“My high school teachers took one look at me and decided that I cannot learn chemistry, physics, and geography due to my ‘poor’ eyesight. I was also informed that since I was visually impaired, I had to learn Braille as I would be using it in my final exam.”
I met Albinism Goodwill Ambassador, Grace Nzomo when she entered a contest for the March edition of CAPTIVATING!Magazine. Born and raised in Kenya, Grace is working to improve the lives of people with albinism. In some areas of Africa, superstitions and serious misconceptions play a role in the persecution of those with the condition.
A 24-year-old psychology graduate from USIU-Africa, Grace also models part-time. In addition to expressing herself through beauty and fashion, she is also increasing awareness of albinism.
I envision a society in which persons with albinism are fully integrated, appreciated, and empowered to live up to their full potential.
The featured image is a teal, black, and white faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Even though the photo is black and white the contrast of Grace’s tam (hat) and makeup is striking. The color version of the photo included in the article shows the bright red hat, lip color, and gold choker. Blocks of text superimposed on Grace’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look.”
I was born with albinism, which caused me to be legally blind. Due to my lack of sight, I live in a world where bugs don’t exist, dust is something I only hear about but never see and everyone has flawless skin.
~Antonia Lliteras Espinosa
The Times They Are A Changin Rapidly
Aren’t we living in exciting times? I sometimes wonder what our ancestors would think if they could be here in this moment. Who would have thought we’d ever be untethered to a phone line? Or have the ability to connect with someone from around the world instantaneously? Heck, even receiving news almost as soon as it happens is almost miraculous in comparison with days gone by.
As an advocate, one of the things that really excites me is being here to see representation unfold. Just thinking about the logistics of tracking the numerous groups of people gives me heartburn. Can you imagine the group breakdowns? It’s enough to make your head spin.
Being one of the 15% of the world’s population who has a disability, seeing more representation is so empowering. When you have an online presence it’s even more so because you can meet so many more awesome people. Take today’s Blind Beauty, Antonia, for example. Prior to last week, I didn’t know this young woman. Yet thanks to Instagram, when I asked if I could share one of her posts, well, the rest is history.
The Beauty Of Unity
Since it’s out of the ordinary to see blind women on fashion magazine covers, I created Blind Beauty. Living the “be the change you wish to see” philosophy, I created this faux fashion magazine cover to highlight these women. As I’ve said since starting Bold Blind Beauty, “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.”
There are so many beautiful people in our world and the real beauty is how we lift up one another. Following is the rest of Antonia’s quote:
Out of sight out of mind, right? I have been asked many times if there was a cure whether I would take it and, to be honest, I don’t think I would. It has taken me many years to get to where I am today, but I have learned to find joy through my other senses. I appreciate the beauty in the world just as much as the next person and my visual impairment has put me in a unique position where I get to experience the raw humanity that unites us all. I get to see people at their best because I am so vulnerable to others. If I were to suddenly gain my sight, I would miss out on all this and, let’s be honest, the world would be a much dirtier place!
~Antonia Lliteras Espinosa
Blind Beauty 74 Featured Image Description:
Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Antonia’s image on the cover is black & white. In this photo, Antonia is standing in front of a tiled wall posing with her white cane. She looks fabulous in a lace cami, jeans, jacket, shades, and a handbag over her right shoulder. Blocks of text superimposed on Antonia’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”
This photo is a color image of the Featured Photo. The tiled wall is sort of a dark teal color. Antonia has a white/blonde stylish bob hairstyle. Her cami is white with a light blue jacket, blue jeans, and sparkling silver sneakers. Her white cane also has a bright pink handle.
This photo shows Antonia sitting on a park bench. She’s wearing a vibrant royal blue top with a luxe velvet navy jacket with jeans and black flats. Her white cane is propped up against the bench. In the background parked vehicles and storefronts can be seen.
“Saying things like “You don’t look albino” or “oh you just look light skin so you’re ok” that’s NOT OK! People with Albinism can look different from the next person with Albinism. So yes, however way they appear to you that is what a person with Albinism looks like.”
Professional Makeup Artist, J Renée, did a recent Q&A with Abby here at Bold Blind Beauty. on magnetic eyelashes. Today, she is addressing a more serious issue about misconceptions on Albinism and appearance.
When I saw the video included in today’s post I was happy and angry at the same time, let me explain. I was happy because I love it when people look out for one another. In this video, J Renée speaks to inappropriate comments another young woman received on YouTube.
The young woman who has Albinism was on the receiving end of tasteless comments because people ‘felt’ she didn’t ‘look’ the part. This is where I got angry as not only did assumptions surface but going a step further some took it upon themselves to ‘correct’ her.
“You Don’t Look…”
Why does there have to be an all or nothing approach when it comes to people or the conditions we live with? Why can’t we accept that we are as varied and at the same time as complex as our individual genetic makeup? When people share are open enough to share their story the least we can do is be open enough to receive it without challenging their identity.
We invite you to enjoy J. Renée video on Albinism Awareness:
Blind Beauty Issue 38 Featured Image Description:
Blind Beauty is a mock fashion magazine cover. Jennifer Renée is wearing a purple shirt and posing in front of a white background with her hand by her chin. She is wearing purple and pink eyeshadows and magenta lip gloss. Her natural golden blonde hair is pulled back in a ponytail.
Blocks of text superimposed on J Renée’s photo are: “Bold | She Keeps Pressing Onward,” “Blind | She Has Deeper Insight,” “Beautiful | She Sees To The Heart Of Others.”
Image #1 In this photo, J Renée’s long blond hair is flowing freely while framing her face. The background is pretty jewel-toned turquoise and she is wearing pink/fuchsia tee and jacket. Her lip color is fuchsia and she’s wearing turquoise colored eyeshadow.
Image #2 J Renée looks fabulous with her hair in braids and she is wearing a muted lip color and a purple blouse.
“As a person with albinism, my skin, hair, and eyes lack pigment, resulting in a fair porcelain complexion, light blonde-white hair, and light blue/grey eyes. Albinism is typically accompanied by low vision, but there is a wide spectrum for people with albinism in terms of eyesight and photophobia (sensitivity to light).” ~Nicole Schultz-Kass
Beauty Is An Alabaster Princess
When I was asked if I would write about my experiences for Bold, Blind, Beauty, I have to admit, some of the insecurities of my youth emerged. “Do I even fit with the other women who have shared their experiences?”, I thought, “Am I really a bold, blind, beautiful woman?”
The answer is, “Yes!” But, that answer doesn’t always come easily when decades of insecurity preceded finding my strength and confidence.
When I was a child, all I wanted was to be like everyone else. I would have given anything just to fit in.
I was born with a condition called Oculocutaneous Albinism, which is also the primary cause of my blindness. As a result, my experience with blindness is closely intertwined with my experience of beauty and physical appearance. I believe it is not coincidental that as I accepted my blindness, I also began to find a true appreciation for my own unique beauty.
As a person with albinism, my skin, hair, and eyes lack pigment, resulting in a fair porcelain complexion, light blonde-white hair, and light blue/grey eyes. Albinism is typically accompanied by low vision, but there is a wide spectrum for people with albinism in terms of eyesight and photophobia (sensitivity to light). My eyesight has always hovered between a measured acuity of 20/200 and 20/400 with strong photophobia. As I have aged, my photophobia and functional vision have worsened.
From Angst To Beauty
When I was young, standing out and being seen as someone so visibly different in appearance left me self-conscious. I felt shy and far less confident in myself than I would like to admit. Throughout my childhood, and into adulthood, I didn’t recognize “beauty” in myself. At least not the aesthetic “beauty” typically referred to with that word. My grandmother would say I was beautiful (I mean, she’s a bit biased). I’ve always had a beautiful heart and deep caring for others and could recognize this “inner beauty.” But, if I stood next to any other female my age, I couldn’t see physical beauty in myself. I felt so different from everyone around me.
It wasn’t until my late twenties or early thirties that I came to recognize, accept, and truly appreciate, that the features I have because of albinism: my porcelain skin, my white hair, and the unique blue-grey of my eyes, these features are rare, they are beautiful, and they are MINE.
This past summer, at the age of 36, my husband and I attended his university alumni reunion, and a friend of ours referred to me as an “Alabaster Princess.” At that moment, he managed to bring together decades of personal struggle with “beauty” in a pivotal, beautiful moment. It was one of those “aha” moments Oprah talked about throughout her career. Aha, my friends, I AM an Alabaster Princess, and I AM BEAUTIFUL!
For many years, due to a combination of lack of services offered by my school district, and my self-defeatist avoidance of anything “different”, I refused to travel with a cane. I completed schoolwork and activities with top grades but endured neck, back strain and massive headaches from eye strain. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I came to understand and accept my blindness as part of me. I believe being blind has been as important in my development as my values, hopes, and talents, but that blindness is still JUST one part of who I am.
Around age twenty, I attended adjustment to blindness training, which may seem silly to an observer when you consider I had been blind since birth. This training allowed me to meet others blind people and helped me move toward self-acceptance. It also provided me with the tools I needed to be independent, competent, safe, and confident. I began traveling with a long, white cane, learned the basics of Braille, and learned how to go through life as a bold, blind, beautiful woman with confidence. I became a guide dog handler a decade later and experienced yet another level of confidence, poise, and grace as I traveled with a canine partner.
My blindness is one piece of the puzzle that is “me”. (If you ask my husband, that’s probably one massive, complex, 3D puzzle!) I am a daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, advocate, counselor, speaker, writer, blogger, and crafter. I love life–enjoy this world full of color, reading, movies, travel, organizing, meeting new people, inspiring others to live their best life and lifelong learning. There are many things I’m good at, and there are things I am working to improve–just like anyone else.
Coming Full Circle
When I was a child, all I wanted to do was fit in. But as I consider the course of my life, I wanted to fit in when I was born to stand out. I wanted to be invisible in this world where, for some reason, my greater purpose involves being seen.
Today, I am a bold, blind, beautiful woman because I utilize the tools of blindness. Today, I am a bold, blind, beautiful woman. I know who I am, what I have to offer the world, and that I may be blind, but blindness will not stop me from living life fully, learning, growing, and giving, one day at a time.
WOTM 33 Featured Image Description:
Photo credit for all images in this post goes to Colleen McKinzie Photography. Nicole, her husband, two daughters, and a female yellow lab, Picassa, are posing outdoors on a sunny autumn day. They are sitting on a wooden deck surrounded by autumn colored foliage.
Nicole and her two daughters are standing together outside on grass under a golden/orange oak tree. Her right arm is wrapped around her oldest daughter while the youngest is sitting atop her shoulders.
In this photo (similar to the featured image) the family standing.