doctors realized the full extent of the damage under her hair. After they removed her cornrows and shaved most of her head, they found that 95 percent of her head was covered in burns.
When she and her sister were finally discharged from the hospital about four months later, she remembers people staring at her and giving her "nasty" looks. Not knowing how else to react, she hid her sadness and started being "rude" to anyone who looked at her. That, in turn, made people think she was "crazy."
Even when she was finally allowed to leave the hospital and go home, she was afraid to go out. The little kid next door she used to play with came over, saw her, and ran away screaming and crying. He wouldn't believe it was her, saying that she looked like a "monster."
An aunt who lived in America helped them navigate the difficult process of getting visas so Nchom and her little sister could come to the U.S. for reconstructive plastic surgery. Her aunt raised money to get them the surgery, thinking that because they were girls, it was especially important that they look good or no one would want to marry them.
The surgery separated the tops of her ears from her head, where they'd been fused by the oil. It also diminished some of the burn scars that had been made worse by her clawing at them immediately after the accident, as she tried in vain to remove the oil scorching her skin.
She says she was bullied terribly in high school, which for anyone who has attended high school should come as absolutely no surprise, because teenagers are monsters. She recalls how she'd cover her face completely with thick concealer, caking it on in an attempt to hide the scarring. She admits she had suicidal thoughts, but then she started thinking of all the people who had it worse than her, and the change in perspective helped her. Today, she hopes that she can inspire people to love the lives they've been given.
Shalom also posts pictures and videos showcasing her phenomenal makeup skills on Instagram.