Acid Attack Survivor Steps Into the Spotlight as Fashion Brand’s Newest Model

Model Laxmi Saa hopes she empowers other victims of acid attacks to look beyond their physical appearance.
(Photo: YouTube)
Jan 13, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Tall, thin beauties still dominate magazine covers and ad campaigns, but with the inclusion of plus-size fashionistas and those with disabilities, fashion campaigns often include a more diverse array of women. Now, an India-based clothing brand is breaking ground with its newest model.

Apparel company Viva N Diva named prominent acid attack survivor Laxmi Saa the face of its newest campaign, “Face of Courage.”

“This opportunity to represent an apparel brand was a platform for me to set an example for women like me to be confident and have courage despite their physical appearances,” Saa told BBC News. The behind-the-scenes shoot for Saa’s photos proclaims “beauty lies in the eyes” while showcasing her posing for the camera in multiple outfits.

When she was 15, Saa was attacked by a 32-year-old man after she rejected his marriage proposal. Her experience is common among survivors, with perpetrators often seeking revenge against women who have romantically rejected them. Over the past 10 years, Saa has campaigned for harsher punishments for offenders and advocated for strict regulations on the sale of acid, which is sold as a bathroom cleaner and is easy to purchase at local stores in India.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs reported roughly 300 cases of acid attacks in 2014, although advocacy group Acid Survivors Trust International estimates there are as many as 1,000 acid attacks in the country annually. Many cases go unreported, as victims fear further reprisal and legal cases often prove fruitless. A 2015 report from Acid Survivors Trust International found that acid attack victims spend years awaiting litigation and receive little financial compensation for medical costs related to their disfigurement. The attacks are seldom fatal, but they often leave women blind, deaf, disfigured, and in need of surgeries to repair the damage. With their physical appearance greatly altered, many women are shunned from their communities and unable to find work or support.

“The problem is not just in being a victim, but also your victimization by the society,” Saa told BBC News. “We are treated as if we are good for nothing and as if our lives are a waste.”

As one of Viva N Diva’s representatives, Saa proves to other survivors that life goes on after an acid attack. She is being treated much like any model in terms of compensation and profit sharing from the campaign, according to the Hindustan Times. She also hopes her participation in the campaign proves to perpetrators that their goals to injure, maim, and otherwise demoralize women have been unsuccessful.

“This was also a platform for me to send a clear message to criminals that women will not lose courage, even after they are attacked with acid to destroy their physical beauty,” Saa said.