Extraordinary People: Growing Up Without A Face Review: Beauty’s More Than Skin Deep
EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE: GROWING UP WITHOUT A FACE, Wednesday 13th May, Five, 9.00pm
In a world where vanity and narcissism are used to sell the perfect (unobtainable) figure, flawless skill and inumerable products that promise a variety of cleverly worded lies, Julianna Wetmore’s story is as humbling as it is tragic.
At five years old, Juliana has already been through thirty operations to mediate the severity of her affliction: Treacher Collins syndrome. Juliana was born with one sealed eyelid, a complete lack of cheekbones, no nasal passage and almost no upper and lower jawbone.
She has grown up a delicate but resilient child; a fighter who has had to learn to eat and breathe through tubes, but is none the less intelligent and keen to learn. The documentary follows Juliana and her family whilst they prepare for her most recent operations – to place a stretching device in Juliana’s shoulder which her mother will then inject with water to create a larger area of skin, which can then be used to create cheeks.
As I watch footage of Juliana’s ardous recovery, I cannot help but feel for her parents, and the complex, heartwrenching decisions they have had to make on her behalf. Is it better to let Juliana continue her education without constant surgical interruptions, or to keep going with the planned operations whilst Juliana’s skin is still able to regenerate? Obviously, there is no right answer, but it is clearly getting harder for her parents to cause Juliana pain.
However, suffering is something that Juliana will have to get used to, as she begins her school career. Despite her teachers efforts to prepare the class for Juliana and her disability, her sister Kendra is all too aware of the typical public reactions to her sister’s condition. As the young girl describes the need to protect Juliana from unwanted staring, and negative reactions based solely on fear I feel deeply ashamed at my own childish woes. Here is a child who has boundless energy, and is capable of reading, writing and enjoying life in the same way as any other child.
For all intents and purposes, Juliana Wetmore is an extraordinary person. I only worry about her future. Whilst as a child it is easy to get wrapped in cotton wool, safe in the bosom of a loving family, this barrier can never be permanent. I hope for Juliana’s sake, she is as strong as her family believe she is.
Aw, bless. For more blubber-fest reality TV, check out our review of Bodyshock: 2ft Tall Teen. For more reality TV, why not check out our rather timely and hilariously ranty run down of the Top 10 Ill-Fated Reality Couples (we’ll miss you Jordan and Peter – sniffle).