“Once you build up your confidence, nobody else can take it down,” says beaming mom-to-be Andrea Grant of Jacksonville, Fla. Despite the fact that doctors told her she’d never be able to carry a baby past four months, due to horrific injuries she endured as a child, Grant is 37 weeks pregnant and counting.
To commemorate her victory against the odds, Grant hired a photographer, Terrence Armand, to capture images of her pregnancy. In just 24 hours, photos from the maternity shoot, which Grant shared on social media, went viral — and even she was shocked. “I really didn’t think that was the response that was going to happen, but I’m honored,” she told CBS in a video.
When she was just 8 years old, Grant and her brother were trapped in a house fire caused by a gas explosion, according to her story on the website of the Burn Survivor Resource Community. “We left Shriners [hospital] with every limb on our body and a joyful and thankful spirit,” she says, according to the site. But her burns cover much of her body, including her abdomen.
Doctors believed the scorched skin on her stomach would not adequately stretch to accommodate a growing fetus. But Grant continues to prove them wrong, as her pregnancy is thriving. To keep her skin supple so it can do its job growing as her baby does, Grant moisturizes twice a day. Her story — along with her poise and her positive outlook — have been an inspiration to many.
One particular photo of Grant wearing a tiara and cradling her bulging belly has more than 20,000 likes and 508 comments, including “I have stretchmarks almost everywhere … and your videos and photos have inspired me to love myself for the things I couldn’t control,” “So I’m scrolling through instagram with my son looking over my shoulder and we get to this pic and he says OMG mom, is that your friend? She’s so pretty like a queen,” and “Congrats on your bundle of joy. Beautyqueen.”
“I learned to love myself unconditionally, because I am a queen,” Grant captioned her own photo. Her photographer, Armand, is also stunned that his photo has become a viral sensation. “It was just like — 1,000, 2,000, 10,000. 100 shares. This celebrity posting it and that celebrity posting it,” Armand said of the photo’s meteoric rise. Among those celebrities: Steve Harvey, Meagan Good, and Morris Chestnut.
Grant is not just a beacon of hope, but she’s also an advocate for other victims of burn-related tragedies. She’s even formed a group called Beyond Scars to help other burn victims. According to its Instagram page, the group’s mission is to “focus on self-esteem, confidence & perseverance” and includes “monthly support meetings for burn survivors, disfigurement & visible loss survivors.” To promote her nonprofit, Grant is also a motivational speaker, according to CBS.
According to her site, “this year Andrea was asked to speak at Lighthouse Christian School at their Dove Conference to a group young girls. She left them with this: ‘look in the mirror, find that one thing you love about yourself and build confidence around it.‘” Grant has since had actual mirrors made with that phrase printed on the back to promote self love.
As Grant says on her site, she is no longer a burn victim — but a burn survivor. (And a thriver.)