Tonya Meisenbach, better known as Burned Beauty 2018, is a wife, mother of two adult children, luminary, and humanitarian currently living in Atlanta, GA.
Formerly a Paralegal and Realtor, Tonya has always enjoyed helping and elevating others. After being burned over 35% of her upper body and almost losing the battle, nothing has changed, Tonya turned her pain into purpose, and although Tonya’s methodology is different, the end goal remains the same, elevating others.
“My face and upper body all skin grafts, and my determination and spirit all God. ” Tonya
Tonya now uses hair. makeup. tutorials. and social media to help inspire other burn victims in their recovery. She wants all survivors to understand that their wounds will heal, and that with the right mindset, many can and accomplish anything and overcome any obstacle thrown in their path.
Who is Tonya Meisenbach in five words?
Survivor, Role Model, All Heart, Businesswoman, Independent
Can you share the inspiration behind your brand?
I was badly burned in December 2018. I lost my entire face and 35% of my upper body. I suffered third and fourth-degree burns and my entire face, neck, chest, both arms and upper back had to be replaced with skin grafts from my lower body. The loss of my face felt like a loss of part of my identity. I spent 2 1/2 years in the house only going to doctors appointments and then my caretaker told me to go look in the mirror because things had changed. Once I understood what she meant, I decided to let my Facebook friends know where I had been. They had no idea. I made a post and then decided that I would make a video and answer all the questions. That video led to lots of survivors contacting me telling me how inspired they were and how they liked my makeup.
I had literally been sitting on the couch for 2 1/2 years, wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life because I was not even 50 years old yet. And there in those comments was the answer!
I could do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is charitable work. So I bought a ring light and thought of a name – BurnedBeauty2018 because BurnedBeauty was taken – and by doing these things I recognized my purpose.
I had planned to do makeup and post my thought for the day and create tutorials to help others do their makeup. I still do all those things, but mainly I inspire people to keep going, and I do that with great intention. It wasn’t long before brands started to notice me, and I had my first deal to create a TikTok and it was with L’Oreal.
Everything I was doing until that point was for charity. With that deal, I realized that I could set my personal goals as well.
Burned Beauty 2018, as we know her now, was born.
You have had to overcome several obstacles to get where you are today, can you share what has been your greatest lesson thus far?
There was a moment when I was standing in my foyer and I suddenly had a realization that everything in my life had prepared me for that moment. All of the trials and tribulations: being abandoned at birth and given to my grandmother, being bullied, being treated like a plaything by men, getting married at 22, my first divorce, losing my children to joint custody, and having to fight to get them back, and the list goes on. Every job I’d ever had. My education. My past failures. All of those things were a layer cake that made me someone who could lose her face, her identity on so many levels, and then come back to show her new face in the name of inspiring other women (and men) to recognize what true beauty is and that they can go on regardless of what has happened to them.
What message do you hope women take away from your platform?
we don’t have to meet unrealistic beauty standards, because true beauty really does begin on the inside and it’s not figurative, it is literal. When you have that beauty in your heart, you can see it on your face. And with that beauty comes confidence. And with that confidence comes the ability to do and be anything you want – if you’re also willing to show up for yourself every day and do what’s necessary to achieve your goals. The only thing that can stop us from succeeding is us.
Where do you hope to see your brand next?
And I have a lot of ambitions. I hope to start modeling. Even though I am a curvy woman and I have burns and I just turned 50. My main ambition there is to be a burn survivor in the mainstream modeling world because we are not represented there. I also want to be a TEDx speaker or at least do a standard Ted talk because there’s a lot to be said about the lack of representation of burn survivors in Hollywood and in beauty and fashion campaigns. There are a few survivors doing some of these things, but certainly not enough when you consider how many of us there are. I am also going to write a book, but I’ve waited a while because I want my book to be about what you do after the trauma not just about the trauma itself.
What is your definition of a Pretty Woman who hustles?
I am a pretty woman who hustles. You are pretty women who hustle. A woman who knows her worth and sets goals and achieves them is beautiful and she’s hustling with every goal achieved. She’s okay with living the soft life – after she earns it because showing up for herself every day and getting the things she wants for herself… That’s her flex. She knows that her beauty doesn’t lie on her skin. Her beauty is within and nothing can ever take it away. Her determination is her hustle and nothing can ever take that away either.
Connect with Tonya: