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I'm Disabled and I Wear Makeup. So What?

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I’m disabled and I wear makeup. What’s the problem?

I leave the house on crutches but mostly in a wheelchair these days. Does that mean I’m not allowed to care about how I look? Should I scrap the smoky eye and winged eye liner because I’m in pain and not the stereotypical ideal of “beauty”? Does my disability define how I should look? How I should dress? Should I become invisible like my condition? 

On the odd occasion that I go outside, I want to make an effort. I want to look presentable. I’m in a wheelchair, and I have makeup on. I don’t see why people give me a second glance — unless they’re admiring my contouring skills. Honestly though, what’s the big deal?

First and foremost, I’m a woman, and whether I wear nothing on my face or plaster every product you could possibly think of on it, being disabled doesn’t hinder the way I express myself through cosmetics. I’m a girlie-girl (I’d never have admitted that a few years ago), I love hair, makeup, nails, lashes; it’s my way of feeling “normal,” embracing my sexuality and rolling with it.

I’ve been told that I’m too pretty to be in wheelchair, and that’s really what fueled this post. At the time I laughed it off because I didn’t want to get into something, but when I reflected on the comment, it annoyed me a lot. What exactly was this person trying to say? Disability doesn’t discriminate; my physical appearance has nothing to do with my health. And do you know why I look “pretty”? Because I’m wearing a ton of makeup. If I wasn’t, you’d be afraid. I don’t sleep, the bags under my eyes are suitcases, my skin is breaking out due to new medication and my lips are cracked and sore. I wouldn’t leave the house like that. I’m certainly not condemning anyone who does — you do you — but I just love makeup. It makes me feel better about myself, and it’s my armor.

Do you know what else annoys me? When people say, “Wow, you look amazing, are you better?” I don’t know how I’ve stopped myself from punching people in the face (maybe because I’d injure myself more). Thanks for the first part; I’m glad you think I look good, but I’m not better. I’m still in a wheelchair, I’m still dislocating every day and in chronic pain. I’m just a huge fan of cosmetics, and they’re saving me from looking like a zombie.

Despite these comments, I also battle with myself and imagined stigma. There’s a little devil on my shoulder at all times, whispering things in my ear about other people’s thoughts. This notably takes hold when I’m wearing a full face of makeup and out in my wheelchair. Why’s she bothering? Who’s she trying to impress? She’s in a wheelchair, what’s the point? Clearly nothing wrong with her if she looks like that? I let all these imagined thoughts build up and replay them whenever a stranger looks at me for longer than a few seconds. How can I possibly know what anyone else is thinking? I’m not Professor X; I don’t have mind-reading powers. This is something I’m slowly trying to get over, but it’s hard.

Especially when we live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by images of beautiful people with beautiful bodies, perfect glowing skin and thick, glossy hair. But what we’re not showing the younger generation is real people. Young men/women in wheelchairs/disabled/not wearing makeup — it’s real. Until the perception of disability alters (in all aspects), there’s going to be people like me feeling criticized for simply being.

I wear makeup for me, not for you or anyone else. I wear it to look and feel good. There’s always going to be people who judge you, no matter what you do. But as long as you’re being true to yourself and are confident, who cares what anyone else thinks? Here’s hoping I become more apathetic to ignorance soon.

A black and white photo of a woman wearing glasses
A black and white photo of Sarah

Follow this journey on Sarah in Wonderland.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: January 20, 2016
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