From an early age, Weronika Jachimowicz displayed an “artist’s soul.”
Her mother, Edyta, enjoyed drawing and her daughter quickly followed her lead. By around 2 or 3 years old, Weronika was already creating impressive drawings seemingly beyond her age.
“I tried to keep pushing her and it turns out she’s the best in every single thing she does,” the proud mother said.
Now 17 and a senior at Mattituck High School, Weronika recently won a competition for her drawing to appear on the school’s yearbook cover.
“A lot of people in my school would say I’m like the artistic one,” she said. “It really does warm my heart because I like it when people get inspired by my artwork.”
She also enjoys giving back to the community, whether it be through the school’s Interact Club or working on fundraisers for animal shelters. She would volunteer with a local church to feed the homeless and tutor young kids in elementary school. She grew out her hair for several years before opting to have it cut off for a wig that could be donated to a child with cancer.
“She’s very kind and loving person,” Edyta said.
On top of all that, Weronika will receive her high school diploma in June as the school’s salutatorian, an honor she humbly tried to downplay around her family. Her mother, who was born in Poland and moved to the United States at 18 without knowing any English, excitedly shared the news of her daughter’s accomplishment with everyone in their family.
Weronika said she was embarrassed at first and not used to the attention. She had no idea at the time how her accomplishment would soon ricochet across the internet — not for the merits of her work, but for her appearance.
Over the summer, Weronika joined the rest of her classmates for school yearbook photos. She dressed in what some would consider a “normal” outfit, the kind of look that blends in with the crowd. The photo was a compromise she had reached with her mom. They would each get a photo. Her mom would have the initial photo, taken when her daughter still had long hair, to eventually hang in their house. In December, Weronika had her photo retaken, this time with an entirely new look. She dressed the way she feels comfortable and how she chooses to express herself: in Goth. She wore dark lipstick, a choker, a spider web necklace and horns atop her now short, purple-shaded hair.
“I feel like it’s nothing too deep, it was everything that made me happy all at once,” she said of the attire. “I like the horns. I know a lot of people were criticizing me, saying it’s a devil worship. It’s really more simple than that. I just thought I looked cute in them.”
Weronika laughed at some of the feedback on the earrings she wore, which people interpreted as worshipping Satan.
“I just thought it looked cool,” she said.
She didn’t expect the photo to be seen beyond her school community, where classmates have become accustomed to her eccentric look.
The photo appeared in local media, including last week’s Suffolk Times for a story on valedictorians and salutatorians in each school. It soon went viral across Twitter, when a dermatologist whose in-laws live in Mattituck shared the image after seeing it in the paper. He added a concise comment on the Twitter post: “You go girl.” The Friday night post began to go viral Saturday, ultimately surging to more than a half-million likes.
Weronika hadn’t used her Twitter account frequently, but signed back in to follow the growing thread.
It was disheartening at first, she said, when the photo first went public and some initial comments were negative. She didn’t let it affect her. Privately, she received messages from people saying how it inspired them to be themselves in school.
“That really made me happy because that’s all that I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to inspire someone to not be afraid to be themselves.”
As the Twitter thread grew, comments flowed in, the vast majority supporting Weronika. Her account soon flooded to more than 30,000 followers.
“It was overwhelming,” she said.
Weronika said her choice to dress in Goth was never about seeking a spotlight. It simply made her comfortable and happy, just as how someone may prefer a certain food that differs from another’s preference. Some people may judge, she knows, and she can accept that.
I want to do anything I can to help those around me be happy with themselves.Weronika Jachimowicz
What people don’t see in the yearbook photo is the struggle she endured a few years earlier, and how accepting the Goth lifestyle helped her find a peace about herself.
For most of her childhood, Weronika dressed like a typical girl. Her mom said the transformation started about two years ago. Edyta noticed her daughter had been losing weight and took her to a doctor. She was suffering from the eating disorder anorexia, a disease that most commonly affects teenage girls.
She wound up missing several months of school during her sophomore year, her mom said, so she could focus on her health.
“We went through a lot,” Edyta said.
Weronika said the experience remains difficult to talk about, but she hopes by sharing it she can help others who may be struggling and feeling alone.
“I want to do anything I can to help those around me be happy with themselves,” she said.
When Weronika returned to school, she caught up on her missed work within a month, her mom said — a testament to her work ethic and intelligence. She’s been excelling in every way since.
Edyta said she tried to be more supportive once her daughter switched out her wardrobe for a new look following her recovery.
“No matter what I’m going to love her and support her as much as I can,” she said.
Like any parent, Edyta worried about the newfound internet fame her daughter has recently received. The last few days had been “very stressful,” she said.
Edyta said she even downloaded Twitter to try to follow some of the comments.
“It makes me feel more confident, because they are all with her,” she said. “They’re supporting her and are there for her. She’s not alone. We’re not alone.”
With her senior year winding down, Weronika has taken some time to relax while she waits to hear back from a few colleges before deciding where to attend in the fall. She knows she plans to pursue forensics with an eye toward becoming a medical examiner.
She’s always had an interest in a “darker side of things,” she said.
“I feel like it would be a very different environment for me and I feel like it would be fitting,” she said.
As school resumed Tuesday following spring break, Weronika said she was hoping things begin to return to normal. She’ll continue to dress how she feels comfortable — any awkward stares be damned.
She hopes her story resonates with people who may be struggling to find confidence in themselves. Her advice is for people to always put their own well-being first.
“If you are happy, it gives you so much more motivation to do anything,” she said.