A WOMAN whose face and body bore lifelong scars from raging wounds caused by lupus has become a role model for diversity.
Mikki Leigh, 34, suffered from the autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks tissues and organs in the body, for ten years.
Cruelly enough, she was referred to by strangers as a “victim of an acid attack and dog abuse.”
But for the past two years, Mikki has been in remission from the disease thanks to a “miracle drug.”
The prospective accountant from Sheffield now appears in modeling campaigns and now wants to raise awareness of the disease among others.
Mikki said: “I used to hide from society and not want to be seen, but now I accept my scars and want to challenge beauty standards.”
“Everyone is beautiful no matter what they look like.”
In 2013, when Mikki was 24, she woke up one day with a butterfly rash on her face that spread across her eyes and the bridge of her nose.
Within a few days, it spread to her back.
Soon after, she developed raised, red sores.
Mikki visited her GP who suspected it was an allergic reaction to a necklace she was wearing which was nickel based.
She was prescribed an antihistamine cream.
But after the wounds continued to spread, she returned to her doctor.
She says: “They thought it was psoriasis so they prescribed a different topical cream.
“After a month, nothing had helped and the sores covered my entire upper body and face.
“By this point the lesions were open and burning and itching.
“It hurt to lie down. I was in agony.”
In early 2014, after a year of misdiagnosis, Mikki was referred to a dermatologist at Rotherham General Hospital, where a biopsy was performed.
Two weeks later, she was diagnosed with lupus.
Mikki says: “I was told that there was no cure but that there were medicines that could stop the disease.
“I really wanted to get better.”
What are the symptoms of lupus?
See a GP if you get the following frequently:
- joint and muscle pain
- extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away no matter how much you rest
- Rashes – often over the nose and cheeks
These are the main symptoms of lupus.
You may also have:
- mouth sores
- high temperature
- hair loss
- sensitivity to light (causing rashes on exposed skin)
Source: The NHS
For three years, Mikki tried over ten different treatments, including an antimalarial drug, but nothing worked and she continued to develop sores on her face and body.
By this time, Mikki was suffering from hair loss and her self-esteem had plummeted.
Meanwhile, she received insensitive comments from drunk people while going out.
She says: “People would stare and point at me and ask if I had been attacked by a dog or if I had been the victim of an acid attack. I tried to explain that it was a condition, but they didn’t get it.”
One night in 2016, a man made her cry after pointing at her face and repeatedly asking why she “looked like that.”
Mikki says: “He just wouldn’t stop and wanted me to explain why I had cuts on my face.
“I tried to explain that I had lupus but he kept asking questions and staring at me.
“I was so uncomfortable.
“Eventually I stopped going out altogether and became a recluse.
“My dating life didn’t exist. I had no confidence and felt unhappy.”
As recently as January 2021, Mikki was prescribed a “miracle drug” similar to what is given to patients during chemotherapy.
Within six months most of the wounds had healed and although they left scars, Mikki was no longer developing new lesions.
The disease had stopped and she was in remission.
Mikki says: “The results were amazing. I had scars, but no new wounds appeared.
“It was wonderful.”
In July of the same year, Mikki decided to spread awareness about lupus and signed with a modeling agency for various models.
Since then, she has appeared in paid advertising campaigns, including for a pharmaceutical company and an accounting firm.
She says: “I used to hate the way I looked but now I look at my scars and I feel beautiful.
“I may look different, but I want other women (and men) to know that there is no perfect standard of beauty in the world.
“Thanks to women like Katie Piper and Winnie Harlow, I feel empowered to challenge this while helping to raise awareness about lupus.”