If you were unable to smile, what would your life be like?
For approximately one child in 500-750 births worldwide, this grim state is a sad reality. A cleft is a debilitating condition where the hard and soft tissues of the lip and/or roof of the mouth do not fuse together during fetal development. Left untreated, children with clefts often live in isolation, facing physical difficulties with eating, breathing, hearing, and speaking.
Luckily, modern science now has the means to repair this condition with a simple surgical procedure, with more and more individuals and organizations banding together to help bring actual smiles to children with cleft lips and cleft palates. The transformation after the surgery is immediate, with the child empowered to move past the condition that has previoulsy hindered them. As a nod to those who have gone on to live full and productive lives after their reconstructive surgery, we've rounded up some truly inspiring individuals that have gone on to have stellar careers and achievements.
The talented American actor has embraced the very visible scar on his upper lip, proving that marks do not have to define who you are. Joaquin has received numerous accolades for his acting from several of the most prestigious acting award bodies including the Grammys and the Golden Globes.
This stunner is a member of the international chart-topping group, the Pussycat Dolls. Born with a cleft lip and palate, the star had to undergo a series of gruelling reconstrictive surgeries from six months of age until she was 16 years old. Her struggles gave Carmit the drive to carve out her own niche, winning legions of fans and wowing audiences around the world through her performances.
Being a Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Denver Broncos is a definite feather in the cap of Payton, earning him the admiration of thousands of fans, but this all-star athlete didn't always have it that easy. Born with a cleft palate, Peyton struggled with the social stigma of bullying and had to endure several surgeries throughout his childhood.
This 37-year old Australian smasher is revered for his feats on the field, having played in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina in 2001. After wrestling with a bout of depression for three years, Ljubo is back on the field, coming back full circle to enjoy the sport that he has always loved.
Rising above his birth defect, this British author has dominated the field of writing. Having worked as a journalist, publisher, and editor has only added to his grasp of the industry he moves in. His novels have consistently earned critical acclaim, winning nods from several literary award giving bodies, notably the PEN/J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography for his 1996 memoir, memoir, The Scent of Dried Roses, and the 1999 Whitbread Awards for Best First Novel for White City Blue. His work, Rumours of a Hurricane, was shortlisted in the 'Best Novel' category of the 2002 Whitbread Awards.
Music served as both an outlet and an escape for Richard, whose cleft lip and palate made him the target of constant bullying during his middle school days. A multihyphenate who has grown into his own as an artist, Richard is a guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer from Sheffield, England. He earned pop fame as part of the band The Longpigs in the 1990s, branching out to play with Pulp, led by his friend Jarvis Cocker.
Want to do some good in the world while also amping up your fitness levels? Beyond Yoga and Smile Train are raising funds for reconstructive surgery for children born with cleft lip and palates with the Yoga For Smiles Challenge. For more information of how you can make a difference, please visit Beyond Yoga.
ALSO READ: Best Practices: Giving Out Smiles, One Kid At A Time
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