Model Lex Gillies speaks out about her 'undesirable' Instagram photo

Lex Gillies' photo (left) was initially barred from Instagram for being "undesirable".
Lex Gillies' photo (left) was initially barred from Instagram for being "undesirable". Photo credit: Instagram/TalontedLex

A UK model who uploaded an "undesirable" photo to Instagram has spoken out about her emotional ordeal.

Lex Gillies has rosacea, an inflammatory skin condition that causes redness in a person's face.

In September, she tried to run an advertisement on Instagram that featured her skin and face as the focus as part of a series celebrating natural beauty. But the site removed the image saying it "doesn't allow ads that focus on aspects of a person's body to highlight an undesirable or idealised body state".

Gillies told the BBC she first noticed Instagram posts showing rosacea were being hidden when she embedded the photos on her blog. But it was only when she tried advertising on the app that she noticed her photos were being removed.

"When I first realised what was happening and that my photos were being hidden, I felt sick. It was one of the worst things I've ever experienced."

After she shared her story with her followers, the hashtag #UndesirablesOfInstagram went viral as people called on the social media giant to stop censoring skin conditions.

People with acne, psoriasis and other skin conditions posted their images under the hashtag, something that Gillies thinks makes the online community "incredible". But she believes changes should've been made a lot sooner.

"It took a viral hashtag and countless articles in newspapers all over the world for them to sit up and take notice," she told BBC News.

As a result, Facebook, which owns Instagram, no longer uses the word "undesirable" in the rejection messages it sends advertisers.

Its guidelines were initially meant to block ads that were marketing supplements for weight loss and health conditions, but posts speaking out against the ads were also being caught up in the policy.

Facebook told BBC News that Gillies' advert was "removed in error" and was later reinstated. It says they have also updated the language to "better reflect the policy it describes".

The Verge reported that Gillies' case isn't the first instance of a supposed "undesirable" image being removed.

Australian pop group Cherchez la Femme attempted to advertise an event in 2016 that focused on body positivity and feminism.

In their post they included a photo of Tess Holliday, a plus-size model. But the photo also fell victim to being "undesirable".