Don’t you just love it when things seem to magically work out? I sure do. Last week I put out a message to our Bold Blind Beauty Facebook group asking them what type of content they’d like to see. One respondent said they’d like “to hear about more blind or disabled artists, musicians, writers, poets, etc.” So imagine my surprise when I happened upon this beautiful poem that talks about misconceptions and challenges us to be more empathetic? I’m seldom on Facebook which makes finding this gem all the more special. Thank you Suzanne for allowing Bold Blind Beauty to share your words. This one spoke to my heart and I hope many, many others will feel the same way. Enjoy! ~Steph
Just See Me
What do you see, hey what do you see? What are you thinking when you’re looking at me? A funny young woman who tries and tries. Unsure of the dark, has a torch for eyes. Who uses her cane from A to B, And you say to her “It’s over there can’t you see?” Who seems not to notice you right by her side, Her peripheral vision has gone, her dog is her guide. But how can she read that book on her lap? She’s wearing dark glasses and is with a blind chap. Her glasses are dark to help with the glare, So please don’t think you need to stare. But she seems to stare, as she tries to focus. And she’s using her phone? What hocus pocus! And as for texting her friend from Dover, Did you know that she uses voice-over? Go to your phone settings, click accessibility, You’ll then see the aids she can use easily. Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see? Then open your eyes, you’re not looking at me. I’m a kind loving person, who has learnt to adapt. When in the past has felt so trapped. Who can watch TV with audio description. Her favourite comedy, laughter needs no prescription. Who can do anything her heart desires. She just does it differently, but she never tires. She can no longer drive on a conventional road. But don’t let that stop her, she’ll find a mode. A blind driving place, see her little heart soar. And watch her drive off in a 4×4! So just stop and think, when you see her next time. And wonder what obstacles she’s successfully climbed. She’s stumbled and fallen, but got up and stayed. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So open your eyes hey, open and see. Not a funny young woman, look closer just see me.
In an ongoing effort to increase awareness on sight loss/blindness, Bold Blind Beauty contributor Cheryl Minnette will be inviting readers into the world of what it’s like to live with severe sight loss. These articles are created with the intention of continuing meaningful conversation while further connecting blind and sighted people. We hope you will enjoy these quarterly pieces that will be published under Beauty Buzz & Blog Biz and tagged “Awareness & Sensitivity.”
“I hope I can do this.”
“A little more variety from the color palette would have helped.”
There are so many beautiful colors in the world, such a vast rainbow to observe. In addition to the many shades, you have your pales, your brights, your darks and your lights. Any color, any hue that you can imagine is some type of blend. So what happens when the color choice is just one? One single color, with no other. No other color to compliment it. No other color to offset it. No other color to contrast with it. How does this single hue appear to you?
Knowing the Flow and Slaying It!!
Come along with me on a journey that will allow you to gain some mental insight into someone else’s world. Indulge me a moment by closing your eyes as I walk you through a scenario. Are you ready? Let’s go!
All are chatting away and excitement is in the air, electrifying it, as everyone is escorted through the venue. Anticipation peaks as a pair of highly arched, white French doors swing open to reveal the outdoor wedding reception. Immediately you step onto the first of a limited number of oversized white steppingstones, that wind throughout the beautifully manicured lawn. With the sun shining brightly overhead, you may just barely be able to see the tables that are spectacularly decorated off in the distance.
The first thing you must do is get from point A to point B while trying to appear as graceful as possible. The steppingstones may not be too much of a problem, but look out for those unseen changes in the terrain. A beautiful scene, but not the most ideal place for a blind girl in her stilettos. As the maneuvering continues, all are wondering what will take place when the festivities begin.
Getting situated at your table and meeting the other table guests is always an interesting process. As you get closer, you hear people marveling at the beauty of the vision before them. There are all-white tablescapes that start with a tablecloth that gently drapes down to kiss the lawn, and chairs that have been stylishly dressed with white chair covers that are snatched with a rear bow and shimmering with crystal and pearl embellishments. As you approach the seating area, the multiple tablescapes appear to be a large white danger zone, an accident waiting to happen. Your mind now begins to race as it is searching and wondering, ‘How on God’s green earth will I get through this?’ Caution becomes the word of the day, as you proceed very cautiously to ensure that minimal damage occurs, but hoping there will be none at all. The challenge here is that, although you pretty much know what should be on the table, you just don’t see it.
For instance, you may know there’s a place setting, but what type is the question. One must consider what their entire place setting consists of. You know there will be silverware, but the number of pieces is the variable, since there may be between three and eight. Did you know that in this setting the reflection from the sun can cause silverware to disappear, as they can appear to be white? Having a clear item on a sunny day like crystal stemware adds another layer of challenges. You know it’s there, but where and how many is what you need to figure out before they are inadvertently knocked over.
Note that without any contrast, sun or no sun, everything on the table can blend together as one. So with the place settings, silverware, and crystal stemware, rounding out these tablescapes are large green and white floral arrangements in a tall crystal vase, which is set upon an octagon-shaped mirrored centerpiece. White pearl strands are swirled around the table with crystal accents sprinkled all around.
With this scenario, I’m sure you can understand the pitfalls that would be challenging for someone with severe vision loss and contrast challenges. Is the scene beautiful? Yes, it is. Could it become a tragic scene? Yes, I could. Can one acquire the skills to move through this scenario with poise and grace? Yes, one most definitely can!
These are some of the things that one has to process and work through as part of their day to day life style.
On the one hand, if you are sighted, this monochromatic display may be a breathtakingly picturesque sight to behold. On the other hand, for someone whose visual challenge deals with contrast and severe vision loss, having this tablescape could be like walking a bull through a China Shop. The bull may not demolish the shop, but some damage will definitely occur.
Give us your thoughts as you comment below as to what you became aware of, what you would like to know, and what you were able to relate to. Your insights and expressions are appreciated.
A pair of silver wedding bands tied together with white satin ribbon on
So recently I sat down with my creator, Stephto get a better understanding of how I came into existence. It was so cool talking with Steph, learning a little about her creative process, and eventually becoming the voice of Bold Blind Beauty. During our conversation, I mention two fabulous people Chelsea Nguyen, CN Vision Image Consulting, and Alexa Jovanovic of Aille Designs. You’ll hear more about these remarkable women going forward. So, sit back, relax, and listen to our conversation or if you prefer to follow along by reading I’ve provided the transcript. ~Abby
Abby: Hey, guys. It’s me, Abby. I’m super excited to be here and it’s awesome! I’m hanging out with my creator, Steph, and she’s amazing, the creator of Bold Blind Beauty and me, the fashion icon Abby. How are you today, Steph?
Steph: I’m doing well, Abby. How are you?
Abby: I’m feeling so alive! I mean, there’s so much that you and I have done together, and as many lives as we’ve changed and people that we’ve met, it’s just super exciting! Don’t you think?
Steph: It’s extremely exciting to know that you came about from the idea of all the blind and visually impaired women around the world who are doing amazing things and focusing on what we can do versus what we can’t do. It’s just amazing to me.
Abby: It is, and I feel like the fact that I was created by taking parts of different women that are everybody… I mean, people that are like super outgoing, people that can rock stilettos and have our canes and we don’t care because we know that we’re awesome!
Steph: It makes me happy knowing that you’ve come to life. You were just an idea, and to know that life was breathed into you from a mere seedling of an idea, a combination of every blind and visually impaired woman around the world is just something I could only dream of. And now to know that you are here totally blows me away!
Abby: It does me, too, and I love the fact that we’re doing this. But let’s talk about those dreams. What were you thinking of when you were dreaming of this personally?
Steph: Personally, what I was thinking was, my own personal experience of losing my sight, and how people looked at me, was how to help them understand that just because I use a white cane or because I can no longer see doesn’t mean that I’m less of a person, that I still have value, and that the white cane is simply a tool that I use to now navigate the world.
Abby: Yeah, and I think we rock ours very well with our stylish clothing and our impeccable makeup that we learn to do from so many people like Chelsea, and we have our fashion designers like Alexa and all of the fun people in our lives. I don’t understand how a cane can be looked at in such a way of negativity. I think it’s almost fear. Don’t you?
Steph: I do and honestly, that’s the way I had to look at it. Before I started using the cane, I, too, looked at it as a negative. I felt that using the cane would make me a victim. I felt like I would have a target on my back. I didn’t look at it as a tool of empowerment until it came down to the point where I had to use it and today, I’m so happy to say that I go nowhere without my cane. As a matter of fact, if I do, perchance, when I’m out somewhere and I lean it up against something to look at something close up, if I walk away, I feel naked without it. So I have to have my cane with me everywhere I go, and I’m so happy.
Abby: I myself was so incredibly nervous at first, but the more and more confident you got, I believe as my creator, the more confident I got to be able to rock my cane, too. I couldn’t have been able to go do the amazing things I’ve done all over the world and met the amazing people had it not been for your strength. So tell us. How did you get over that fear?
Steph: Getting over the fear of using the cane, it took some time, it was a process. I can’t pretend that one day I woke up and I wasn’t using the cane, then I woke up and started using it, it was not like that. It was something I had to go through and it’s different for everybody. Not everyone looks at the cane initially as a negative thing, there are some people who look at it as the tool that it is a tool of empowerment. They know that it is a gift of independence, but for me, it really took some time. After I had my orientation and mobility training, I had to really think about it. I put it away, I put it in a closet and I just needed time to think. But while I was thinking, of course, I was living and in so doing, almost got hit by a car on a route that I traveled regularly. Because I knew the route, I thought it was safe. It was during that time that I realized I needed to rethink some things.
Abby: Yeah, I think you made a really good point, there’s a point in every person’s life men and women alike that we do have a yikes moment and ours (you and I) just happens to be blindness. But it’s still going through that process of living and figuring out who we are and still rocking forward. So tell us how did you get to that point where you were like ‘okay I’m done with the fear of blindness and being able to bond with it, because I feel like we had to get over that first before we could embrace our canes as power? Talk about what that was like.
Steph: That too was a process. What I had to do was accept my new normal. I had to accept the fact that I could no longer do things that I used to do the way I used to do them. I had to learn how to do things a little bit differently. I think one of the major fears of blindness is the fact that people feel they’re out of control, and the way I had to look at it was, number one, I’m not in control of much anyway as far as life is concerned, and I would have to learn how to trust, and I think the cane taught me that. Because the distance between my feet and the farthest the cane can reach, that’s all the further that I can really see. I can’t see beyond that, but that’s OK because as long as I’m within that perimeter with my cane, I’m good to go. So it was sort of a combination of learning to trust, learning to do things differently, learning to trust myself and above all, learning to accept my disability.
Abby: And how much power is in that, finding acceptance?
Steph: There is so much power in finding acceptance! Finding acceptance helps to wipe away the fear, and if not wipe it away, at least it makes the fear more manageable. I was so afraid when I was told I was legally blind and that there was no more the doctors could do for me. All I could think of was what I couldn’t do, how my life was going to be impacted and all the things I wouldn’t be able to achieve. I didn’t think that I could still achieve those things but achieve them in a different way. So once I got to the point where I could accept the fact that I could no longer see, that was when I felt empowered.
Abby: And that’s the day that I was born.
Steph: Yes it was!
Abby: Let’s tell everybody about what all I am.
Steph: Oh my goodness! There are so many things that you are! You’re everything that I wanted to be. You’re my alter ego. You are strong. You’re a go-getter. You just don’t let anything stop you, and yet at the same time, you’re vulnerable.
Abby: Tell everyone what all I encompass, for you, and for other women that you’ve met, sighted or not.
Steph: Abby, you encompass everything I’ve ever wanted to be within myself, and really, when I view other women, you’re strong. You’re outgoing. You’re unafraid to face obstacles. You know that these things exist, but yet, you are the type of person who looks at them as opportunities. You don’t look at obstacles as something that is going to take you down or something that can hold you back. You’re just someone who is persistent, you encourage other people, and you allow others to feel like there’s nothing that they can’t do because of who you are.
Abby: I can’t imagine being anybody else than the person that you’ve created me to be, and what I want to tell everybody is, I’m so glad to be here! I’m so glad to be talking! You guys are going to see so much coming from this amazing woman and my creator and myself! We’re going to take on the world and we’re going to bring it to you, because together, we are strong and we are going to squash fear, one cane tap at a time, in our stilettos with our fashion and our fun and our purpose. That’s who we are. High five to you, Steph.
Steph: High five right back you, Abby.
Abby: For now we’re out, guys, but stay tuned. Can’t wait to correspond with you. Check out my fashion tips, my fun, my adventures, and my vulnerability. Because I share it all.
Be well and be safe everyone. I leave you with a song I’ve claimed as my anthem. Enjoy!
In one bubble Abby says: I myself was so incredibly nervous at first, but the more and more confident you got, I believe as my creator, the more confident I got to be able to rock my cane, too.
In the other bubble Steph says: There is so much power in finding acceptance! Finding acceptance helps to wipe away the fear, and if not wipe it away, at least it makes the fear more manageable.
Photo of Abby in Central Park on a sunny afternoon. She’s looking chic in a teal tank top paired with gray joggers while posed kneeling next to her retired guide dog, Alexis, a beautiful Yellow Lab. As in all of her photos, Abby is sporting her signature explosive hairstyle.
“When you base your confidence on who you are, instead of what you accomplish, you have created something that no one or no circumstance can ever take away from you.”
~Barbara De Angelis
Today’s Woman On The Move and fashionista, Terese Goran offers her insight on the topic of confidence for those new to sight loss. Terese was featured on Bold Blind Beauty last week, you can check out the article here: Blind Beauty 77 | Terese Goran
Early Love For Fashion & Makeup
I have to confess, when I was asked to write this, I wasn’t sure how to contribute. Personal style and confidence in how we look are so important to our identity. Growing up I really struggled with the way I looked, frequently hearing comments about how my eyes looked funny. Even at the age of 50, there are still some days where I lack confidence in my appearance. When I was growing up, my parents owned and ran a ladies fashion store, and this is where I developed my love for clothes and makeup.
As someone who has been legally blind all my life, I can’t speak to knowing what it’s like to lose my vision, because I never had it to begin with. However, in my career as an Assistive Technology Specialist, I work with a lot of people who are at the beginning of their vision loss. Most of these people are trying to come to grips with their situation. They may still be overwhelmed and not realize that it is still possible to do most things, even without vision. One question that I get asked repeatedly is “How do you get dressed?”. The simple answer is one step at a time.
Easy Answer To A Simple Question
It is such a simple question and a task that many take for granted. But no matter what your vision situation is, looking and feeling confident and put together can be possible. So here’s my advice:
First things first. Be open to learning to do things in a different way than you have done them in the past. There ARE ways to do practically anything you want to, from putting on makeup to matching your clothes, but they will likely be different than how you did them before. You have to be open to learning new ways of doing things.
Secondly, take things one step at a time and be patient with yourself. Learning to do things in new ways will take time and practice. I’ve had to develop my sense of feel over the years to tell where my makeup is applied. I don’t mean by paying attention to what my fingers feel, but how my face feels as I run my fingers over it. I have to first put it on and then look in the mirror when I’m done to see how it turned out.
When it comes to makeup and clothing, some days things come together better than others. I remember quite a few days that I thought my clothes matched and when I left the house I realized they clearly don’t. To help with this, ask people that you trust for their feedback. I’ve had a lot of help from my family. They aren’t afraid to tell me if I look like a hot mess. Moms, sisters, and nieces are good like that, but if these aren’t available, close friends or even significant others can give helpful feedback.
Speaking more generally, I’m a big believer in the power of three. Pick your base, sweater and pants or dress, then add 3 pieces to bring the outfit together. This may be shoes, a necklace, and a jacket. It could also be a hat, belt, and earrings. It could even be your eyeglass frames, handbag, and your cane. Whether you’re in work clothes or a t-shirt and jeans the rule can still apply.
I know this world is all about “the look”. Almost every morning I strive to put myself together. What’s more important is the confidence and belief in yourself. The truth is you can be dressed to the 9’s but if you don’t have the confidence to back it up then that look isn’t going to work. At the end of the day, I just want to be the best me I can be.
In this photo of Terese, she is looking very stylish in jeans, a burgundy top, and a long taupe sweater. She paired her outfit with a gold statement necklace and brown peep toe, sandals with a block heel.