Teacher who suffered through 20 operations in bid to become Miss Pin-up UK


A TEACHER who suffered through 20 operations over 16 years due to a rare brain tumour is battling to be crowned Miss Pin-up UK.

Yvonne Kavanagh, 33, was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease at just 17 years old.

The rare condition is caused by a hormonal imbalance in the body – and caused Yvonne to gain weight and become wheelchair bound.

It also left her badly scarred from her shoulders to her toes.

Yvonne hopes to inspire others with her story
Yvonne hopes to inspire others with her story

Now – 16 years later – Yvonne has been given the all clear, and she hopes to inspire others facing similar adversity by performing as “Lady Phoenix” for the Miss Pin-up UK competition.

The drama, dance and sign language teacher – from Dunfermline, Fife – described her battle with her condition, which caused a tumour to develop on her brain.

She said: “The tumour was on my pituitary gland and made my body react in the same way as it would to steroid abuse, causing massive stretch marks all over my body.

“I went from an active teenager to being in a wheelchair for two years.

She has been a pin-up model for 10 years
She has been a pin-up model for 10 years

“I was very large because of the illness and had low body confidence and self-esteem.”

Since the surgery to remove the tumour through her mouth, Yvonne has had a further 19 operations to reduce the scarring and further improve her health.

She added: “I missed out on my teenage years, and having to rebuild my life as an adult was quite terrifying so I used the arts, drama, dance and modelling to build myself back up.

Yvonne has now been a pin-up model for around ten years – performing in photo shoots ranging from 1950s glamour scenes to horror and “fans and feather” showgirl scenarios.

She also performs in variety shows to fundraise for “Heels for Combat Boots” – a non-profit that helps military personnel suffering with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.

Now she has entered Miss Pin-up UK – a beauty competition open to public voting – and is hoping that the public will put her through to the next round.

Yvonne hopes to win Miss Pin-up UK
Yvonne hopes to win Miss Pin-up UK

Discussing her bid to win Miss Pin-up UK – a competition currently open to the public vote – she said: “This is taking it to the next level.

“The reason I was up for it was because I’m one of the only ones who’s badly scarred and I’ve come from quite a traumatic illness.

“I’ll be putting myself out there, being on the internet, in front of people, to be judged.”

Public online voting to get Yvonne through to the quarterfinal closes later on today.

At the quarterfinals she will have a chance to perform her act, and put herself through to the finals in London.

If she gets the chance to perform she says she will likely perform “gorelesque” – the “messy, horror side of burlesque”.

In the past these performances have included her playing the part of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, using the Beasts severed head as a prop.

She admitted that performance such as this “can get a bit messy”.

Yvonne went on: “The media tells us we should look like this, be this size, and I’m certainly not all that.

“I want people to know you don’t have to have the perfect skin, hair or size to be here – I’m trying to break the mould a bit.

“Just from being in drama, I see so many people judging themselves so harshly. I know people with eating disorders who are so stressed about the way they look.

“I’m trying to get more support and raise awareness that if you believe in yourself, in what you want, and what you do, it doesn’t matter.

She added: “I want to raise awareness of this rare disease and I thought, somebody might look at my scars and ask me about it. I can use this platform as a soapbox for the disease.

“I’ve been through the wars but it doesn’t make me any less of a person.

“If I can make it to the quarter finals I’ll be happy, and if I can help inspire even one person I’ll have done my job.”