Clara Spacey’s cousin Emily Tanner is studying Fashion Communication at Northumbria University and took photos of her and interviewed her about how her perception of ‘true beauty’ changed since being diagnosed with scoliosis.

“I’d just stepped out of the shower when my mum noticed my shoulders weren’t level,” said 15-year-old Clara from Gainsborough. It takes years of courage, self-belief and bravery for people diagnosed with scoliosis to adapt their lives and live with the condition. In the 21st century each generation is becoming ever more social media obsessed. It’s the age of the social media influencer. Likes, followers and retweets are now something self-esteem is built on. NHS UK states most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed between the ages of 10 to 15. We all know growing up in today’s picture-perfect society isn’t easy. So, add in a medical condition that has a lasting visible impact on your body. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. The condition is a lot more common than you would think, according to Scoliosis Association UK 2-3% of the population is living day to day with scoliosis. Clara, after being diagnosed with scoliosis, spoke to me about the mental burden of scoliosis in a social media age.

Clara Spacey, 15, Lincolnshire. “It was February 2018 when my mum noticed. Pre-operation I felt pressured to look a certain way. At age twelve I looked in the mirror and I could tell I looked different; I didn’t look like other girls my age. That was hard to deal with. The physical and mental exhaustion from the chronic pain I was experiencing at such a young age took its toll. I think that is why I developed such a positive mindset towards the spinal fusion operation. Despite the size, complexity and permanent scar I’d be left with, it was a chance to take control. Some way of returning to a sort of normal. Clothes fitting properly; pain during dance classes and certain chairs being uncomfortable. The lack of control you experience when you have scoliosis teaches you a lot about yourself. I haven’t let the pressures of social media get to me. I’m not easily offended, and I often laugh at myself, but I have definitely had to teach myself self-love. The idea of ‘Beauty’ is truly a social construct. We all have things that make us feel insecure. Why shouldn’t we just love the way we look? I don’t think I realised at the time but having scoliosis has allowed me to admire another person’s beauty without questioning my own.”


Written & Images by Emily Tanner

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Instagram – @emilyneavetanner

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