LEIGH DE VRIES - Visual Artist, Mental Health Advocate, Body Dysmorphic Disorder



"When I first viewed this I literally experienced chills from how emotionally powerful and on-point it is. These are the voices of my patients over the past 12 years! The full video within the installation is longer and includes the spoken thoughts and feelings of several other people with BDD. 

Leigh de Vries has honed in on a particular experience of those with BDD that leads to tremendous suffering and isolation: the extreme difficulty that friends and family have in understanding and empathizing with people with BDD, due to the fact that they look entirely normal or even attractive to them. She has applied her wonderful creativity and her personal experience with suffering from BDD to create a powerful (almost virtual reality-like) experiential piece to address this."

- Jamie D. Feusner, M.D.Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Director, Adult OCD Program, Director, Eating Disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder Research Program, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorDavid Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Thank you for opening our conference last week. Your address set the inspiring tone we had hoped for and many delegates have said it was the highlight of the day for them. We particularly liked the feedback quote below:

"Leigh de Vries - what a way to start a conference and what an inspiration."

We were delighted with the quality and variety of the opening speech that you gave and thank you again for your contribution to this successful event.

- Karen Davies
Museum Development Program Manager
Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.

“Leigh de Vries conducted workshops with two of our art and design groups from Rotherham College, Level 3 Diploma in Art and Design and Foundation Diploma in Art and Design. The workshops involved a group discussion about body dysmorphic disorder where students gave their thoughts and feelings about their own self image. Students were given a tour of the exhibition introduced by Leigh. The workshop concluded with an activity where students made masks that represented their thoughts and feelings and about their own self image.

The workshop very much engaged the students who gained from it in a number of ways. Students fed back that the exhibition was fascinating, dramatic, brave and gave them a real sense of the issues that people with body dysmorphic disorder face. It also gave students an opportunity to discuss self image and gather perspectives from others. This was a positive experience that is particularly appropriate to learners in this age group (16-18) It was also insightful for students to see how Leigh had developed an approach to tackling this subject and how this became an effective and engaging exhibition. 

Our learners are consistently challenged with generating and realising fine art ideas and to be involved in a workshop such as this where the artist explains their ideas, approach, intentions and how they implemented an exhibition was invaluable.”

— Richard Lyons
(Teacher) Rotherham College of Arts and Technology

“The whole experience was an eye-opener for the young people and myself. It gave a completely new perspective of what BDD is and how people respond to it, whether they are an outsider making an unconscious judgement or the person who lives with BDD and how they perceive themselves.

It would be incredibly useful to explore this further with young people, as the exhibition allowed them to begin to ask questions, which left most of the group wanting to find out more. Some of the young people didn’t know anything about BDD before the exhibition and they were intrigued by it, by Leigh and by the disorder. Others knew what BDD was, but still had their minds opened to new perspectives and were encouraged by the bravery of Leigh and her story-telling to speak about it and question their own understanding.

Mental health is something that should be discussed openly, many young people do or will experience poor mental health at some point in their lives, or know someone who will, so it is vital that they feel confident and comfortable to speak about it. Exhibitions like My Broken Reality are a starting point for those conversations and are crucial to the development of young people’s learning and understanding of such important issues, like mental health.”

— Nicola Harding
(Reaching Communities Project Coordinator) Myplace, UK

“I attended your Art workshop on Body Dysmorphia , taking with me a couple of young males 17 year olds. All I can say is WOW, the group attended because I had offered the opportunity to the youth group, with some young people not attending as they thought it would be boring! Far from it amazing, I thought I had an understanding of the subject, But Leigh brought it to life and it was real. 

This session for me was really good it wasn’t just giving the information now go away, The information was shared , young people were given time to question what they felt and the thoughts going round there head, and the questions asked by the group were answered and not judged. Leigh and her crew were there talking to the young people, participating with the group and the activities.

When the group next attended their centre they were raving about how good it was, and next time there’s something going off they will go again as it wasn’t all arty it was excellent.”

— Sharon Biggin (Youth Worker)
Thurcroft Youth Group, UK