But there’s another side to all this – a darker one. When someone posts a picture or a video of themselves, they should keep in mind it’s out there. This means that it doesn’t take much for it to catch on and become viral, and it’s not always in a good way. All Ashley VanPevenage did was post a picture of herself before and after a friend did her makeup, and it became totally viral. People were sharing the picture while making mean comments, and had even turned it into a meme. So Ashley decided to post her own reaction to her meme and let the haters know what she thinks. Over two years after the incident, Ashley doesn’t regret any of it happened. But why?
Turned into a meme
Social media has become a hugely popular past time, where many people post pictures and videos of themselves in their everyday lives. But when you share something of yourself online, you don’t really expect it to catch on. And you definitely don’t expect to be turned into a meme, having people making mean comments about you. This is what happened to Ashley VanPevenage. After posting a picture of herself on Instagram before and after getting her makeup done, she woke up one day to find it not only went completely viral, but it was turned into a cruel meme. After reading many, many mean comments about her pictures, she decided to push back.
Having her makeup done
Many girls, and even guys, have their makeup done in their day-to-day lives. Today it’s becoming more and more common to look up to makeup artists to learn how to do it in the best way possible, via YouTube tutorial videos and posts on Twitter and Instagram. Ashley asked her friend and makeup artist, Andreigha Wazny, to do her makeup, and the two posted a before-and-after picture to her Instagram account, so people can see how amazing it turned out. Usually before and after pictures make people focus on the result, rather than how the person looked like before the makeover. But that wasn’t the case when these girls posted the photos.
The girl in question
Ashley VanPevenage was almost 21 years old at the time of the incident, and she was working as a server at the gourmet burger joint Red Robin. She was suffering from acne, as many people are, and was taking benzoyl peroxide to try and fight the red spots that covered her face as a result of the acne. But unfortunately, it had just the opposite effect, and she suffered an allergic reaction to it.
The reason behind it
An allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide can cause redness and swelling, and it may cause contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is a kind of rash that covers the face with red blisters that resemble acne. “I was having this allergic reaction to benzoyl,” Ashley said in an interview. “I knew I needed help to cover my acne.” That’s why she went to her friend Andreigha, a professional makeup artist, to help her cover up the blemishes on her face.
Many makeup artists like to share pictures on Instagram to show how they achieved amazing looks and covered up flaws that most of us have on our faces. It can even help other people understand how they can do it themselves. As Ashley’s face was full of acne, and Andreigha managed to cover up her face with full cover Foundation so well, they thought the focus would be on Andreigha’s talent for makeup. But unfortunately, it wasn’t.
The first reaction to the picture was actually not a decisively negative one. A twitter account managed by a student at Texas State University tweeted the picture, saying, “I don’t understand how people can do this and I can’t figure out how to conceal a single pimple on my face.” Many people might share the same sentiment, and wonder how you could cover up so many blemishes. On the other hand, this tweet led to the picture spreading even further…
The tweet was then retweeted by several other accounts, relatively small ones, before it was tweeted by a page called @SoDamnTrue, an account with nearly 5 million followers. That’s when it really caught on, and was retweeted more than 8,000 times. Can you imagine having a picture of yourself retweeted so many times and seen by so many people? And when that amount of people see a picture, some of them are bound to take it to negative places.
Just a few days later, another Twitter user posted that before-and-after picture of Ashley with a new caption – one that was even meaner. The caption read, “The reason why you gotta take a b**** swimming on the first date.” Sometimes people’s pictures are used with different captions as funny memes. And while it might make some people laugh, it can be extremely mean towards the person in the picture – somethings that can be looked past or brushed off at times.
One shocking morning
Ashley recalls waking up one morning, scrolling through Instagram and suddenly coming across her picture. Curious to see what it is, she clicked on it and there it was. Her picture had mean captions and thousands of commenters were making jokes at her expense. She was beyond sad and embarrassed; She was mortified to see her picture being used for such purposes. And as much as it was bad, it wasn’t the end of it.
Her picture wasn’t only being used for memes and cruel jokes. Next thing, Ashley noticed she was being included in list articles with headlines like, “19 reasons you absolutely have to take a girl swimming on the first date,” with other girls who had similar pictures. Imagine how painful it must have been for Ashley. She had been reduced to a joke, and these people weren’t even thinking about how offended she might be by the whole thing.
On top of all that, were the thousands of comments made to her viral picture. There were comments such as, “You take a girl home and then you end up waking up next to Shrek,” and, “This is why I have trust issues.” Ashley took great offense in these comments. They were shaming her, they were suggesting that people who suffer from acne shouldn’t show their faces in public, and it was just plain wrong.
Sticking up for her
Fortunately, some people realized just how wrong it was and answered back to those who were making fun of Ashley, sticking up for the young girl. To the post that spoke about having trust issues, one commenter said, “She’s still beautiful without makeup.” Another girl wrote, “I have trust issues with whomever thinks my eyelids are naturally charcoal black.” And another commented stated, “You judging her purely on her looks means you have shallow issues.”
Losing her confidence
But having some people stick up for her didn’t help much to Ashley’s feeling. After seeing her picture unwillingly turn into a meme, and after reading so many cruel comments about the way she looked, her confidence in herself had taken a nosedive. It’s completely understandable how something like that could make a person’s self assurance take a hit. Having millions of people sharing your picture as if it were a joke isn’t an easy thing to deal with – and Ashley wasn’t taking it well.
A video reaction
Ashley decided to record a video of her reaction to the whole situation, calling it, “My Response to My Viral Meme.” She posted the video on YouTube and got 1.7 million people who viewed it. It was time to let people know that there was a face and a real person behind the meme. She knew that if she would share her side of the story with as many people as possible, they would stop sharing her photo.
Not casting blame
She started by admitting that she wasn’t innocent either. She used to be entertained by watching and sharing memes of people as well. After all, these memes can be really funny sometimes. But she admitted she never thought of the people behind the memes. And when it’s actually you, who’s picture is being shared, and having to read all of the comments – it’s quite a different story. So it’s important to keep in mind that someone is reading what you write online.
Ashley also said she was never the type of girl to be uncomfortable or ashamed in going out in public without makeup, with her natural skin and natural hair. But that was before her picture went viral and turned into a joke. After reading thousands of comments about her appearance, she felt embarrassed to go outside looking like her natural self. So she made sure to always have perfect makeup and perfect hair before going anywhere.
Eventually, Ashley realized there was no reason to be ashamed of how she looked. She realized this wasn’t the person she was, and she didn’t care about other people’s opinions about her. She just wanted to be herself, and she couldn’t live her life worrying about what strange people thought about her appearance. Ashley knew she was beautiful in every way, both on the inside as well as the outside, and she had a message for other people too.
The young beauty wants everyone to know they’re beautiful in their own natural skin. It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside – even if you’re dealing with bad acne – what really counts is who you really are. She wants young girls and even adults to feel confident in themselves, just as she regained her own confidence. Ashley also started a Twitter campaign she called #CureTheHate, dedicated to passing along the important message of anti-shaming and anti-bullying.
The person behind the meme
In the age of internet shaming, her Twitter campaign was meant to encourage people to think about the actual person behind the computer screen, reading their comments. If everyone looked pass these memes and saw the real people behind them, perhaps they wouldn’t have to face such cruelty online. And while most people don’t actually intend to be cruel, they don’t pay much thought to how the other person would feel reading these mean comments – something Ashley had experienced in the flesh.
Today, Ashley is 23 years old and still living in Tacoma, Washington. When asked if she regrets posting that picture of herself, she said no. If there was one good thing to come out of Ashley’s ordeal, was her being able to speak out against cyber bulling and help other people. She hopes her story inspired and helped others dealing with acne to feel more secure about themselves. She’s even received requests from young girls for skincare tips, and knowing she’s been able to help has been a great comfort.