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WOTM 10 Featuring Suzanne Gibson

River’s Edge

Photo of Suzanne Gibson
Suzanne Gibson

Friday’s have always been my favorite day. When I was in the corporate world it was a welcome prelude to the respite of the weekend to come. Today, I become re-energized by featuring strong, independent, influential women who happen to share a common thread of blindness or low vision.

In preparing to write these pieces I always ask the person I’m writing about for permission and request that they send me a couple of paragraphs to work from. For those with websites and social media users I can glean interesting, informative, and inspirational data that makes for a good narrative.

My advice to every young person who crosses my path, everyone actually, is to keep pursuing what it is that you love. If you are creative, create. Do not be too busy; do not tell me about your limited budget. Find a way to do something. I did not always follow this advice. I became distracted many times with life.

Suzanne Gibson, a very talented local artist who owns River’s Edge studio in New Brighton, PA, is no exception to the unbelievable fortitude of people I hold in the highest regard. Prior to contacting her, I saw some articles written about her in a few of our local newspapers.

Suzanne Gibson Painting His Majesty (a very colorful majestic bird)
Suzanne Gibson
“His Majesty”

I knew Suzanne experienced vision loss and yet she was still passionate about her art. What I didn’t know were the other extraordinary circumstances she went through that were unrelated to her loss of vision.

The tumor was growing again, and I would need radiation. The daily radiation treatments lasted 6 weeks, but recovering took much longer. To add to this challenge, the week after I finished radiation, I received the news that my visual acuity was 20/200 and that I could no longer drive.

I think for most of us, to receive a simultaneous diagnosis of vision loss and a brain tumor, would be devastatingly frightening. Just when Suzanne was beginning life anew as a painter she had to endure this inconceivable news.

After her first brain surgery, Suzanne’s inspiration to keep moving forward was found in the works of blind artist John Bramblitt. She began painting canvasses and contemplating her second chance at life. While Suzanne was considering the direction her life would take next, life dealt her another blow.

The brain tumor was back. After another brain surgery and a 6 week course of daily radiation therapy, the recovery period this time around was considerably longer than the first time. With the added complication of worsening vision, Suzanne was introduced to adaptive devices to aid her in continuing to paint and live independently.

…without Lex Luther, there is no Superman and without this ‘disability’, I would not be painting the way that I do. This vision loss that could have struck me down has, instead, led me to explore myself and dig deep into my soul to paint expression and feeling.

During the experimental painting phase, while using the adaptive devices, there were some initial disappointments but then Suzanne created a piece aptly named Enjoy the Moment.” When I look at this painting I’m reminded of an indescribably beautiful summer day. The explosion of reds, yellows, oranges, greens, blues and purples along with the curves and angles of the two flowers tickle the senses. I can even imagine feeling the warmth of the day while hearing the birds sing as I inhale the sweet scent of the flowers. It’s a beautiful moment. The success Suzanne gained by this painting gave her the confidence she needed to continue her craft.

Suzanne Gibson Enjoy the Moment
Suzanne Gibson
“Enjoy the Moment”

Suzanne sent me 3 of her paintings which I’ve included in today’s post. I like and appreciate all 3 for different reasons but ‘My Nemesis was the one that really spoke to me. As soon as I saw it, without knowing what the cause of Suzanne’s loss of vision, I thought “this reminds me of my central vision loss.” So when I looked at an essay she wrote with the same name as the painting it clicked.

Suzanne Gibson Painting "my nemesis"
Suzanne Gibson
“My Nemesis”

Suzanne was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease an inherited vision disorder with macular degeneration that typically affects younger people. The macula, located in the center of the retina is responsible for detailed central vision needed to read, drive, recognize faces, etc.

Suzanne, you are an amazing example of what a person can achieve even when faced with adversity. Your strength, determination, and courage are admirable and you are a remarkable role model.

I’d like to encourage you to visit Suzanne’s website at www.riversedgestudio.com to see some of the offerings. In ending today’s post, because I like Suzanne’s philosophy on life, I’m using one of her quotes.

“My advice remains the same: enjoy the moment- do not wait for tomorrow. You do not know what that day will bring. However, when you do reach tomorrow and it is not what you thought it would be, REVISE!” ~Suzanne Gibson

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Possibilities

Impacting Positive Change

Image of a heart drawn with crayon
February is National Heart Healthy Month

Today there is so much going on in my brain I don’t know where to begin so I’ll start with an article a blogger friend of mine, Alicia Searcy, passed on to me yesterday. Alicia has an intimate understanding of the challenges faced by people with disabilities. Her blog Spashionista, focuses on “the trials and tribulations of a 50+ fashionista with cerebral palsy who wants women of all ages and abilities to look and feel beautiful.”

The article Alicia shared was about the first model in a wheelchair to ever take to the runway at New York’s Fashion Week on February 6, 2014. I love what the model, Danielle Sheypuk, had to say about how she felt as she approached the runway. “I felt sexy and glamorous. Most importantly, I felt like all of the other models there. We were all women who have achieved significantly and made outstanding contributions to our community. I just happened to use a wheelchair.”

Model Danielle Sheypuk 'People with disabilities are consumers of fashion' Photograph: Peter Hurley
Model Danielle Sheypuk
‘People with disabilities are consumers of fashion’
Photograph: Peter Hurley

The designer, Carrie Hammer debuted her collection with “Role Models, Not Runway Models” which, when you think about it, the majority of women out here are not runway models. I needed to share this with you today as it speaks to the heart of my message which is simply impacting positive change. I really do “trust my vision of possibilities regardless of universal skepticism.” If you would like to check out the article on Danielle and Carrie you can see it www.theguardian.com.

Jessica Howard Sleeveless Dot Collar Shirt Dress - JCPenney this mock wrap dress is ideal for the pear shape.
Jessica Howard Sleeveless Dot Collar Shirt Dress
JC Penney

Remember on Saturday’s post how I was telling you about my miserable attempt at a radio interview? Well, today I get confirmation that I needn’t worry so much as Bold Blind Beauty and another fantastic blog were featured on VisionAware. This was so unexpected and wholeheartedly welcome I can’t adequately express how good it felt to receive the news that my blog is gaining some traction. To read the post you can get to it by clicking this link Meet a Bold Blind Beauty and a Deafblind Mother.

Bisou Bisou® Cowlneck Knit Tank - Fashion - JCPenney. This sleeveless cowl-neck also works very well for the pear.
Bisou Bisou® Cowlneck Knit Tank
JC Penney

The Pleasant Pear

Now I can focus on today’s body shape which is the Pear or sometimes referred to as Triangle of which I am one. Roughly 20 percent of women fall into this category. The simplest description of the Pear shape is narrow shoulders and full hips/thighs.

Black & White Striped Pocket Dress front
Black & White Striped Pocket Dress front

Since looking good in your clothes is a matter of highlighting your positives and downplaying your weaknesses it’s really all about illusion. Wearing clothes for your specific body shape help to maintain the illusion as well as proper fitting clothes help you to look good in your chosen outfits.

Black & White Striped Pocket Dress
Black & White Striped Pocket Dress

How do we camouflage our hips/thighs while at the same time draw attention to our upper body?

  • Tops: Scooped and square necklines visually widen the shoulders, as will embellishments along the neckline. Exposing one or both shoulders also draws attention to your upper body. I have 2 very comfortable ruched cowl-necked tops that I typically pair with a cami underneath and expose one shoulder.
  • Waistlines: The empire waistline displays your small waist while minimizing the hips. Choose dresses that gently taper at the waist and slightly flare out over the hips and thighs. An A-line or pleated skirt, nipped at the waist will balance out your bottom half and give a leaner look.
  • Pants: Pants that minimize hips by slimming or elongating as well as tailored darker colors are ideal for the pear shape.
  • Jeans: Boot cut with a slight flare at the bottom work best for our shape.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave a note in the comments section or you can email me direct at boldblindbeauty@gmail.com.

“People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”  ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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WOTM 9 Featuring Emily Davison

Featuring Fashioneyesta – Prepare to be Awed!

I find it interesting how we can meet people in this high-tech virtual world we live in and feel a kindred spirit that can’t be duplicated even in face-to-face interactions. For me Emily Davison is one of those people who, while there is a span of decades between us, we share common philosophies.

Collage of 6 Images of Emily Davison Fashioneyesta.com
Emily Davison
Fashioneyesta

Emily, who spent her entire life in South East London, is currently studying for a degree in English Literature at Goldsmiths University, London. As a Journalist on the Huffington Post UK, Emily simultaneously works at the University as a paid Student Ambassador. In July 2012 she founded Fashioneyesta an online Fashion and Lifestyle resource for blind and partially sighted people.

Fashioneyesta.com serves to present visually impaired people with the tools, the skills and, the knowledge of fashion, beauty and, style to enable them to use their remaining senses to gauge the world of fashion and to create their own unique style.

An advocate at her core, Emily also works with a number of different charities and organizations to raise awareness of Fashioneyesta. She functions as a fashion correspondent alongside the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB’s) Insight Radio and Able Radio.

Being blind or visually impaired does not automatically mean that you have to be unfashionable. That is the message at the crux of my blog “Fashioneyesta.”

Fashion has always been a huge element of Emily’s life. When she was growing up, she was captivated by old Hollywood films and style icons like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. The fashion houses, vintage stores and many delightful chic-lits were the inspiration for her to delve into the history and the beauty of fashion. By the time she was 14, her mother bought Emily her first designer bag and the rest as they say, is History!

“Fashioneyesta” aims at giving visually impaired people the right set of knowledge and skills to be able to develop their own unique style.

Emily describes her style as feminine, with exotic flares, vintage twists and a lot of costume jewelry. She’s very versatile and changes her look as her mood dictates. One day, she may step out in an Asian inspired outfit and on another day go full-out Vintage with Victory Rolls and a 1940s inspired tea dress.

My thesis as a fashion blogger is that style should reflect your own personality and that you should put your own stamp on an outfit.

Septo-optic dysplasia, a rare congenital anomaly, is the condition responsible for Emily’s visual impairment. The condition has disabled her optic nerves, leaving her with no sight in her right eye and 10 percent central vision in her left. Even with this debilitating disability Emily has not allowed it to hinder her love for fashion.

Now, with her beautiful Guide Dog, Unity, in tow, Emily is exploring the world and expanding her blog. A blog that she hopes will inspire other visually impaired people to embrace fashion, old and new, to find their own unique style.

Always remember to be daring and don’t conform to what society expects you to be!

Mainstream media is good for bombarding the public with news of gloom and doom. In such a fast-paced world as we live in today I am always overjoyed to hear about young people taking it upon themselves to make positive change happen. Emily you are to be commended for your selfless volunteerism and your dedication to banishing the aged-old stereotypes of blind and vision impaired people. Thank you Emily for all you do. Because of you we are one step closer to eliminating the erroneous misconceptions by education and building awareness.

For more information on Fashioneyesta or Emily Davison please see links to her social networks at the end of this post.

“The best way to gain self-confidence is to do what you are afraid to do.” ~Author Unknown

Social Links

“My blog is featured every week on RNIB’s Insight Radio at 2:15 pm on the Daily Lunch every Friday. I have also been featured on BBC4’s inTouch radio. I do regular blog posts every week, they cover different topics from certain styles and how to achieve them to a selection of my top picks for a particular month.”

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Trending Now – Confidence!

A gold medal is a nice thing – but if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it. ~From Cool Runnings

Image of a heart drawn with crayon
February is National Heart Healthy Month

So I just got home from a visit to my low vision specialist. I got to try out a couple of new gadgets like a pair of reading glasses with this cool bubble on the one lens. To use them I need to hold reading material very close to my face but it gets the job done. They would allow me to read instructions on medicine or a recipe even.

To get to the doctor’s office I have to walk down a number of long corridors. And of course there’s no hiding the fact that I use a white cane as one can hear the echo of the ball tip rolling to and fro with each step I take.

Even though I’ve been using my cane for about three years now I still can feel a little self-conscious so my remedy is to walk like I own the joint. So it was with head held high, sunglasses, black leggings, black tank top, black boyfriend jacket, black & white zebra/leopard print fringed scarf tied around my neck, I made my way to my destination.

I am always so inspired by out of the ordinary occurrences. When I was waiting for my para-transit ride home a woman sitting in a chair next to me said “we have the same stick.” I laughed, we exchanged pleasantries, got into a discussion on our individual vision impairments and I ended up recruiting her for the Low Vision Committee of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind.

On the way home the song that I’ve claimed as my mantra, Make it Happen by Mariah Carey, kept swirling around in my head. It shouldn’t have been a surprise because when using the treadmill this morning I heard this song and was reminded that life is tough but we need to persevere even in the face of adversity.

Trials happen and some can challenge our confidence but we must keep pushing forward. I should not be where I am and had I listened to naysayers I would not have progressed to this point.

We have to wear clothes because to go around nude would be, well, unacceptable. However I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say that confidence is the most important item we can wear.

Trends come and trends go but how you feel about yourself is paramount. So when thinking about trends, you want to go with what flatters your body. For example I cannot wear tunics of any kind due to my body type. I don’t consider this a flaw I just need to find a suitable alternative which leads me into today’s trending topic.

Shape Shifting Style

Since the numbers indicate 46 percent of women are rectangle in shape. Rectangles do not have a defined waistline and the key here is to create curves. Following are clothing tips for you rectangles.

  • Form curves: Look for scooped or sweetheart necklines; tops with collars, ruffles and detail will define your curves. You want to avoid high and square necklines
  • Cinched waistlines: To provide distinction between the size of the waist and the bust, a cinched waistline will add definition. Tops, jackets and coats with a cinched waistline are ideal for this shape. Adding a belt also helps to create the illusion of curves.
  • Looking Lean: Long and lean jackets accentuate the rectangle shape.
  • Layers: Wear clothes that have layers for example wearing a tee-shirt inside your shirt or just a sleeveless tee-shirt on top of another tee-shirt.
  • Pants: Pencil pants emphasize the legs and make you look lean although the rectangular shape can wear just about any pants with the exception of baggy jeans.

Next week I’ll talk about the Pear Shape.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.” ~Karen Ravn