Inspirational Burn Survivor Appears on the Cover of Australian Women's Magazine

Lilit Marcus, Shine Contributor
Photo courtesy Australian Women's Weekly.
Photo courtesy Australian Women's Weekly.

Normally, women's magazines feature actresses, singers, and models on their covers. But the Australian magazine the Australian Women's Weekly (AWW) is winning praise all over Twitter for featuring Turia Pitt, a model-turned-engineer who was burned over 65 percent of her body when a bush fire broke out while she was competing in an ultramarathon, on the cover of its current issue. Now an author and charity fundraiser, Pitt calls herself "the luckiest girl in the world."

Helen McCabe, editor in chief of AWW, says that initially the magazine asked Pitt to be one of the remarkable Australian women on its Women of the Future panel, which selects up-and-coming women to be featured in the publication. However, she quickly realized that Pitt shouldn't be choosing who would be on the cover  she should be on it herself. "The July cover had to belong to her," McCabe wrote in her editor's letter. "Any attempt to describe the magic and beauty of Turia seems to get lost in platitudes or clichés. Yet I have never met a more remarkable person."

Although AWW's cover will put Pitt in front of a wider audience, she has already inspired many people in her native country. Following the horrific fire three years ago, she wrote a book about her experiences, "Everything to Live For," and has been working as a motivational speaker. Pitt, who has undergone more than 100 surgeries, has also continued to pursue her athletic dreams, walking the Great Wall of China and swimming Australia's Lake Argyle to raise money for Interplast, a nonprofit that provides reconstructive surgeries for people in developing countries. She appears in the issue alongside her partner, Michael Hoskin, who has stuck by her throughout her recovery.

For burn survivors around the world, seeing someone like Pitt on the cover of a fashion publication is a major step toward changing the way that our culture thinks about and treats survivors. "She exhibits beauty and strength," Linda Hansen, the executive director of Burns Recovered Support Group, says to Yahoo Shine. Her own organization has published a book, "Beauty Is," to help empower burn survivors to feel great about themselves.

"To feature this woman in such a prominent way is about how her gift is not about the scars on her face. That doesn't make her any less of a person. My guess is it makes her more of a person," adds Hansen.

And Pitt herself, who was chosen for the cover over actress Rachel Griffiths and former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins, says that she is "humbled" by the recognition. "For me, it sends the message that confidence equals beauty," she says in the magazine. "There are a lot of women out there who are so beautiful but don’t have the confidence, and that's what gets you over the line."

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