On Being In Your Body: Monica Singh
Monica Singh is an activist, motivational speaker, designer and fashion marketing graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York. A decade ago, Monica became victim to an acid attack that almost killed her. Today she's sharing her story and inspiring millions of people across the world with her resiliency and positive lifestyle. She’s a passionate supporter of women and girls overcoming obstacles in their lives and co-founded The Mahendra Singh Foundation with her beloved father, which offers support and guidance to survivors including financial compensation, counseling, and scholarships. Monica’s mission is to carry on her father’s legacy by empowering victims to become survivors and ultimately creators—helping them regain self-sufficiency and achieve their dreams. Monica is a member of The National Council of Women of the United States, she’s been interviewed by news personality’s like Sade Baderinwa, and featured in many articles across the world, including the New York Times. She’s recently been invited as a guest to the United Nations International Day of Peace, where she plans to walk by the sides of her supporters.
Monica's been referred to as an acid attack survivor for years and she’s a hero in the eyes of many. She's honored by her ability to empower communities with her story, but no longer identifies with being a victim. Monica is a survivor and brilliant creator, making a new mark as an unstoppable force who’s passionate about making an impact in the fashion and design industry. Her courage is unprecedented.
Who am I? I’m a girl who has been carrying a name on her shoulders as an acid attack survivor for 10 years. I was just a normal girl with big dreams and passion towards the fashion industry. I was attacked by one of my known friends, who had a huge crush on me, with a bucket full of acid. My life flipped upside down. I was 19 and hadn’t even entered my 20’s—the memories of that age are still absolutely horrifying. But now, after battling with it, I’m a 29 year old woman achieving a masters degree at Parsons School of Design. Fulfilling this continuing dream, I resumed my life and have been working towards achieving it ever since.
Following the same step, while ignoring the fact that I’m abnormal as compared to other girls, I began speaking up and sharing my stories in so many ways. My life and words started to inspire people all around the world—I went from Monica Singh Acid Attack survivor, to Monica Singh Inspirational Lady, Motivational speaker and much more. As much as I appreciate being called these new names, I’m still trying my best to get recognition as a Fashion Designer. That’s my ultimate goal—to be the most talented and famous designer. While doing that, I’m struggling everyday with hiding my scars to look as normal as I can.
I want to tell the world and every single woman out there that:
A woman can do anything, once she realizes her inner strength.
My Hardship is still ongoing in one way. I’m in better shape now, of course, but I’ve still had 46 surgeries in my life (major/minor). I’d say that I’m still counting because I promised myself, as long as it takes, to give me my old self back. I promised myself I’d die beautiful no matter what, just as long as my body would support handling all the treatments and post-traumatic experiences.
Immediately after the accident, I was hospitalized for a year, and when I came back I was in a wheelchair. I kept talking like a toddler and afraid of knifes and any sounds which reminded me of the operation, or seemed related to my accident. I started developing this feeling about how I could solve my problems—how would I face those people again who remembered me with my old face? My friends from my college who remembered me as the most famous and attractive girl in college? HOW? So I decided not to accept my burnt face at all and lived with it forever. I told my father that “I wanted to get better, I wanted to live like a normal girl again, and get my college degree.” From that moment my father did his best to get me in better shape and I would also try to keep myself alive during my critical condition. He spend his entire life's savings to keep my treatments going. What I am today is because of my father and my family’s endless support.
Now in 2017, I’ve found old Monica Singh. She's living an independent life and spreading awareness about not only what happened to her and many other girls, but what we can do after experiencing terrible accidents in our lives.
What is your manifesto? It doesn't matter if it’s an acid attack or any form of physical abuse. Any disabilities women experience after an accident, we will ultimately survive together, and continue fighting a society who makes us feel bad about ourselves.
(Photography by Mihalis Gripiotis)