A lifestyle segment featuring guest articles from the Bold Blind Beauty community. Topics range from Cooking, Finance, Health & Wellness, Poetry, Funny Stories, Short Stories, Affirmations, Travel, and More.
What is it about a .13 oz twist-up tube of perfectly tinted, moisture infused wax that holds us captive to its promises of: flawlessly plump lips, a sensually alluring kiss or to become a force of beauty? (Actual ad campaigns for lipstick).
I was chatting with my friend, Julie, about the brand of makeup I use. She asked me to share with her the changes I made over the past two years to accomplish a genuinely confident, model-ready appearance, a new skill set and attitude in spite of my circumstances of blindness.
I could hear the emotional quiver of insecurity and despair in her voice as she confessed how she felt about herself. I listened to Julie question her value as a woman and a mom. My heart ached as she revealed how she struggled with confidence, self-esteem and expressed the genuine need for hope that time hadn’t passed her by. She was seeking solace in different colors, brands of makeup and application techniques with no obvious results. Then she summed up our conversation with this… “I feel like I am just one tube away from happiness”.
Looking For Answers
Her goal, of course, was not to have a drawer full of half-used tubes of lipstick that didn’t deliver what was promised. Her goal was to feel better about herself, to see the sparkle of life return to her green eyes, to be confidently attractive to others and self-assured of her value as a woman. She was looking for answers and started where many of us turn, the mirror.
Julie’s “identity crisis” is a familiar story for many gals over 50 and one I experienced myself. I wanted to give Julie the courage to use her despair as a catalyst for redefining who she is, what her dreams are, what she is passionate about and what she wants out of the second half of life.
I simply told her, “Well, the good news is your goals are attainable and you deserve to have them. It’s your turn! The bad news is a new tube of lipstick alone isn’t gunna do it.”
Like most women, I can admit, I place value on my appearance. Heck, how I look is a huge part of my job as a model. But I can tell you, the secret for me was not a quick trip to the cosmetic counter or even the plastic surgeon. I knew my confidence and value were not going to come from the changes I made to the outside alone.
Putting In The Work
To move from superficially looking my best, to actually being my best, took longer than I hoped and was much harder than I imagined.
First, I stopped what I was doing, objectively evaluated EVERYTHING in my life, then changed my direction, my mindset and my goals. I had to rediscover who I was, what I was passionate about and what I wanted.
Secondly, I altered any external influences that were negative and made them positive. This included getting rid of the negative people or things in my life, changing the foods I was eating and aligning my fitness habits with who I wanted to be.
Then finally I stopped giving others the power to decide my worth before I had been given the chance to demonstrate my value for their life, business or our relationship. I had to do more than just want to be valued…I had to work hard and actually believe I have God-given worth, so I could then become valuable.
Before a photoshoot, professional makeup artists apply a brush full of this and a finger dab of that until satisfied that I look beautiful and natural, yet unnaturally flawless. I can admit my confidence is visibly high as I stand in front of the camera when I know my eyes are brushed with just enough shadow to make the green color pop and my lips have that perfect balance of natural tint and shine. But without the hard work to be good at modeling and the time I spent making life changes physically and mentally, then as soon as the makeup is wiped off my value and dreams would be gone as well.
I have learned in the modeling business and in life that my worthiness doesn’t decrease based on someone not choosing my value. It may simply mean I am not what they are looking for, but that doesn’t make me less. It is, however, my responsibility not to hide my value and then wonder why they couldn’t see it.
Don’t make it hard for people to discover how wonderful you are or how you can transform their world-make it glaringly obvious. Work hard to be the best at who you are, what you do and what you are passionate about, without excuse. This kind of value cannot be twisted up from a tube, or taken from you…it comes from within and becomes a part of who you are.
Catherine was diagnosed in 1995 with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), only weeks after returning from serving for two years on the mission field in Nigeria, Africa. She has been a national public speaker and article writer for several magazines, sharing her story of learning to walk with strength and faith behind a white cane.
Catherine holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Baylor University and had a wonderful career as an operating room nurse. She is a former ballerina and studied dance at Julliard’s School of American Ballet in New York. She is currently a professional commercial print and fitness model with Grogan Management in Dallas, Tx. She is the proud mother of 3 grown sons and wife of Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Craig Harrison. Catherine serves on several non-profit boards and regularly volunteers in her local community.
Her mission is not only to successfully work as a model, who happens to have a visual impairment but also to empower women of all ages to step into their strength, regardless of their circumstances, with poise and courage.
Beauty Buzz Header Image: Background on the header is half black and half white. The words “Beauty” and “Buzz” are white on black and black on white text. At the end of the word, “Buzz” is a colorful bumblebee.
Photo credit Julia Wagner at Feather and Root Photography. With short blonde hair and mesmerizing green eyes, Catherine looks very chic wearing a white button-down with blue jeans. She is posing for the camera while sitting in a chair.
Bio Photo: In this photo, Catherine is sitting on a sofa with her right arm along the back and eyes downcast.
Each year, more than 800 scholarships are awarded to Texas students by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™. As one of the largest scholarship providers in the U.S., the Rodeo has presented more than 19,000 scholarships valued at $230 million since 1957. Currently, more than 2,300 students are on Rodeo scholarships, attending more than 80 different Texas colleges and universities. The value of these scholarships is more than $50 million.
Last week I returned home from a week-long trip to Houston, TX to experience the World Championship BBQCook-Off (WCBBQ). What made this event so special is how it came into existence 5 years ago through the vision of Advocate Extraordinaire Chelsea Nguyen.
A Little Background
My friend and business partner, Chelsea, is a professional stylist, makeup artist, bilingual educator, and business owner. Her involvement in the blind, visually impaired (B&VI) and the disabled community began with her volunteer work with Sight Into Soundin 2011. Chelsea’s company,CN Vision Image Consulting, offers one-on-one as well as group training that empowers B&VI or disabled individuals. With her client’s independence and self-confidence in mind, Chelsea provides them with the adaptive visual and non-visual life skills needed to enhance their lives. In addition to being an advocate for equal employment opportunities for the B&VI and Disabled Community Chelsea also serves on several boards:
Chelsea’s passion for the inclusion and accessibility of people with disabilities (PWDs) is extraordinary. This drive prompted her to connect with the WCBBQ Publicity Committee to strategize ways to enable PWDs and B&VI people to enjoy the event. As an invited guest I was able to do the pre-tour walk-through with Chelsea and Scott Arthur a Publicity Committee Volunteer who helps with Media Relations.
The day before the tour Chelsea and I were greeted by Scott, our golf cart-riding escort. Can I stop here a sec and say how giddy I was to ride on a golf cart for the first time? What can I say? I led a sheltered life. Anyhoo, I thought I understood how big the WCBBQ was gonna be but I.WAS.WRONG! Scott gave me a little history:
2020 is the 47th year of the WCBBQ
This particular cook-off is one of the largest in the world
Money raised for the WCBBQ provides higher education scholarships for Texas students
There are over 1,100 volunteers
Over 250 teams compete
It takes about a week to build the pop-up tent city and 1 day to tear it down in preparation for the rodeo
The number of attendees is staggering and the event is similar to Mardi Gras
I can’t remember how many international teams there were but I do remember the Australian team. I could have listened to them talk for days.
The first stop after leaving the parking lot was the Volunteer’s Committee tent for lunch. Only volunteers and invited guests with wrist bands were cleared by security and allowed entry. The tent was massive and filled with tables, chairs, full bar, a stage for live entertainment, cafeteria-style setup offering (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), an all-day al la carte station that served hot dogs and such. Then they even had an outdoor courtyard with fancy facilities, not your average porta-potties.
After lunch, we visited 6 team’s tents to discuss logistics with the pit bosses in preparation for the next day. While we made good time riding in a golf cart, I didn’t realize the walking distance until the actual tour.
It’s Go Time
The day of the WCBBQ was absolutely beautiful with temperatures rising near the 80s. Chelsea and I got an early start donned our cowgirl gear, packed equipment and headed to the meeting spot. We met up with the other invited guests then boarded shuttles to take us to the BBQ tour grounds.
Once we arrived on the grounds, we were taken to United Airlines’ tent for lunch. United kindly hosted our group for a tasty meal of brisket, sausage, hot potato salad, baked beans and more. During lunch, we were paired with volunteers to serve as sighted guides and audio describers. After we were done eating the United team took us on a tour of their tent which included a large Boeing 777 replica grill. Before our next stop, we had a photo op in front of United where we took turns sitting on a saddled wooden horse.
During our walks to each subsequent tent, Chelsea and the volunteers described everything along the way. A full sensory experience, it was wonderful to participate in an event that appealed to smells, tastes, touch, and sound. Each of the hosts was also extremely kind and accomodating to our group as they explained their particular barbeque technique. Aside from the care put into the event, what touched me the most about it were comments from fellow attendees. “I wasn’t expecting all of this,” said one person. “This is so much fun,” and “I’m so glad I came because it exceeded my expectations,” said others.
Since a few of us stayed after the tour we said our goodbyes to those who boarded the shuttles to go home.
Did I Mention Mardi Gras AKA The Carnival?
So Chelsea told me there was a carnival after the tour and I should have known it’d be HUGE but again I was surprised. After all, they say “everything’s bigger in Texas” and it’s absolutely true. This carnival was like a full-fledged amusement park back home in Pittsburgh and did I mention all the people? It was so crowded for a heartbeat I thought I’d have a panic attack.
The highlight of the night for me was when I got to see a real-life mechanical bull. And yes, I even thought I might give it a go but there was a problem. If I were bold enough to ride the bull my cowgirl hat along with my wig would have flown off. Then there was the possibility of my body becoming a mangled mess cause I wouldn’t have lasted more than a second.🤣 But wow, it looked like a blast!
When In Rome…
When in Texas and especially when attending a huge shindig like the WCBBQ, western gear is a fashion essential. With this in mind, I ordered cowgirl boots online and broke them in prior to leaving for Houston. The day before the event Chelsea and I went thrifting and we couldn’t believe our great fortune. Our color palettes ended up being black and orange for Chelsea and for me, it was blue and beige. Chelsea snagged boots, top, vest, and a crossbody bag. Meanwhile, I scored a super cheap cowgirl hat, blinged-out belt, cross-body bag, and a gorgeous leather vest. Pairing these items with my jeans, chambray shirt, accessories, and boots, I felt fabulous.
Being a minimalist serves me well especially when traveling as I wear the biggest items that otherwise would take up space. So just in case, you were wondering how I got my boots to Houston, the answer is I wore them. Likewise, when flying home I wore the entire outfit because I didn’t want to crush my hat and vest.
My entire trip was so magnificent and I can barely wait to share some of the other things I did while in Houston. For now though I’ll be seein’ ya.
Beauty Buzz Header Image: Background on the header is half black and half white. The words “Beauty” and “Buzz” are white on black and black on white text. At the end of the word, “Buzz” is a colorful bumblebee.
5 Sense Tour Gang: 5 Sense Tour attendees, volunteers, and United Airlines Team are standing behind a wooden fence and in front of the 777 replica grill. A wagon wheel and the saddled wooden horse are in the foreground.
Houston Chronicle Newspaper Clipping: Photo of Brandon Munoz and Chelsea with a caption that says “Brandon Munoz of Missouri City feels an African sable head with Chelsea Nguyen, an advocate for the visually impaired and disabled, during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest on Friday.”
Collage 1: 5 photos clockwise top L. 1) BBQ Social Club tent pit boss holding a walkie talkie and telling us about the whole hog on the grill as the attendees and volunteers look on. 2) Attendees are lined up and touching the United 777 replica grill (only used as a warmer and safe to touch). 3) Chelsea is talking into a walkie talking as Scott and several volunteers look onward, an occupied golf cart is in the background. 4) Attendees, volunteers, and the Australian Team posing for the camera while standing. 5) Scott looking sharp in his black western outfit paired with the volunteer orange vest is helping to serve food to the attendees.
Collage 2: Two photos. Top) Steph, Brandon and Chelsea are posing with one of the funniest Texans I met. Bottom) At the carnival Steph, Chelsea and Brandon are each holding a yellow duckie from one of the games.
Paloma, Brandon & Steph: L to R Photo of my friendsPaloma Marquez, Brandon, and me. We are all dressed in our western gear and while it wasn’t planned all of our outfits complement one another. Paloma’s beige top perfectly matched my vest & ‘cowgirl’ hat and my chambray shirt went great with Brandon’s blue flannel. All three of us are wearing shades. We are sitting at a round countertop table.
Collage 3: 6 photos clockwise top L. 1) Brandon and Chelsea are posing for the camera while sitting at a table in the volunteer committee tent. 2) Steph, Brandon, and Chelsea are standing in front of a huge Ferris Wheel at the carnival. 3) Brandon, Steph, and Chelsea are among a group of seven posing for the camera in the Volunteer Committee tent. 4) Selfie of Steph and Chelsea taken at the carnival. 5) Steph, Brandon, and Chelsea outside of the Volunteer Committee tent headed to the carnival. 6) Steph and Brandon standing in front of a very tall ride shaped like a palm tree with swings.
Mechanical Bull: A brown and white bull in the center of a red inflated ring.
Cowgirl GearCollage: 5 photos clockwise top L. 1) A rhinestone-embellished fleur-de-lis black crossbody bag and a black western style belt covered in rhinestones. 2) Beige cowgirl hat with decorative brown thin leather stitching on the brim and around the crown. 3) Back of a beige leather vest with lacing detail at the bottom. 4) Front of the vest with a braided strip down each side. 5) Cowgirl boots – The bottom of the boots is olive/brownish. The shaft is cream with an olive embroidered design.
Beauty Buzz is a new section on Bold Blind Beauty that we are still developing. Stay tuned for more details. ~Steph
Authenticity is the Heart of Beauty
Yesterday morning I received a message that touched me so deeply I asked the author if I could share it and they said “yes.” What I like most about this piece is that it gets to the heart of Bold Blind Beauty’s ‘WHY.’
“Every time I listen to your message, I find new bits of wisdom and inspiration.
We went to visit my brother’s girlfriend, a lovely lady who has had enormous health problems in the past five years. I remembered her daughter as a striking young woman from many years earlier. But over the years, she got involved with heroin.
She has now been off it for six months. That she went this route has always made me sad. I grieved for her, in fact. Today she has low self-esteem. She was embarrassed to be seen without her teeth. I thought of your video, and I realized she and I are more alike than different. We’ve had to redefine beauty, and our self-esteem. But we are the same person inside.
She mentioned how judgmental her sister is of her. I wanted to hug her and say how beautiful she was with or without her own teeth. And the words from your video came to me, “But when we are out there living our lives, we are bold. We are embracing our blindness. We are blind and we are beautiful. We’re beautiful because we are out there doing that, living our lives.” It’s just so profound. You can insert any word for “blind” (like recovering addict).
This woman is out there living her life, trying to overcome and be her best self. She comes up against prejudice, preconceived ideas, judgment and she has to develop self-love all over again.
Again, your words speak truth. “I would just like to change the perception of how we view people. Period. I would just like to see a more inclusive world for everyone, and accept people as we really are, stripping away the outside and getting to the heart of who we are a people.”
When I thought of myself and my fears (and the fears I still have), they are strong, and yes, bold, words. But when I think of this young woman, I feel the same — that she needs to begin to love herself exactly where she is at. She didn’t die of an overdose. She brings her mother great joy. I celebrate who she is, her dreams of becoming her best self in the journey ahead. I think I will share your video with her with a letter with my thoughts.
Today is a day of gratitude, and love expressed. I think my strength is loving others and helping them to gain confidence in themselves. But it is through the words of others like you, who express so well the desire for change, and who are battling their fears openly that shape my outreach. That video will speak to many in so many ways. You have such a beautiful heart.”
The video she mentioned in the narrative has been previously shared but I’ve included it here for easy reference. In place of audio description I’ve provided a summary of the video below.
First scene opens with Stephanae sitting at her desk in front of her 32-inch monitor working out on the keyboard. She’s wearing a gray short sleeve tee, her head is clean-shaven and she is not wearing any makeup.
The camera pans to a blurred close-up of an acrylic makeup organizer with assorted lipsticks, brushes, pencils, etc. Stephanae slowly twists a lipstick then inserts a dangling wire earring into her right ear. The camera focuses in on the delicate lacy silver leaf earring.
In the next scene, Stephanae is at her desk talking about the moment she first lost her sight while pointing to her left eye.
The camera is focusing on assorted jewelry hanging on a necklace tree while Stephanae’s hand touches one of her favorite statement necklaces. In slow motion, the camera shows her sliding a blue floral glass ring on her right ring finger.
Panning to the keyboard and monitor the camera picks up the magnified content on the screen as Stephanae scrolls through Bold Blind Beauty’s website. The camera zooms out to show Stephanae working.
In the bathroom scene, Stephanae is at the sink cleansing her face and putting on her makeup. She uses plastic eyebrow stencils to draw her eyebrows and a thin liner crayon/pencil to line her eyes. The finishing touches include mascara and a dark gray ballcap.
Back at the desk, Stephanae is talking about how vulnerable she feels when she is in an unfamiliar environment. While talking with her hands she gets a little emotional and her voice cracks as she shares what this fear is like.
Outside, Stephanae is getting into her son’s car and we’re headed to a nearby mall. She’s wearing a gray and black raglan shirt, with black capris, ballcap, sneakers, and sunglasses. The next few scenes are taken from inside the car, in a department store with Stephanae walking with her ‘black’ white cane towards and away from the camera, and, looking at items on clothing racks.
In her dining area, Stephanae is opening boxes of Bold Blind Beauty coffee mugs. All of the mugs have Abby (Bold Blind Beauty’s fashion icon) along with a cute saying i.e. “Hey I’m walkin’ Here!” “Relax It’s Only A Cane!” “Blind Chicks With Attitude!”
Closeup of Stephanae sharing her wish for a more inclusive world. “Stripping away the outside and getting to the heart of who we are as people.”
Beauty Buzz Header Image Description:
The background is half gray and half white. On the gray half is “Beauty” in white text. On the white half is “Buzz” in gray script text with a colorful bumble bee at the end of the word.