Melissa Blake is a highly accomplished journalist and writer, whose essays on disability, relationships, and pop culture have resonated with people across the globe.
Intelligent, witty and empathetic, Melissa’s dedicated readership reflects just how deeply her words matter in a world where those with disabilities are all too often left without a platform for their opinions.
Unfortunately, Melissa, 38, also lives in an age where far too many human beings feel it is acceptable to make cruel remarks about another person’s appearance while hiding away behind a keyboard.
Reminder that this is what it’s like to be a disabled woman writer on the internet AND #ThisIsAmerica in 2019: A conservative YouTuber mentioned my recent op-ed about #UnfollowTrump. The comments? I’m fat, ugly and look like a blob fish, a parade balloon and a potato with a face. pic.twitter.com/ROczIXKNom
— Melissa Blake (@melissablake) August 8, 2019
Putting your voice out there on the internet takes a lot of guts. This is particularly true of a person like Melissa, who pours her personal experiences of living as a disabled woman into her work.
Melissa was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic condition caused by a mutation on the gene responsible for moving substances between cells during development. She uses a wheelchair and has had to endure around 25 surgeries.
Once referred to as ‘Whistling Face syndrome’, individuals with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome may look slightly different in appearance, with features including a smaller, ‘pursed’ mouth and decreased nose cartilage.
Sadly, as anyone who has ever ventured on the internet will know, looking different while being opinionated can bring out faceless profiles who use the online space to belittle others.
Taking to Twitter on September 8, Melissa spoke out about the vile abuse she has been subjected to online, sharing insults which referred to her as a ‘blobfish’ and a ‘potato’. One particularly horrible individual even said she should be ‘banned’ from posting selfies because she was too ‘ugly’.
Speaking openly about how the comments have affected her, Melissa tweeted:
People wonder why I’ve struggled so much with self-acceptance when it comes to how I look and our society’s notion of what “beautiful” is. It’s because of comments like these — comments that dismiss me and deem me unworthy.
[…] This is just one more example of the type of ableism that people with disabilities face every day and it’s something I’m constantly trying to change.
Refusing to let the trolls bring her down, Melissa responded by tweeting not one but three selfies, with the following brave message:
During the last round of trollgate, people said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly. So I’d just like to commemorate the occasion with these 3 selfies…
During the last round of trollgate, people said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly. So I’d just like to commemorate the occasion with these 3 selfies… 📸😉👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/9ZuSYFOtwv
— Melissa Blake (@melissablake) September 7, 2019
The tweet quickly went viral, and has been retweeted over 18,000 times at the time of writing. Fans new and established have applauded Melissa’s courageous spirit, as well as her lovely auburn hair and friendly smile.
Following her defiant tweet, Melissa’s Twitter following promptly exploded, and she even awoke to an email from a book publisher.
Unlike the trolls who derive enjoyment from bringing others down, Melissa has built her name on encouraging kindness and understanding; and things only appear to be getting better for her. A massive well done to Melissa!
You can subscribe to Melissa’s blog – entitled So About What I Said – here
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.