Fashion student Monica Singh, who survived a brutal acid attack, opens up about the power of resilience

Ten years ago, Singh had a bucket of acid thrown in her face by several assailants.

“I’m not a normal girl,” says Monica Singh.

It’s a balmy August day in New York City, and the 28-year-old is sitting on her bed, legs crossed, wearing a sheer black cardigan over a blouse that’s buttoned snugly to the top. Ten years ago, a group of men splashed a bucket of acid on Singh as she sat behind the wheel of her car in Lucknow, India. The attack was orchestrated by a man who had proposed to Singh, but didn’t get the answer he wanted. Sixty-five percent of Singh’s body was burned instantly.

She awoke in a trauma center as medical professionals doused her body with cold water, trying to save what was left of her skin. Her family stayed at her bedside and with their constant support, she was motivated to keep going. Through more than 40 reconstructive surgeries, Singh never let go of her dream to work in fashion, and after attending India’s top fashion school, Singh moved from New Delhi to New York to pursue a degree in fashion marketing at Parsons School of Design.

“I’m surprised that I came this far,” she told Women in the World. “Surviving is not just to stay alive and sit at home.” Singh is a strong believer in leaving the past behind and keeping a positive outlook toward the future. Armed with her degrees and a vision to launch her own fashion company, Singh is thrilled about what’s to come. “Life is too short to cry over one thing.” Singh advises, adding that the perpetrators may have stolen her face, but her inner strength is stronger than ever. “I make my plans positively, and things happen slowly,” she said. “One time I planned and dreamed about coming and living in New York City. And I came here.”

Her foundation, The Mahendra Singh Foundation, provides guidance and support to other acid attack survivors. “After their faces get ruined, they hesitate to get back into society and nobody hires them,” said Singh, who hopes her company will one day hire survivors of such attacks. Acid attack survivors are reminded of their attacks every time they look in a mirror. “We haven’t been a victim for one day or a certain time,” Singh says. “We are victims since then.” Her foundation’s aim is to guide those women toward lives of independence and self sufficiency. Singh’s determination, spirit, and resilience make her far from ordinary; she’s extraordinary.

Her advice for other survivors?

“Keep on living. Keep fighting. And be something that you always wanted to be. Forget that you lost your face, your soul is still intact, your mind is still intact. Keep on doing.”

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