FLOSSMOOR, Ill. -- Author Leanne Stuckey is a vocal advocate for those with visible skin blemishes from acne and birthmarks to eczema and vitiligo. Even so, she remained a little nervous to appear on camera for this interview about her new children's book, "Beautifully Blemished."
"Even sitting here now having my birthmark out, there's a little small voice inside that's like, "What are you doing?'" said Stuckey. "But the voice that's like, "No, do it, yeah!" is getting louder and louder."
"Beautifully Blemished" is illustrated by Traci Allison and takes readers on a colorful, lyrical journey from the perspective of the skin different child. Stuckey said she wanted to write a story for kids who felt like her and inspire them to find delight in their imperfections.
"It was really important to me to compare the blemishes to things in nature that are beautiful and awe inspiring," said Stuckey. "The God who created those same things in nature is the same God who created me."
The book features a variety of children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds with skin abnormalities such as birthmarks, rashes, inflammations, discolorations, scars, and other blemishes. Stuckey said one reason she's passionate about highlighting the topic is because she believes beauty standards in the US have often angled toward flawless, fairer skin in advertising and popular culture.
"Being a woman, being a Black woman, and being a Black woman who's blemished, you could almost say I have three strikes against me when it comes to the standards of beauty in America," said Stuckey.
The book is dedicated to Stuckey's children and family as well as her father who passed away a few years ago. Although she grew up in a loving and accepting home, Stuckey said she was occasionally teased and asked questions about her facial birthmark, which resembles a bruise under her right eye.
"'Is that a black eye?' 'Were you in a fight?' 'How does the other guy look?'" said Stuckey. "I kind of grew up just smiling and nodding and saying, "No, it's just a birthmark."
Stuckey lives in Flossmoor, Illinois, with her husband Torri and children Zoe, Caleb, Tori, and Miles. Nine-year-old Caleb has a birthmark on his stomach and a character with a blemish resembling his own appears in the book.
"The book is really neat and really cool," said Caleb. "I really, really love her because she's been there every step of my life."
Stuckey's husband Torri said he's proud of his wife for pouring so much of her time and energy into a book she's so passionate about.
"I've never read a book quite like this," he said.
Stuckey said her dream is that every school across the world would have copies of "Beautifully Blemished" in their libraries.
"I desire to have it in dermatology offices," said Stuckey. "I really think it should be something that should be everywhere."
The author also runs an Instagram account to foster community for those with skin differences called @beautifullyblemished365, which has grown to over 1,000 followers. To purchase "Beautifully Blemished" and learn more about Leanne Stuckey, visit her website leannestuckey.com.