Burns survivor Brianna Creenaune shares her story.
If you had told 16-year-old me that at 24 I’d be modelling as a burns survivor I honestly don’t know how I would have reacted. A quietly confident part of me though, thinks I would’ve said, “Oh hell yeah I knew it”.
It was at 3am on January 3, 2016, when my entire world was flipped upside down. I was woken in a panic to my family’s house in Ipswich on fire. At 16, I had no idea what was going on just that I needed to get out. In my haste to rush out of the house, I unknowingly entered the space where the fire started. I wouldn’t know this until later but at that moment when I stepped onto that veranda I started to burn.
In the midst of my escape, I reached an old metal gate. The skin of my hand began to burn as I attempted to pry the gate open, and I quickly came to the realisation it had melted shut. Immediately the panic set in, a million thoughts were running through my head at once. Was this it? Where was the rest of my family? Did they know I was stuck? Were they waiting for me?
Those thoughts were what drove me to turn around and keep going. As I rushed back towards the house’s rear section something fell on top of my head. My back lit up with flames. I screamed and it seemed as if in the next second my mum was standing in front of me, rushing me towards the back of the house to safety. The next moments became a blur of memories, a dog on fire, my shirt being ripped off, running from the house as the roof collapsed, skin hanging off my hands and feet, water being poured all over me and finally, the ambulance arriving.
In that moment I had no idea of the damage done, nor the future recovery that awaited me. It was, and probably will always be, the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through.
When my physical recovery was over, I was left to pick up the pieces of the new body I would come to know, the body that I would come to love and celebrate.
In some ways, my burn scars have always been easier to accept, simply because I had no control over them. There’s no possible way for me to change or remove them, so my mindset had always been I needed to learn to love them. Growing up in a time where diet culture and a certain body standard has been so prevalent in society, meant that I’ve always struggled with my body image – and still do – but it has always been over things in my control; how much I weighed, what I ate, and whether I’m exercising enough.
My burns almost acted as a catalyst in my own self-love journey and had me accepting all parts of my body faster than I think I would have without them.
During the beginning of COVID in 2020 when lockdowns were becoming a regular event there was an ambassadorship competition held for a fashion brand. By that point I’d become so comfortable in my skin and taking photos had become a favourite hobby of mine, so I thought, what do I have to lose? I entered and won the contest which boosted my social media following. Little did I know this would be the step that effectively launched my career, which then led me to joining my agency – Bella Management.
Funnily enough, it wasn’t the first time I’d tried, only a year after my initial burns I’d worked with a photographer who wanted to capture my scars. The interaction had left such a lasting impression on me I tried to apply to a modelling agency, I don’t even remember which one and I never heard back. It had felt like a shot in the dark and I didn’t think about it for another three years.
Entering the modelling world was certainly daunting, the thoughts of what my friends would think weighed heavily on my mind. Would I be judged for trying to be yet another model influencer or would I receive support? From the time I started, it’s been milestone after milestone of brands reaching out and growing my platform. I’ve now worked with brands like Vush, Meshki and ModelCo. I’ve also modelled for the likes of Bonds Australia and walked the runway.
It’s been scary, and at times I’ve been full of self-doubt, but modelling has also been one of the most liberating and rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve become the advocate I needed during my own recovery, the representation I needed to see when I was a little girl. This year has allowed me to reflect on my entire journey of how I got here, and seeing the once shy and introverted me blossom into a confident young woman who is proud of her story and her body. Thinking about all that I have already accomplished is incredibly gratifying. I am beyond excited to see where I go from here.