Jonathan “Jono” Lancaster’s life took a challenging turn within the first 36 hours of his existence when his parents made the heartbreaking decision to abandon him. Recounting his story, the resident of West Yorkshire, England, reveals that his birth parents were appalled by his appearance and chose to leave shortly after his birth.
At birth, Lancaster was diagnosed with Treacher Collins syndrome, an uncommon genetic condition affecting the growth of facial bones and tissues. Describing the condition, Lancaster humorously refers to his “little Bart Simpson ears” and explains that the absence of cheekbones contributes to the unique appearance of his eyes.
Fortunately, Lancaster found solace and love in the care of Jean, a compassionate social worker who fostered him along with other children with disabilities. Adopted at the age of 5, Lancaster reflects on his childhood with mixed emotions, as his struggle to accept his appearance often overshadowed his happy memories. The older students at his high school would taunt him by pulling their eyes down and creating chants about him.
As Lancaster grew older and his peers began exploring relationships, he found himself grappling with deep-seated resentment towards his own face. He reached a particularly dark and angry place in his life, which compelled him to write a letter to his birth parents. Their response, a curt rejection letter, signed by both of them, only served to exacerbate his pain.
However, a pivotal incident in a schoolyard opened Lancaster’s eyes to his true purpose. While giving a talk about his condition, he was approached by children who shared their own personal struggles. Inspired by their encounters, he realized that he needed to make a greater impact in the lives of others facing similar challenges.
Motivated by this experience, Lancaster founded the Love Me Love My Face Foundation. Through this organization, he provides support and raises awareness for individuals living with craniofacial conditions. Lancaster also addresses the portrayal of individuals with facial differences in the media, praising films like Edward Scissorhands for their positive representations while criticizing Netflix’s The Mother for perpetuating negative stereotypes.
Adding another milestone to his journey, Lancaster’s first book, titled Not All Heroes Wear Capes, is set to release next month. In this book, he chronicles the heroes he has encountered in his life, emphasizing that ultimately, he became his own greatest hero. Lancaster acknowledges that his life has been filled with love and exciting adventures, despite the challenges he has faced.
And as he said in his Instagram post revealing the book cover, he hopes the book, which is about chance encounters with strangers and other people in his life, inspires people.
“Ultimately, you can become your own biggest hero,” he said. “That’s what this book is about. Becoming your own hero, full of self love.”