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The Instagram “Migraine Pose”: Fight Back Against the Trivialization of Migraine

Do you look “damn flattering” during a migraine attack? I certainly don’t, but the “migraine pose” that’s trending on Instagram apparently does, according to Elle magazine’s website. The article says, in part,

“Migraine Pose,” coined by makeup artist Nam Vo, involves posing with one or two hands pulling your face up by your temples as if you had a, well, migraine. There’s a reason it’s trending: The pose tightens the face, makes your cheekbones look more prominent, and lifts the brows. It’s a temporary facelift for the ‘gram.

“I love it because the beauty of your hands frame the face and give it more structure. I always make my models pose this way,” Vo told me, “It’s also a great time to show off your manicure.” #Priorities.

Elle was the first, but Cosmopolitan Australia and MamaMia have also promoted the “migraine pose.”

Steps to take to set the record straight

If you’re horrified by Elle’s trivialization of migraine and the perpetuation of stigma, let them know! Three steps you can take:

  1. Post a photo of yourself during a migraine attack to social media with the hashtags #truemigrainepose and #migrainepose and tag Elle, Cosmo Australia, and MamaMia and Nam Vo, the makeup artist who coined “migraine pose.”
  2. Tell these magazines what you think of their perpetuation of migraine stigma. Be sure to include a call for action—I’m asking that they take down the articles and replace them with an article that raises awareness of the true physical and emotional toll of migraine.
  3. Tell Nam Vo, the makeup artist who coined the term, what you think, too. Instagram: @namvo.

Email for a call to action

Here’s my email if you’d like template to start from. Honestly, it’s not the best example—I recommend something shorter with a clear call to action. What can I say, I was angry when I wrote it!

Dear editors,

I am saddened to see your depiction of migraine in your “migraine pose” article. It trivializes an illness that can be utterly devastating and adds to the stigma that those of us with migraine already face. I ask that you take down the current article and replace it with one that highlights the true impact of this illness. Because, while #truemigrainepose may show what it truly looks like on the outside to have a migraine attack, the wide-ranging symptoms of migraine and the havoc that it wreaks on a person’s life is the much more important story. And it’s a story that impacts your readers directly, as 18% of women have migraine.

Although migraine has a reputation as “just a bad headache,” it is a neurological disorder with symptoms that can be felt throughout the body. 91% of people with migraine cannot function normally during an attack. The pain of migraine, which can be horrendous, other symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, extreme sensory sensitivity, fatigue, vision changes, vertigo, inability to find words, and even frequent urination. And that’s only a partial list. You can read about the many symptoms of migraine here.

The “anyone need Advil?” comment was particularly infuriating, since many people with migraine get no relief for over-the-counter painkillers and overuse of such medication can actually make a person’s migraine attacks more frequent and more severe.

The flood of angry social media messages and email that you’re receiving results from the centuries old stigmatization of migraine. It has been trivialized as women’s hysteria and an excuse to get out of work or sex practically since it was discovered. Yet migraine can be so severe that it renders a person’s life utterly unrecognizable. I know people who have lost their jobs and marriages to migraine, who have had doctors refuse to treat them because they don’t understand the severity of the disease, who have developed opioid addictions because adequate treatment wasn’t available, who have taken their own lives because of the severity of the symptoms and doctors who weren’t knowledgeable enough to help. These are people who want nothing more than to work productive jobs and spend time with their children, yet instead spend their days in dark rooms, barely able to move.

I, too, have had my life irrevocably changed by migraine. I had to quit my job 15 years ago and have been unable to return to graduate school. I have been housebound much of the time and bedridden for weeks or months at a time. I have subsisted on feeding tube formula because everything I eat is a migraine trigger. I’m doing fairly well now thanks to a new treatment yet still have to spend hours every day trying to keep my migraine attacks manageable (because I can’t keep them at bay—I get at least three a day and have to treat each one and hope the treatment works). Those are just the highlights of my losses. Migraine affects every aspect of my life, from when and if I’m able to do housework or write to the city I live in, to if I get to spend time with friends and family. It consumes my life no matter how hard I work to escape from its clutches (and I work my ass off!).

Saying the migraine pose is “damn flattering” and talking about manicures is pouring gasoline on the already-gaping wound that so many of us with migraine already feel. Please show some compassion for people who are suffering and instead help shed light on this debilitating illness.


Kerrie Smyres advocates and other migraine warriors – true migraine pose

Kerrie Smyres migraine pose
Kyky Knight Sarah Hackley migraine pose
Katie Golden migraine pose
Nancy Bonk Gretchen Church migraine pose
Lisa Benson migraine pose
Elizabeth Roberts Zibbel migraine pose
Selena Wilson migraine pose
Elizabeth Arant migraine pose
Michelle Tracy

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Luvmyfam22
    1 year ago

    I have clusters and have not been able to be on my computer for dayyyyssss! Is it to late for me to do this?

  • ShelleyTheLongPointGirl
    2 years ago

    Thanks for this awareness and advocacy article. I cannot express my anger enough about this. My son gets migraines. It is no joke. It’s nothing to laugh at. His pain is real. There are no words.

  • Selena Marie Wilson
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for this article! The information on ways to fight back is great – there are many who may not know what they can do or if their voice makes a difference.

    It does.
    There have been two magazine articles since this began about the protest being raised by people with migraine and it’s been featured on The Mighty also.

    This is a unique opportunity to make ourselves heard and to make an impact against the stigma of migraine being something trivial rather than the serious and debilitating neurological disease affecting millions that it is.

    Nam Vo has since made an apology to her followers and removed the #migrainepose hashtag from her Instagram post, and that’s a start, but the magazines who have run the article have not responded. ELLE changed the wording of the title to read “headache pose,” but the article itself has not changed. Not only is it a very superficial attempt to appear less offensive, it’s now demeaning to the many who suffer from other headache disorders.

    You would think that offending a substantial number of those who make up their target audience (and subscribers) would give them pause, but evidently it hasn’t…yet.

    The amount of people who read these magazines worldwide is huge. It’s a large stage for many to absorb either the idea that migraine is inconsequential enough to make light of.
    Or…that it’s serious enough to incur backlash. An apology and retraction would send that message, I think.

    And we deserve that. What we live with is not trivial, it’s life-changing, it’s miserable, and it takes so much from us and our families.

    Thanks for including me in this, Kerrie. I’ve got to admit it’s pretty awesome when one of the first and biggest influences on my decision to advocate makes me part of something…and it’s a good reminder that we all can play our part, no matter how small it seems.

    (❤ Sorry it’s rather long-winded!)

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