I don’t really consider myself very fashionable.
I’ve never had a massive interest in clothes. I wear makeup somewhat begrudgingly and constantly feel like I’m probably getting it wrong.
My wardrobe contains more PJs than nice dresses. A recent transition to a new job has meant I’ve had to dress a bit more professionally in the office. On the first day of corporate chic, about 5 people commented how smart I looked. A slightly damning revelation about my preferred third sector comfy casual style!
I did have a stunning high heel collection in my early student days. I used to stalk the corridors of the University of Leeds in nothing lower than 3 inches. I was quite active in student politics and got a bit of a reputation for driving a hard line on accessibility. An academic once told me if the sound of my heels on the parquet floor was particularly stompy it used to act as a warning signal that I was on the warpath!
Unfortunately, I no longer feel safe tottering about in stilettos. Although my long white cane has helped me trip over less, my balance still isn’t great and adding heels to the mix seems like inviting trouble.
So my relationship with my femininity has always been complex, especially as a plus size disabled lady, I have always felt pretty excluded from fashion.
So when Stephanae at Bold Blind Beauty asked me to write a post I panicked!
First, I have to say it’s a great site full of really interesting stories and fashion ideas, do check it out. From co-ordinating your cane with your outfit, to make up tips for visually impaired ladies, it’s a great resource for fashionistas!
I fully admit that I couldn’t manage writing a lifestyle post for Bold Blind Beauty. So Steph asked that instead I shared my message of how I have personally challenged barriers through my campaigning. I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my story with a wider, and especially American, audience.
However, after the post went up, with all of Steph’s kind comments and inspirational mottos, I did have time to reflect.
What really stuck me was the key message of the site, that real beauty transcends barriers.
I believe that disability should be beautiful. Our bodies are so often rejected by society as undesirable, lacking sexuality or attractiveness. There is a particular assumption that blind women can’t wear make up or won’t have an interest in clothes. I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences just trying to buy make up! Quite often I have to wait by the beauty counter for a few minutes, eventually when I have had to ask for help the shop assistant has been so surprised that I wanted to purchase something.
I’ve even had a journalist contact me asking me to write about how blind people have sex!? As if the idea of visually impaired people bumping uglies is so mysterious… My response was “we do it just like everyone else”.
So it is extremely important to challenge these views and assert ourselves, boldly and beautifully!
Due to my Ocular Albinism I have light blonde hair, and thanks to my Mum it’s thick and wavy too. My good friend Lisa calls it ‘Disney Princess hair’. It is pretty much the only physical feature I’m proud of. Hence my twitter handle @Blondehistorian! However, I’ve always had it long and cut in a fairly dull sensible way.
When I started using my long white cane I realised that I got stared at a lot. It made me really uncomfortable, and honestly it still does. Part of the process of accepting the cane was giving a bit of personality, check out my post on my cane accessories! But also reasserting myself as a person and not just the disability I was being viewed as.
So I realised a long held ambition and dyed my hair pink.
Luckily, about ten minutes from my house, is an amazing hair salon. Orange Chat has just been awarded Best West London Salon 2018 by the London Hair and Beauty Awards, and deservedly so. I had heard great things about the salon and in particular the owner Amba. Amba specialises in balayage and colour correction. She’s a fierce passionate lady who really cares about the right colour!
I was super nervous about my first consultation, but Amba was ace. I explained how I would need guiding around the salon and that I wanted her to take pictures on my ipad rather than use the mirrors. She made the whole thing such an empowering experience.
This was the first result, we started off just doing a faded pink and purple dye on the ends.
I had played it pretty safe the first time, but I was instantly hooked! Amba did such a fantastic job, using different shades of colour that it faded out beautifully. She had encouraged me to go for bright strong colours so I would have the pink longer and it would gradually shift from hot pink to bubblegum to millennial rose!
Soon I was back for more! Amba was delighted, and was so excited to try more bright colours. This time we went up a bit higher… and after we finished, we decided next time, we’d go the whole way!
So we did. This was a massive 3 hour job, using about 6 different colours, Amba individually painted strands of hair, blending and layering the pinks and purples, even mixing in some turquoises and blues to add fascinating tonal dynamics.
It’s lasted nearly two months, gradually fading out into a soft rosy pink. I’ve been balancing the colour using a top up pink shampoo & conditioner BLEACH London Rose. It’s helped blend some of the rosy hints and complimented the few strong strands of purple left.
I have absolutely loved having pink hair, I always get so many compliments and it makes me feel really fun and unique. It’s also a great way of starting conversations about the spectrum of sight loss. When people ask me about my hair I explain that I have residual vision and good colour vision. Then I can talk about the 94% of blind people that do have some remaining vision.