Earlier today, I went to the hair salon.
I was very pleased with the end result. So when I got home, I decided take snap a few selfies. I decided to put on one of the new lipsticks I recently purchased, just to add a bit of color to my face and play up on my new ‘do.
After taking several photos, and posting my top picks to social media, I decided to send one to my mom. She loves when I get my hair done, she also doesn’t have very many pictures of me in her phone.
Her response was not what I was hoping for.
She said, “Your hair looks nice but you need some concealer.” I quipped back asking “Who wears concealer at home?” She was under the impression I had gone or was going out.
This exchange got me thinking about the messages we send young girls and women about beauty. More specifically, those who have disabilities.
Growing up, my mom always made sure I was well kept. My clothes were always clean and never out of place, my hair was always styled to perfection, and she was not at all shy about introducing me to makeup in my teenage years.
It was fun for a while but quickly grew exhausting. I didn’t want to look so perfect all the time. I got tired of her straightening my clothes whenever I leaned in my chair or getting upset if I stained them during lunch at school.
I began to dread the 2 hour long efforts she made to straighten my thick, curly hair every Sunday. I saw no point in wearing makeup every day from homeroom to eighth period in high school. I was there to learn, not impress others.
Needless to say, all this had and still has a profound impact on the way I see myself and the beauty standards I set. It took me years to appreciate my natural hair, un-arched brows, and a simple non-acrylic manicure.
Further, it took me years to unlearn the notion that my disability somehow subtracted from my beauty. That I didn’t have to wear tight clothes, tons of makeup, or glamorous hair to get people to see past my wheelchair. It’s not meant to be overlooked but acknowledged as part of the package.
In an industry that already holds all women to a ridiculous and unrealistic standard of perfection, yet overlooks those who are somehow different, we owe it to ourselves and our girls to do better. Even with strides being made thanks to models like Madeline Stuart and Jillian Mercado, we must remember that it starts at home.
Teach the girls in your life that makeup is meant to enhance beauty, not create it. That clothing is meant to be comfortable and cute. You wear your clothes, they don’t wear you. Finally, that she is still pretty in her wheelchair, on crutches, wearing AFOs, etc. Beauty and disability can coexist, one needn’t overshadow the other.