ARLINGTON — When Paige Billiot picked up her little sister Gabrielle from school, kids would stare and point.
“I’m used to it,” she said.
When she went to Gabrielle’s basketball games in Arlington, she would see people whispering.
“It happens everywhere I go,” Paige said. “I noticed more when I was younger, especially from adults.”
Paige, 23, has a birth mark that takes up much of the left side of her face. She was called names, teased and bullied when she was young.
But she has managed to overcome that to become an actress and filmmaker in Los Angeles. As far as she is concerned, her birth mark is a beauty mark.
Visiting family in Arlington recently, Paige explained how she wants to inspire others with her online project called flawlessaffect.com.
“It’s a campaign movement to redefine beauty,” Paige said, adding she wants to create awareness that everyone has flaws, and they make us unique. “You don’t want to be normal.”
Paige said there is a stigmatism associated with flaws so people “want to get rid of the condition.” She said people need to embrace what makes them special.
“You can’t please everybody, and you shouldn’t try,” she said. “Different is the new normal.”
Paige said society conforms to individuals, so to have a “different perception of beauty” each one of us needs to be more accepting.
She said it has been a challenge trying to make it in Hollywood, where it’s “99 percent about looks.” So she has produced a lot of her own material.
She also accentuated her birth mark to play a character in a horror movie called, “One of Us.” She also was in another horror movie called “Road to Hell.”
Paige said her “flaw” actually helps her stand out.
“It’s so over-saturated with the same mindset of perfect body, perfect face,” she said of Hollywood.
Paige said it wasn’t until high school that she began to feel good about herself. Gabrielle, who was about 10 at the time, said she wished she had a birth mark like her sister’s.
Mom Christine took that story a little further.
“Gabby actually cried because she wanted to be special like Paige,” Christine said.
“It was empowering,” Paige said, adding that her friends also said the birth mark was cool, which helped her mentally.
Gabby so looked up to Paige that once at Halloween she wore a similar birth mark as a costume. She wouldn’t even take it off the next day.
Paige said her mom always supported her. “She said I was beautiful, special,” Paige said.
“We surrounded her with love and tons of laughter,” Christine said of the family support group.
Christine said since Paige was picked on so much she and other family shared stories about how they were picked on, showing how common that really is.
“School life is brutal,” Christine said. “She needed to take the high road.”
Still, it wasn’t easy. The family moved around a lot, and Paige always had to make new friends. Her mom even had to explain to teachers that her condition was not contagious.
“Over and over I had to explain” my condition, Paige said, adding facing her fear actually helped her.
“When I’d go to a new school I’d ask to get in front of the class to talk and get it over with,” she said. “It helped me get to the point of accepting it.”
She noticed fellow students were more accepting when she started doing that.
“It was fear of the unknown,” she said, adding she did have to deal with some physical abuse from bullies, but she was a tomboy so she took care of herself.
She said growing up she wanted to be a veterinarian, doctor, lawyer, spy … She even went to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas for pre-med.
“I hated it,” she said of UNLV. “Being an actor I could be all those things.”
She received her drama training in high school at the prestigious Las Vegas Performing Arts Academy.
Her mom said that was a great experience for her.
“She had to develop thicker skin. She had to fight tooth and nail for parts so they wouldn’t typecast her,” Christine said.
Her mom said Paige would pester directors until they gave her an audition “to make her be quiet.”
“They looked past the physicality and saw true talent,” Christine said.
Paige also has a love of being behind the camera. Her five-minute short movie called “Reflection,” has had positive reviews. It’s an abstract look at gun rights: “It’s the person not the weapon,” she said.
Paige said she wants to be a motivational speaker. She said she hates to see kids pick on others with harsh words or actions because they don’t meet the “social norms of what beautiful should be.”
Paige said many people, especially young girls, can relate to her struggles.
“Everybody feels flawed at some level,” she said. “We have to be able to accept ourselves.”
Her mom said Paige even inspires her. Christine said she has struggled with weight her entire life.
“She said to accept who I am, and love myself more,” Christine said. “Instead of the negative, embrace what I do like about myself. It’s so freeing.”