A blind Chinese woman who is considered China’s “first blind makeup artist” has taught thousands of visually impaired women how to apply makeup using their sense of touch.
Xiao Jia, 30, was diagnosed with inherited retinal dystrophy when she was 14 and gradually lost her sight as she progressed into adulthood. When Xiao was 9 years old, she began experiencing discomfort in her eye and would see a “gray cloud” in front of her.
“Since high school, not only did I lose sight at night, but I began to lose sight during the day,” Xiao said, according to Baidu. “At first, it appeared like the snowflakes seen on TV. Then it got bigger and bigger until it was as big as a door.”
Xiao was forced to drop out of school and was sent to a school for the blind in Nanchang of Jiangxi Province of southeast China. She believed that the school would be like an ordinary school; however, she learned that the blind students were being taught massage therapy. After graduating, Xiao opened a massage parlor and made around 2,000 yuan (approximately $297) a month. She eventually quit the industry after constantly experiencing sexual harassment from clients.
Due to her deteriorating eyesight, Xiao learned to apply makeup using her sense of touch. She uses her lips to sense the direction of false eyelashes and uses her fingers to apply certain makeup products by recognizing the texture of her skin and facial features.
After moving to Beijing at 20, Xiao worked as a stenographer and later joined a public welfare program. She began learning makeup techniques in 2015 and started her own makeup business the following year, teaching visually impaired women how to apply their makeup.
“The make-up doesn’t necessarily change a person, but by learning how to apply it, they can take the impulse and get the power to feel better about themselves. This is what makes a difference- they’re breaking limits,” Xiao told South China Morning Post.
Using a special technique, Xiao typically starts by touching the facial structure of a client to form a general idea of their face. She touches the client’s facial pores to determine how much concealer and other makeup products are needed. Xiao then asks the client about the color of their clothes to choose the best matching makeup products.
Xiao has now taught thousands of visually impaired women who explained that Xiao has changed their lives.
“I feel that I have not only gained [how to do] makeup, but a wider road in the future as well,” one student said per Baidu.
“I like to sing, but I didn’t think about makeup when I used to perform at school or on stage. After performing with makeup, everyone said the effect is more photogenic. I feel more confident and sing better,” another student said.
In addition to makeup, Xiao also learned to swim and dive, becoming the second visually impaired person in China to obtain a diving certificate in 2015. She is also married and has one daughter.
“There should be no limitation to beauty. Everyone has the right to pursue it, whether you are able to see it or not,” she told the Morning Post.