Australian Women’s Weekly July cover girl, burn survivor Turia Pitt, is inspiring the world with her courage and determination.
Images of picture-perfect pop stars and Hollywood starlets are what we are used to seeing on the cover of women’s magazines. But in the July 2014 edition of Australian Women’s Weekly, motivational speaker and burn survivor, Turia Pitt posed in her most natural state; with her burn marks, sans enhancement or alterations. Pitt’s bright smile lit up the cover, redefining beauty to the world.
“Beauty can be seen in several ways. It’s in the things you do, the actions you take and the lives you change.
“To me, beauty is also having confidence, walking tall and looking people in the eye,” says the 26-year-old former mining engineer.
She was first approached to be part of the judging panel of the Women of the Future segment of the magazine and was amongst a group of similarly impressive Australian women.
However, upon appearing in front of the camera, Australian Women’s Weekly editor-in-chief, Helen McCabe immediately decided that Pitt shouldn’t be choosing who was to appear on the cover; she was clearly July’s cover girl.
Pitt’s appearance on the popular lifestyle magazine quickly took the world by storm as followers came flooding in via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to applaud both the magazine and Pitt for their bold move.
“I was asked to be the cover girl for July’s Women’s Weekly. When Helen (editor) told me of her choice, I was stoked – and also very proud to be an Aussie. I had no idea what an impact it would make – spreading to countries like Germany, Spain and Mexico and even Malaysia,” said Pitt in an e-mail interview.
Almost two years ago, Pitt was caught in a bush fire while running a 100km ultramarathon in Kimberly, Western Australia. Trapped in an isolated area near El Questro Wilderness Park, 100km from Kununurra, in northwest Western Australia, Pitt and five other runners were cornered in a fire that had been burning for several days.
A sudden wind change sent the flames in the runners’ direction, leaving them with nowhere to go. Pitt who tried covering her head with her jacket said the heat level became unbearable, leaving her no choice but to jump up in search of an escape route. And that was when she was engulfed in flames.
She suffered burns on 65% of her body and was given very little chance of survival by doctors.
Defying their expectations, today Pitt stands tall with visible scars, but with a smile that continues to shine.
Pitt spent 864 days in the hospital and underwent over 100 surgeries. She also went through rigorous rehabilitation to learn to walk again.
“When I am asked to describe the pain of the fire, I can’t find the words. But I do know that the pain of everything that came after was far worse,” she recalls, stating that her days recovering in the hospital are her ‘dark days’.
“My recovery was like a roller coaster, one day I would have a lot of energy and I would push myself really hard. The next day, I would lose that drive and cry.
“I really was at my lowest of lows. Fortunately, I’ve been out of hospital for close to two years. I go back now and then for operations but thankfully I usually only need to stay overnight,” she continues.
Born in Haiti but brought up in Australia, Pitt’s childhood was an idyllic one.
“I had an ideal childhood and grew up with three brothers, Genji, Heimanu and Toriki. We grew up in a sleepy coastal town called Ulladulla in New South Wales and lived in a house by the ocean,” she says, adding that surfing was part of her after-school activity.
She was an A-student and later went on to work as a mining engineer with Rio Tinto. “Engineering was a good fit for me, not just because of my good grades in both Mathematics and Science but also because I simply loved everything the job had to offer.
“I liked working in the outback especially in remote locations,” she says, adding she misses the camaraderie of working with her team.
Pitt’s outlook in life has not changed much since her accident, as she has always been a positive person. But she has certainly come to cherish life more dearly.
One of Pitts’ biggest support systems is her boyfriend Michael Hoskin, who has stood by her throughout her journey.
“I met Michael in Ulladulla itself. We’ve been together since I was 20. He’s an absolutely wonderful partner who has stood by me throughout my entire ordeal. I honestly could not have come this far without him,” she shares.
The dynamics of their relationship has certainly changed since Pitt’s unfortunate incident.
“We have gone from being boyfriend and girlfriend to something so much deeper and look forward to a future together. I have so much respect and gratitude for Michael,” says Pitt who first met Hoskin when she was 14 and he was 17. They finally got together in 2008 after admiring each other from afar.
“When I was caught in the fire, the first thing that went through my mind was Michael and how we were supposed to have a life together. I felt robbed at that moment.
“But I’ve come to realise how precious life is and how important friends and family really are. I’ve also learned that when we put our minds to it and are faced with unforeseen circumstances, we become so much stronger than we have ever known ourselves to be,” she adds.
Today, Pitt is inspiring women around the world, by doing things that are physically and emotionally beautiful.
“While I don’t really see myself as inspiring, I’m grateful to receive such an accolade.
“Honestly, all I’m doing is living life to the best of my ability,” says Pitt who has continued to lead an active and meaningful life. She has since walked the Great Wall of China to raise money for ReSurge International (formerly known as Interplast), an organisation that provides free reconstructive surgeries for the poor.
She has also taken part in a number of events to raise money for non-profit organisations, including riding a bicycle from Sydney to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and swimming a 20km race in Australia’s largest lake, Lake Argyle.
“How am I after two years since the incident? I’m doing extremely well,” says a determined Pitt, who aims to continue living her life one day at a time.
“I feel blessed today and am simply looking forward to achieving as many goals in life as I can before I run out of time. I remind myself every day to never give up on my hopes, dreams and aspirations,” says Pitt.