A brave burns victim has overcome her horrific childhood injuries – to become a model for High Street giant Next.
Stunning Labonya Siddiqui, 21, was permanently scarred over her lower face and upper body when a paraffin lamp exploded when she was just eight.
She spent years battling post-traumatic stress and hid her scar with scarves and heavy clothes to avoid bullies.
But she has been spotted by fashion chain Next – and modelled at the opening of their new store in Burnley, Lancs.
Student Labonya, who uses minimal makeup to cover her scars, said: “The fact that Next has taken a chance on me and given me this opportunity is incredible.
“I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to raise awareness for burns survivors around the world as well as aspiring for my own dreams.
“I used to look at magazines when I was a teenager, wishing I was pretty enough to appear on the glossy pages.
“I was fed up of feeling sorry for myself, I was tired of letting my inferiority complex and insecurities making me vulnerable and so, encouraged by my friends, decided that modelling was the first step forward.
“I braced myself to face the lens and follow my childhood dream.
“I signed up to a number of modelling websites, but at first I got rejected because photographers don’t like to work with models with an unusual look.”
Labonya’s accident happened in May 2000 when she was at home in Dhaka in Bangladesh where she was born.
She was trying to light a kerosene lamp during a power cut when it exploded and engulfed her in a fireball.
She said: “I’d picked up a match and lit it from the wick’s flame and held it close to the oil compartment.
“The match dropped and there was an explosion and in blind panic the maid threw the oil gallon at me.
“As all the kerosene covered me I was engulfed by flames.”
The terrible accident left Labonya in a coma for five days and doctors feared for her life.
Months of intensive hospital treatment were followed by numerous operations and in 2002 Labonya and her family moved to Burnley where her parents, both pediatricians, got jobs at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
Labonya suffered post-traumatic stress and covered her scars for 12 years until a friend one day encouraged her to show her true face.
She said: “They pulled my scarf away and told me to try being without it. I remember the next day I walked into class with no scarf on and I was met with mixed responses.
“I faced severe bullying for almost the whole duration in high school which led me into depression for some time.”
Labonya, studying chemistry at Bradford University, said she now hoped to become a figurehead for other burns victims.
She said: “I want to represent all the burn survivors who have gone through similar experiences and I will continue to model.
“I hope when other people like me see my work they will find their own confidence and strength so that they will be just as comfortable being themselves as I am with my scars.”
A Next spokesman added: “We are thrilled to have Labonya here and it gives real glamour to the opening of our new store in Burnley.
“She is a beautiful girl and we wish her all the best in her modelling career.
“It just goes to show that beauty goes much more than skin deep.”