July 22, 2024

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How Makeup Helped Me Cope With My Visible Disability

3 min read
POPSUGAR Photography | Chandler Plante
POPSUGAR Photography | Chandler Plante

I lost vision in November of 2022 due to a mysterious mass of inflammation. The eyeball has since stumped six different hospitals, resisted two rounds of corticosteroids, endured 10 days of radiation, and spent over a year going through immunotherapy. It protrudes by about 23 millimeters, but some days are worse than others. It doesn’t help that the eyelid droops in a permanent wink and the surrounding skin appears red and swollen due to a lack of blood flow and proper drainage. Going blind in one eye hasn’t been easy, but it certainly makes for a good canvas.

Prior to my health issues, I never left the house without makeup. In college, I glued on Ardell Wispies for my 8 a.m. lectures and hit pan on my Anastasia Beverly Hills contour palette (like everyone else in 2018). It was an outlet; a source of creativity. But as my disability became progressively more visible, my relationship with beauty fell to the wayside. I watched tutorials and found myself envious of unscarred skin and fully functioning eyeballs. I tried to imagine how makeup would look on me, but most days it was hard enough to face myself in the mirror.

POPSUGAR Photography | Chandler Plante

In August of 2023, I made up my mind about a few things. One, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life hiding from my eyeball. And two, I needed to get better at celebrating it. With a prayer and an impressive amount of eyelash glue, I meticulously attached clusters of silver rhinestones to my face, creating two sparkling teardrops underneath my blind eye. I shared a video documenting the process, and managed to reach over 500,000 people and hundreds of kind commenters.

The more I experimented with makeup, the more I appreciated this new version of myself.

Inspired by the internet’s supportive response, I continued to take advantage of my unique features, including my extra lid space. I tried everything from temporary butterfly tattoos to googly eyes (I managed to glue 18 of them onto my blind eye, in case you were wondering). Eventually, I started to match my makeup looks to my various eye patches, drawing hearts on my cheeks for a Valentine’s-themed patch and dipping into blue glitter for a porcelain-inspired look.

The public’s perception of my “fun eyeball” ranges from radical acceptance to casual cruelty. I try to tune out the unsolicited medical advice and unfunny quips on social media. When filming TikTok videos and Instagram Reels for PS, I put on glittery eyeshadow and conceal the redness under my eye, often a little nervous to address such a large platform sans eye patch. No one can be mean to me if my makeup is fun enough, I think to myself. Wrong! “Probably a bacteria infection from those horrid eyelashes,” one person commented on a video about my illness, potentially oblivious to the fact that I’m only wearing lashes on my “good” eye. “Dig it out with a spoon, it’s literally unbearable to look at,” another once wrote on TikTok.

But the more I experimented with makeup, the more I appreciated this new version of myself. Who cares what people think about me? I look fucking cool.

It’s been nine months since I began my fun makeup journey, but it’s proven to be an incredibly joyful and powerful aspect of my healing. I don’t hate my eyeball anymore. In fact, our relationship has never been better. Now, only a few days before I undergo surgery to remove my eyeball, and a decent amount of the mass behind it, I’m about to endure even more change. I’m not sure what my face will look like, let alone my makeup. But I take comfort in knowing that whatever the future holds, I have the tools to figure it out.

POPSUGAR Photography | Chandler Plante

Chandler Plante is an assistant editor for POPSUGAR Health & Fitness. Previously, she worked as an editorial assistant for People magazine and contributed to Ladygunn, Millie, and Bustle Digital Group. In her free time, she overshares on the internet, creating content about chronic illness, beauty, and disability.


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