A college student in Tacoma, Washington, is fighting back after a stolen Instagram photo of her was turned into a cruel online joke.
Ashley VanPevenage, 20, attends Tacoma Community College. In January, she suffered a severe reaction to benzoyl that inflamed the skin all over her face.
“I knew I needed help to cover my acne,” she told BuzzFeed.
She turned to Andreigha Wazy, a friend and makeup artist, to help. The results were flawless. Andreigha then posted a before and after on her own Instagram page.
It was shortly after that the photo of VanPevenage was lifted from Instagram and reposted with a new caption.
I don't understand how people can do this and I can't figure out how to conceal a single pimple on my face pic.twitter.com/UiIvvagAvL
— Virginia (@virtuallyvivi) February 9, 2015
The photo was then stolen again and again. The captions grew worse and worse.
One said this was a before and after of a porn star.
The comments kept coming, too.
“I’ll spend time with her, as long as I never see her before 10am,” someone wrote on Facebook.
VanPevenage says she was seeing thousands of comments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on a weekly basis.
She told KTLA sister station KCPQ it got so bad she was afraid to be seen in public and had to stop going online.
This week the cruel jokes reached a fevered pitch and she decided to fight back. She posted a video to YouTube telling her story, reading some of the mean comments on camera and then vowing to ignore them all.
“Everyone should feel beautiful in their natural skin and it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside of your face,” VanPevenage said in the video. “The only thing that matters is who you really are.”
But VanPevenage took things one step further in the hope that her story might serve a reminder that there are often real people with real feelings behind those online jokes. She expressed hope her story might encourage anyone suffering from online bullying or cyber harassment.