In 2020, Nick Austin took her We Are Not Broken nonprofit organization on the road in search of new stories to tell through her camera lens. She ended up at a church conference in San Antonio, asking women to share stories of overcoming adversity. As 20 women talked about hardships they had gone through, Nick noticed a beautiful African American woman in her 60s sitting silently in the back. “You could tell she wanted to tell her story, but something was stopping her.” At first, she didn’t want to share her story until Nick said;
“I don’t know what your story is, but I know it’s going to help someone. Your story is never for you. It’s for someone else.”
A woman who was sexually abused as a child and never told anyone found her voice that day, naming and forgiving each abuser and urging anyone in a similar situation to seek help.
Stories like those are what inspired Nick to write We Are Not Broken: Scar Stories, a collection of stories of women who have endured various kinds of adversity—from abuse to cancer to car accidents—and emerged with scars that represent not brokenness, but strength. “I wanted to create this beautiful coffee table book for women sharing their scars so people would see them as something beautiful,” Nick says.
Putting these women warriors on the page was the goal even before We Are Not Broken became a 501(c)3 in 2019. A strength and conditioning coach with a lifelong love of photography, Nick remembers taking pictures of her friend’s mastectomy scars dissected by a butterfly tattoo—“the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” That night, she sent an email blast asking if anyone wanted free photos of their scars or something else that made them feel ugly. A flood of emails led to the creation of a nonprofit organization that now consists of Nick as photographer, hair and makeup artist and volunteer coordinator Amanda Fuentes, We Are Not Broken ambassador Brandy Smith, graphic artist Deja Elder, and Kristina Moore, who edited the book. All are on a mission to help women and girls recognize their own beauty and worth while rejecting society’s message that they need to look a certain way to be beautiful.
Haley Beatty, then a 7-year-old battling brain cancer and bullying at school, is one of the girls empowered by We Are Not Broken. Nick says, “When I learned Haley’s dream was to become a supermodel when she grew up, I told her, ‘Well, guess what? You get to be a supermodel today. And one day, you’re going to be in a book.’ She smiled so big.”
A LOVELY FUTURE
Now that We Are Not Broken Scar Stories has come to fruition, Nick is excited about leaving a legacy of stories that will last for generations. “These women come in the studio for one day and they feel beautiful and unpack their trauma. They can see their story in a book and know it’s now something someone will be able to read long after they’re gone that could potentially save a life or help people navigate their own trauma. It’s really about that legacy of the story and the uplifting and empowering for the women who are brave enough to tell their stories.”
This year, Nick got to tell her own scar story of fighting breast cancer, a difficult season, but one that came with a God wink—winning Austin Business Woman’s Nonprofit of the Year award. “I was in a state of, ‘How am I going to fundraise and how am I going to make We Are Not Broken survive?’” she says.
“This award means I’m not doing anything in vain. I look at it as not an accolade directly to me, but it’s like an affirmation from God that ‘I really do have you. You don’t have to worry about anything. You’re doing good work.’ ”
Looking ahead, Nick plans to add a therapist to her team as she takes We Are Not Broken back on the road, anywhere from hospitals to conferences to farmers markets. “It’s great to have a beautiful studio in one location, but I can’t reach everyone just being in one location. It’s just taking the reach further, making that arm longer.”
From an award to a book launch to an unveiling of the photography studio trailer at the nonprofit’s annual gala in November, this year has been full of blessings for We Are Not Broken. Nick says, “This year, even through adversity and cancer God’s like, ‘All those visions I gave you back then, now you’re going to see them come to light.’ ”
To buy We Are Not Broken Scar Stories, visit the website, click the drop-down menu and choose Donate to send $39.95 for Scar Stories.