Burns Survivor Catrin Pugh On Finding Confidence After Her Life Changing Accident
Catrin Pugh was given a one in 1000 chance of survival when she suffered 96 per cent burns to her body.
In 2013, Catrin, then 19, was ending her gap year and travelling home to Wrexham through the French Alps when the coach she was in crashed and burst into flames.
She was one on three Brits injured in the horrific crash, and the driver was tragically killed. The soles of Catrin's feet were the only part of her body untouched by the flames, and she was put into a medically induced coma for three months.
Six years on and over 200 operations later, Catrin has just been named as beauty brand Avon's first ever model with a visible difference for the new 'Perfect Nudes' campaign, defying both the medical odds and the beauty ideals that work against her.
As she lay in the hospital bed as a teenager surrounded by her family, Catrin, now 25, could never have predicted appearing in a beauty campaign which would be splashed all across the country.
Back then, glossy magazines she would pick up from the hospital shop failed to provide her with much-needed role models during that time in her life, something she hopes won't happen to others with visible differences in future.
"I used to open magazines up and look for something to read and something to inspire," she explains to Pretty52, "I never found that when I was 19. I really needed role models."
Nowadays, Catrin looks up to other powerful women like Katie Piper and Winnie Harlow, who both have visible differences. But she says there's still not enough people in the public eye like the philanthropist and supermodel to pave the way for others who "look different".
Catrin explains: "Katie herself is fabulous, and she does - and has done - so much, not just for getting people out there in the public eye that are different but also behind the scenes in terms of the physicality of having burns.
"She is a real inspiration... Hopefully more and more people will come into the public eye with some kind of visible difference."
Catrin adds: "Winnie Harlow [is also an inspiration], who is really exciting because she is trying to push through the fashion and beauty industries having vitiligo.
"There's still not enough. Hopefully more and more role models will come through."
Catrin, who is an ambassador for Katie's own charity and Changing Faces, still seems surprised that companies are 'willing to take on people like her'. Her disbelief is understandable though, as we've got used to seeing airbrushed, tweaked and photoshopped images in campaigns to unrealistically compare our own, real bodies to. However, slowly but surely companies, just like Avon, are finally realising we want to see true diversity in the media to celebrate all women.
Changing Faces and Avon came together to approach Catrin for the new campaign, and she jumped at the chance.
"Looking different is something amazing, it's something that will add to someone's abilities rather than take away from them," notes Catrin.
When it comes to make-up, she loves a completely natural look that shows off her scars. "I think they are more beautiful than anything else I have because they tell a story."
It's painful to hear Catrin call herself 'lucky' that she hasn't had 'too many' difficult experiences because of the way she looks since the accident.
She explains: "I've been quite lucky in the sense that I haven't had too many negative experiences. I've had experiences such as going into beauty counters in shops and feeling like I don't belong and feeling like I can't be included basically because of the way I look - the advertorials never show anyone like me."
Catrin holds painful memories of the accident that are hard for anyone else to even imagine, like being engulfed in flames.She adds: "It's been more coping with the tremendous effect that looking different has in general on my personal life, my working life.
The aspiring physiotherapist says that the accident put a huge amount of strain on her friendships with close friends.
"It overtook my whole life. It put strain on my friendships because we were all 20 and all of my friends started looking at their futures," explains Catrin. "I couldn't even imagine a future at the time.
"I didn't think my future was going to be anything worthwhile, so I kind of started to resent them a little bit."
Catrin's ex-boyfriend pulled her out the burning coach, but the trauma of the accident was too much for their relationship to survive.
"Since then I've really struggled to meet anyone - everything is about the way you look, especially in dating," she says. "I find that a really hard aspect of life now. And it's not because I'm not confident, it's actually because of the misconceptions."
Catrin's used dating apps since her accident but is wary as "it's all about that one picture".
"Unfortunately, everyone knows that's not what makes a person who they are," she adds, "But in today's society that's completely what you're judge on.
"I get judged unfairly because I'm covered in scars people can be quite intimidated."
Following the accident, Catrin was diagnosed with PTSD, triggered by open flames, flashbacks to the crash or explosions on-screen during cinema trips.
Catrin says talking openly about her PTSD with family and friends ensured it didn't have too much of an effect on her personal life.
"I think it can be quite difficult when you don't know who to talk to and you don't know how to talk about it," she recalls.
Catrin is keen to stress that looking different is something to be celebrated and not shunned.
"So many friends and people I know that do have visible differences that have said they walk into a room and instantly know that they're being judged because of the way they look," she explains.
"People don't understand that somebody that looks different, they seem to think that it's a negative thing, that they can't function as anyone else can - that's the negative connotations that are unfortunately with looking different and having a visible difference."
Throughout our interview, Catrin's positivity shines through and rightly so giving how far she has come and what she has achieved. But her journey to recovery and finding her inner confidence has been far from easy and learning to love her scars took a lot of time.
"Simply not be afraid to be yourself and show off what other people might call imperfections," she offers.
"Myself, I wear my scars in pride now, but it took a very long time to get there. Knowing that it's okay to take a while to get there and to lean on people around you, look to people in your life that are strong, independent and proud of the way they look and draw strength from them.
"Everyone has beauty in them, whether that's on the inside or outside or just who they are."
Featured Image Credit: Avon