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Her appearance, scars and all, are part of her style story.

By Taylyn Washington-Harmon
December 16, 2020
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Morenike (pronounced mo-reh-ni-kay) Oshin (@morenikeelisabeth) considers fashion her armor. Growing up in Nigeria before moving to Oklahoma after an accident left her body severely burned, Oshin, 29, gave herself time to truly decide who and what she wanted to be—and fashion played a huge role. "My clothes speak for me and give me confidence," Oshin tells Health.

At six years old, Oshin (along with her best friend and her two aunts) was the victim of a gas explosion sparked by a propane tank. Left with severe burns on her face, arms, right thigh, and back of her neck, Oshin was in the hospital so much, she felt like it was her second home. "Every time I remember it, it's like I'm in a movie," says Oshin, recalling her mother fainting upon seeing her burns for the first time. "I've had more surgeries on my face than most people will have in their entire lives."

To receive the health care she needed in the United States, Oshin was adopted and raised by an aunt who lived in Oklahoma. Through all her surgeries, she just wanted to feel normal and look like everyone else. But as she got older, she realized that she would have to discover how to fit into the world "uniquely," as she put it.

"Not only was I someone who went through a life-changing event, I looked different, I came from a different cultural background, and I moved to a different culture," says Oshin, who now lives in Texas. "So there were a lot of challenges."

Oshin recalls that she didn't receive any mental health counseling after her accident and through her surgeries in subsequent years. "I was stronger then. The accident itself wasn't as painful as the life experiences I've had since," she says. "There was so much pressure for me to be 'okay' even though I wasn't okay."

Inspired by her treatment, Oshin initially wanted to be a doctor, specifically a reconstructive surgeon. But right before taking her medical school entrance exams, she realized this wasn't the path for her. After 21 years of invasive reconstructive surgeries that would require her to be out of school for weeks, Oshin developed "surgery fatigue." She was exhausted from going under the knife so many times to create a more "normal" appearance.

"My body started to get tired of going under four times a year," says Oshin. Even entering a hospital would give her panic attacks, she says. Then, she had a revelation. "I started to listen to my body and stop depending on those surgeries to 'fix' me. There was nothing to fix. I don't need to look like anybody else."

Once she stopped trying to fix her appearance, she turned to fashion as a personal refuge to help reflect who she was on the inside—continually pushing her comfort boundaries by wearing bright colors, silhouettes, and prints. "Fashion helped heal me in a way—it helped me deal with the turmoil that I felt inside," she says. "I could be bold and loud whenever I felt like I couldn't be in my life, and no one could take that voice from me." A member of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, Oshin describes her culture as flashy and bold by default.

Though her friends noticed her new passion and she was showcasing it on Instagram, Oshin was initially hesitant to expand her reach. "There was a point in my life where I didn't like pictures being taken of me," she says. "I hated the idea of being the center of things. I would run from it, and even now I still experience discomfort." But she still felt that calling. "I realized I needed to tell my story my own way, through fashion."

Oshin believes that her purpose in life is to help others like her feel their best. But rather than fulfilling this destiny as a reconstructive surgeon, she does it by being a fashion influencer. Instead of trying to look like everyone else, she embraces her differences knowing that it adds rather than detracts from her style story. "Fashion is how I've been able to express myself because I once felt so hidden away [because of my appearance]. I believe my difference has a purpose, and that gives me hope and confidence."

Oshin found her confidence once she let go of expectations of what she should look like as a fashion influencer and stopped comparing herself to others on social media. Instead, she carved out space for her own unique style and voice. "Holding onto those expectations gets really exhausting," says Oshin. "If I start comparing myself to somebody, I don't follow that person anymore."

That doesn't mean Oshin doesn't feel insecure every now and then. Sometimes she nitpicks her appearance, even to the point of contemplating another surgery. "Instagram shows you the highlight reel, the good parts," says Oshin. "Sometimes I have to break it down [for my followers] that it's not just about the clothes, it's about the woman behind them."

Oshin wants people to know they can still share their love of fashion and beauty with the world even if while struggling with self-doubts about their appearance. "I want to project that you can still find joy even in the midst of what might seem like a battle."

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