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{Though our stories are often written, our platform welcomes stories told in other ways. We invite submissions of Spoken Word poetry or performance art, dance or music, and visual art as well. We only ask that if it's not a literary submission, that you offer some written contextualization of the piece.

"The Power to be You" by Emi Kawahara

Cover of "Warrior" by Demi LovatoEmi Kawahara
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    I'm ugly. I've grown up thinking that statement is a fact, not an opinion. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Most words lose all meaning when they're repeated, but not this one. The more this one is repeated, the more power it holds.    


    Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. 


    Eczema is a skin condition that's mostly mild, but severe in my case. I'd had it since I was born. Every time I think it's getting better, I'm always let down.

    A boy in my class comes up to me and says, "Can I take a picture of your arm? My brother and I are playing a video game where the people have Ebola and your arms look just like them," and snickers. What the hell? He makes a big show of slowly backing away, saying “Ew, it's probably contagious.” My face reddens. The teacher isn't around, and I'm glad. Of course, everyone would find it disgusting – she might scold him, but on the inside, she'd agree with him. I go home and wrap my arms with bandages.


    He always had a hard time fitting in with the Brazilian boys, and was made fun of for his gums.


    Ding. I look over at my phone, and there's a notification from Instagram that someone tagged me in a post. That's weird, I don't even know her that well. I open the post, and all it says on a black screen is, “Tag the ugliest person you've ever met". Cold dread washes over me as the words sink in. I am the ugliest face that someone has ever seen. Frantically, I block the girl. No one ever has to know that this is what I'm known for in her mind.

    Ding. Another. 

    Ding. A third.

    On the night the third one comes in, I tuck my mirror away, scared of my own reflection.


    One of the girls that tagged me in the later ones was tagged in the first one with me. 


    “We just want everyone to know that they're beautiful,” Rosanne smiles at me, and passes me the microphone. 

    “Others’ opinions can get to us so much, but we can't let them. At the end of the day, they just don't really matter.”

     I speak to the whole middle school staring back at me in the auditorium. I don't believe a word I say to them. They're definitely all thinking about how funny it is that I'm saying this, because I'm so ugly. I sit at the piano, staring longingly at the microphone Rosanne is holding. If only I was brave enough. I start playing “Warrior” by Demi Lovato, the chords ringing as I sing in my head.


    A teacher emailed us that night, thanking us for spreading a beautiful message that brought her to tears. She wished she could've had people like us for her younger self.


    I'm walking anxiously through the locker room with my head down, not ready for a whole new school to judge my horrific face just yet. 

    “I'm so sorry if this is super weird, but oh my god you're so gorgeous!” What the f*ck? I look up to see a girl with piercing green eyes looking back at me. 

    "Thanks?” I question, still not sure that she's talking to me. She flashes me a big smile, and turns back to her locker. 

    New York is so weird. 


    That girl was being honest.


    “You're pretty.” Stop lying.

    “You're gorgeous." Shut up.

    “You're beautiful." It's cruel to lie like this.


    No one is lying to you.


    I sit down at my piano. I'm ready to play. More than that, I'm ready to sing. The chords are ringing, but this time I'm singing out loud. 


    I'm a warrior.

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