Annie Bonelli got famous on TikTok for her scar. Now, she's done regretting who she sees in the mirror
Surrounded by the bustling campus of High Point University in North Carolina, Annie Bonelli looks like a typical college freshman. Her long blonde hair is up, with pieces hanging down to frame her face. She waves to a few friends who pass her in the on-campus bakery. But in less than a year, Bonelli has gone from a normal teen girl to a minor celebrity. In fact, less than two minutes into an interview with Rolling Stone, the talk is interrupted by three excited girls who approach her to see if she’ll join in their BeReal. “Of course,” Bonelli obliges. Before the camera snaps, she moves her hair off her face to expose what she thinks the girls really want to see: the long, curved, dark brown scar on her right cheek.
Online, Bonelli, whose TikTok handle is @wtmab, is known as “Scar Girl.” The 18-year-old has become a niche celebrity on the platform after her scar went from a healing line stark to a dark brown curving mark — prompting a heated debate on the app: is the scar real? Bonelli, who has almost 800 thousand followers, said her TikTok follower count grew when she got the first scar. But after she tried to fix it and accidentally gave herself a new scar, people have been accusing her of making the entire thing up for clout. The hashtag #scargirl has over 448 million views on TikTok, with countless accounts debating whether the mark is a real injury or a years-in-the-making con.
Unlike most creators with her level of following, Bonnelli’s content doesn’t have a specific bend. Instead, her account resembles that of any other teen girl: full of lip-syncs, popular TikTok trends, dances, and viral songs. The only difference is her comment section, which, regardless of her video, always focus on the scar. Some have accused Bonelli of drawing it on with makeup, medical professionals have used the app to cast their doubts on the healing process, others have dissected her videos still by still — and more recently, some have begun outright mocking Bonelli by posting “get ready with me videos” where they smear dark makeup in an imitation of her scar on their cheeks.
Bonnelli has never publicly revealed how she got her original scar. When asked by Rolling Stone, she declined to share any details. But on social media, Bonelli has said that she received the injury in a “cruel” and “traumatic” situation that she felt “took away [her] smile.” She’s also been adamant that she wants her platform to bring awareness to domestic violence — something she says her “hurtful” comment section doesn’t help. So Rolling Stone sat down with Bonelli, in-person, not just to see her scar, but to inquire why people seem to care so goddamn much in the first place.
“The past two or three months have been a little crazy,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I’m averaging one to two million views per video. TikTok was always a thing [for me], but to actually try to be an influencer, that wasn’t really ever my path. It kind of just happened. I’ve had two other accounts, but this one, obviously, of got big two years ago.”
Bonelli knows her account grew because of her scar. She’s white, blonde, and pretty, but past TikTok accounts never broke into the realm of getting stopped for photos. But she tells Rolling Stone that even though the scar gave her attention, she, at 16, was still insecure about how it looked, and what it represented. So she tried to use a topical treatment to lighten it.
“I didn’t see many people on TikTok or on social media with a scar across their face,” she says. “I’m insecure, so I was still trying to get rid of it. That topical did not go well. And I had a complete chemical burn. Terrible reaction. I had to wait for that to heal. So now it’s supposed to get worse before it gets better.”
The resulting chemical burn completely changed the fading scar, making it a different shape, darker, and longer. Looking back on the incident, Bonelli sees the attempt as proof that she wasn’t yet comfortable looking in the mirror. But online, people saw the new mark as an attempt to maintain the following that “Scar Girl” had given her. And on some level, Bonelli understands why people think she’s faking.
“It’s kind of hard to not look at it,” she says, “but the debate is a little weird to me because at the end of the day, people are commenting about something on my body. Especially watching some creators use big platforms to almost tear me down, it’s upsetting. I can’t take my scar off and hang it up on a hook. I don’t feel like I should have to cover it.”
Almost a year ago, when the controversy about Bonelli’s scar morphed from a few innocent questions to a wave of accusations and mockery, she tried to ignore it, focusing on life after high school, hanging with her friends and getting ready for college.
“I live on the water back home. You don’t think I go to the ocean every day with my friends?” she says, noting that water would have washed off any makeup trying to fake a scar. “I’m sorry, it’s just one of those things where you come back to it and it’s like, I would’ve been caught in my hometown.”
In the past month, Bonelli has posted at least two videos trying to prove that her scar is real, including wiping at it with a makeup wipe, and another explaining what the burn feels like. But she tells Rolling Stone that no longer cares if people believe her or not — and instead challenges her detractors to really think about why they want proof so badly.
“This is a personal thing,” she says. “Why do I even owe that to people? I could 100 percent just go ‘here’ and hold [my medical records] up on TikTok, but then people are still going to say it’s fake. So it doesn’t matter what I do. I can’t control what people are going to say. And if anything, it just gets my platform out there more. So yeah, I’d rather take advantage of it than just sit in a corner and cry about it.”
Sitting with Bonelli, the scar appears to not only be real, but painful. She wasn’t wearing any makeup during the meeting, and the red irritation around the long, dark mark was on full display. The scar itself appeared flaky in certain areas, with scratched and broken skin exposed underneath — and it moved as she spoke and gestured. Bonelli is either wasting her time in college when she should clearly be going into costume makeup or she actually really is just a teenager dealing with an unfortunate side effect of a chemical burn. We’re going with the latter. But that’s not the real issue.
The way Bonelli is interrogated, both in her comment section and in tagged videos, you would think she’d committed a serious and upsetting crime. And, she says, while she has a thick skin, she wishes people understood the potential damage they can do when they discuss another person’s injuries or scars so openly. Yet Bonelli says that, even with all the hurtful comments, she still receives dozens of messages and DMs from people with their own scars, who have said her account has given them confidence. Other girls who have gotten facial scars since Bonelli went viral have also dubbed themselves “scar girls,” spawning their own extremely niche genre of content. And if people are intent on keeping Bonelli’s platform in the public eye, she’s now determined to take advantage of her viral moment and try to use it to help others like her.
“I think I’ve touched on it, and I think some people can connect some dots if they really go through everything,” she says. “But it’s my story to tell. It’s my scar. Maybe one day I’ll decide that this is something I feel like people need to know. But for right now, I feel like where I got my scar doesn’t matter as much as [what] I’m doing with it now.”