NEW YORK (PIX11) — Brooklyn-based artist Celina Leroy uses her art to promote awareness and reduce the stigma around vascular birthmarks.
Leroy, who is an art teacher for a New York City public school, started painting portraits of people with port-wine stain birthmarks in 2020 while working from home. Port-wine stain birthmarks appear red or purple in color and resemble a stain caused by a spilled glass of wine. An estimated three out of every 1,000 babies are born with a port-wine stain birthmark.
For Leroy, this series is deeply personal. She was born with a port-wine stain birthmark on her chin, lip and cheek. Growing up with a birthmark on her face was hard for the artist.
“I didn’t know anyone that looked like me. It would affect my self-esteem and my sense of worth,” said Leroy.
Leroy has since launched the Instagram page @portwinestainpaintings where she posts photos of her paintings and behind-the-scenes videos of the process. To date, she has completed around 100 port-wine stain portraits. She also recently started a TikTok, @celinaleroy.
“To see an image of someone who looks like you represented is important because you feel like, ‘oh this is something normal,’” said Leroy.
Boosting the self-esteem of people with vascular birthmarks and letting people know they are not alone are Leroy’s goals with the series — and she’s seen results.
“I got bullied a lot because of my birthmark, and I still do now,” said Ava Pyles, who had her portrait painted by Leroy in 2021.
Pyles was eager to be painted. The artwork now hangs prominently on her bedroom wall. Pyles said her birthmark is special.
“It’s awesome to see myself in a different light” said Scott Cupples, who also has a vascular birthmark on his face and had his portrait painted by Leroy.
By representing people with birthmarks in art, Leroy hopes it can help “change the narrative of what a beautiful portrait can look like.”
People with birthmarks interested in having their portrait painted can message Leroy on Instagram.
“A beautiful painting makes people feel beautiful,” said Leroy.