A YOUNG Burnley woman who suffered horrific burns and was left fighting for her life aged just eight has realised her dream of becoming a model.
Labonya Siddiqui (21), who was born in Bangladesh, sustained 40% burns after a kerosene lantern exploded in her face during a power cut in the country’s capital, Dhaka, in May 2000.
She was rushed to hospital and spent five days in a coma, which doctors feared she may not wake up from.
“I was looking around for my mum when I noticed the maid in the corridor with the oil lantern and being someone who is fascinated with fire I went over and sat down in front of it,” said Labonya.
“I picked up a match and lit it from the wick’s flame and held it close to the oil compartment where the maid was pouring in the kerosene and the match dropped.
“There was an explosion and in blind panic the maid threw the oil gallon at me, as all the kerosene covered me I was engulfed by flames.
“I briefly remember hitting my head against a door behind me when the impact pushed me back. I was paralysed, blind and not being able to feel any mobility in my limbs.
“I couldn’t breathe or move. I didn’t even feel any pain to know I was burning. My mum who heard the commotion ran to the scene and at first did not know it was me until she got close enough and dragged me off the floor to the nearest bathroom.”
When Labonya woke from the coma she was unable to recognise members of her family or remember past events.
She underwent three months of intense treatment in hospital before returning home where her paediatrician mother, who now works at the Royal Blackburn Hospital with her father, treated her burns.
In 2002 the family moved to Burnley where Labonya, a former pupil of Walshaw High School and Thomas Whitham Sixth Form, said she wore a scarf to hide her scars.
“It was not until autumn the year after – 2003 – when a friend pulled my scarf away and told me to try being without it the next few days.
“I remember the next day I walked into class with no scarf on and I was met with mixed responses. I faced severe bullying for almost the whole duration in high school which led me into depression for some time. I was even ganged upon by some girls and the few friends that I had always had to watch my back.”
Labonya battled post traumatic stress disorder for 12 years after the accident but it was leaving an abusive relationship which finally prompted her to follow her dreams.
“Modelling is something I wanted to do since I was a little child.
“Posing in front of mirrors and even after the burns incident when no one was in sight I would go up in front of the bathroom mirror and pose fantasising about being a model.
“It wasn’t until 2011, after the end of an abusive relationship where my ex had a habit of comparing me to other girls, always putting me down as not beautiful enough and emotionally manipulating me that my life took a swift turn.
“When the relationship ended I was fed up of feeling sorry for myself, I was tired of letting my inferiority complex and insecurities making me vulnerable and thus decided on further encouragement from friends that modelling was the first step forward. And I braced myself to face the lens and follow my dream.”
She approached an agency and had some professional photographs taken.
Since then she has done modelling from bridalwear to boudoir, ringmaster, fashion and creative while studying for a degree in chemistry at Bradford University.
“For me modelling is art and it’s my passion. I find my confidence in front of the lens at the same time it lets me discover my ability to be versatile and creative as well. I represent all the burn survivors who have gone through similar experiences and I continue to model so that by seeing my work they will find their own confidence and strength that they will be just as comfortable being themselves as I am with my scars.”