If you have ever felt ashamed or embarrassed by physical scars, 33-year-old Las Vegan Michelle Hardy-Rodriguez is here to tell you to wear them with pride.
A horrific DUI accident in 2013 left her incapacitated for six months, as she recovered from severe third degree burns covering her upper extremities and entire right arm. She says her insurance company denied her coverage for a $500 silicone jacket, which burn victims frequently need during the healing process, deeming it to be “cosmetic.”
After the arduous and psychologically taxing ordeal, she felt inspired to assist others who’d been in traumatic situations. She recognized a dire need for a local organization that provided not only emotional support but financial assistance for uninsured medical costs. She launched the website myscarsarebeautiful.com in 2014 as a support group for herself and others to submit their personal stories and photos. Since then, Hardy-Rodriguez’s goals for the organization have expanded, and My Scars are Beautiful obtained 501(c)3 status in June.
“I’m trying to get people to embrace their scars,” Hardy-Rodriguez says. “I want to help with the emotional side—the side that you don’t get to see.”
My Scars are Beautiful has created a support group that plans to meet monthly at United Way of Southern Nevada, beginning September 13. Also in the works: the FLAWLESS Project, in which participants model for photo shoots that portray beauty and convey their strength; an artist will paint a portrait of them at the shoot as a special keepsake. Future endeavors include working with a DUI advocate program, reaching out to cosmetic lines and possibly partnering with Uber to help clubgoers get to and from nightclubs safely.
The nonprofit will hold its very first fundraiser, a Wine & Canvas event, August 30 at the Martini, 1205 S. Fort Apache Road.
“Something good came out of this. It could have been so much worse,” she says. “My husband believes that everything happens for a reason, and now, I’m going to make a difference.”