Updated: Oct 19
With Face Equality Week on May 15, FACES highlights prominent voices in craniofacial advocacy, beginning with Dr. James Partridge. He put his blood, sweat, and tears into his mission and went to great lengths to tell the stories of facial difference communities and raise awareness about the facial inequality plaguing our world. James was a social entrepreneur, author, filmmaker, and creator of the global face equality movement. He was known for his advocacy against facial discrimination. He is most famous for his unique style of handling sensitive topics such as discrimination and seeing disfigurement recognized as an equality issue.
James was born with a regular face in Bristol, England. In his memoir, “Face It,” he described liking his appearance so much that he prided himself on having attractive facial features. James was a brother, a son, and a friend when his life took a dramatic turn in 1977. He was 18 then, having one last hurrah with his friends before attending Oxford University. He was in a car accident that changed the trajectory of his life. After failing to see a bend in the road, his Land Rover flipped over. He sustained burns covering 40% of his body, changing his appearance dramatically. Following the accident, his face swelled to three times its average size. He had oozing scabs that ravaged his face, his eyes seemed farther apart, and his skin color had changed. In his book, he recounts restless nights following his accident, the pain he experienced, and his eagerness to see his new face—which he named “It.” Nurses, doctors, and his parents were weary of allowing James to see the damage his face and body had suffered. They did their best to protect him, refusing to grant him a mirror or anything that could give him insight into what “It” looked like. Despite their efforts to protect him, James would do his best to touch his face to understand what his updated face looked like. After five months in the hospital, he was finally released and allowed to immerse himself in the real world. He had extensive surgeries to reconstruct his face and skin grafts placed all over his body. After sustaining injuries to his face and body, James created a new identity and was determined to use his experience for good. He rose to fame after the accident and said he was Oxford University’s celebrity. He created multiple organizations to help those with facial differences—who historically were hampered by stereotypes.
In 1992, he founded Changing Faces, a nonprofit headquartered in the United Kingdom. The organizations advocated and served as ground-breakers on the front lines of dismantling discrimination efforts, working for human rights and inclusion of people with facial and bodily differences. James gained international attention after he dedicated his life to helping change the narrative of what it means to be facially different. He will forever be known for his advocacy work in the facially diverse community.
James went on to create Face Equality International with the support of nine founding members, of which FACES is one. The alliance was launched in November 2018 and now has thirty-two worldwide members. His vision was for the global facial difference community to live freely, without indignity or discrimination, and to position face equality as a social justice movement. Face Equality International continues to make decisions that help create a world where people with facial differences are treated as equal citizens. With Face Equality Week coming up, we are committed to delivering a top-notch message, "We Will Not Hide ." In addition to James' background and his motivation that started it all, we attribute the success of Face Equality Week to taking risks and lacking fear. This year marks the 5th Face Equality Week.