When I made the decision to relaunch the blog, I wanted to make it a place where you could come and find inspiration. You should see things that make you think, maybe laugh, and then be inspired to act.
But I’ve also realized that we’re fed unrealistic images for inspiration. There are plenty of Photoshopped images of what “beauty” means in today’s society. These images are tearing us apart from the inside out. Where are the women with skin like mine? Does anyone ever talk about real people with real hair? Sure, I’d be happy if I had no problems.
I talk about products a lot, but, in my heart, I know women are at their most beautiful when they shine through adversity. Imperfection and living life on life’s terms make that airbrushing seem less attractive to me. The women who feel pretty through pain? They are, quite frankly, My Most Beautiful.
I’m kicking this new photo series off with one of the most beautiful people I know: Bailey Anne Vincent, the blogger behind Makeover Mommas, who fights to live every single day in her battle against Cystic Fibrosis. Meet Bailey and hear a little bit about her life. She, is really quite beautiful…
About my life…
“I was born in south Florida, the youngest of five children (my parents are seemingly super Catholic.) I convinced my mom to let me graduate high school in two years via homeschooling, and enrolled at a women’s college by the age of 16. I became a staff writer for a Gannett newspaper by 14, writing a long-running Op-Ed about the woes of teenage life (Sex in the City without the sex, basically.). I also danced as a pre-professional soloist most of that time. In later years, I became a choreographer and dance teacher at the same company, so it was a very full-circle chapter of my life!
I became a super young mom (surprise!) as a junior in college, but continued to work as a writer throughout, eventually founding Makeover Momma. My little girls are now nine and five years old, and are mini beauty editors in the making whether I like them stealing my delicious new products or not.
After being a single mother for what felt like the duration of their childhood, I finally met my now husband while working at a deaf and blind school in my town. I became progressively deaf over time because of rampant ear and sinus infections, and am now profoundly deaf. My husband worked in the blind department and knew very little sign language, and I worked in the deaf department and refused to speak to him until he learned. It was a very star-crossed lovers type of thing. There was some controversy over a hearing man wooing a deaf woman within our community, but we ignored the naysayers. “
About my diagnosis…
I was a super late diagnosis for Cystic Fibrosis, with Primary Cilliary Dyskensia later playing a central role. It was a tricky diagnostic process, which is sometimes more arduous than anything else. As a teenager, I would get pneumonia almost every few months, but because I was a ballerina I would grab some antibiotics and sweep it under the rug; whatever it took to not get left behind in the dance studio. For me, constant infections just seemed normal. Both of my pregnancies took a tremendous toll on my health, and looking back my doctors think it’s a miracle both my girls were perfectly healthy in the end. Pregnancy is not impossible, but it’s certainly more difficult with lung disease of any kind.
Recently, I met a large group of CFers at the annual More Than Just Me non-profit event in Florida, and I was astonished at the similarities. I realized all those little things I previously hated about myself were now normal. I used to get teased for my nasal, sometimes hoarse voice, and I beat myself up for skinny arms and calves, and a stomach incapable of abs. I spent my entire life comparing myself to girls who could gain muscle in their stomach if they tried hard enough, who had breasts (what are those?) or could jump around all day without getting winded. Now, I was no longer an anomaly. “
I don’t let Cystic Fibrosis slow me down…
“I’m pretty sure I’m a masochist. So many ballerinas have this twisted relationship with pain (“Yay, my feet are bleeding though my pointe shoes! Success!”) and in an odd way, that probably save my sanity over time. The pain I often feel when pushing through 26% lung function to do anything, even getting up and walking around is far less daunting because I’ve had a lifetime of pushing through discomfort. Delivering my babies was somewhat easy, because when I feel pain, I react by pushing forward instead of drawing back. Nowadays, pain management is an everyday occurrence.
A lifetime of dance has likely saved my life. So many individuals with progressive illness ‑ especially those diagnosed at birth – may be unintentionally sheltered from full exertion and physicality, partially to keep themselves safe and free from infection. Looking back, I genuinely think that if I hadn’t danced my entire life, I would likely be a lot worse now (and that’s saying a lot, because I’m pretty darn sick at the moment.).
These days, my ability to “hang” throughout an entire dance class is slim to none, but I still try to handle my muscles as if I’m a training dancer. At the moment, I am super into doing Tracy Anderson DVDs at home on my laptop. Even if I can only do 10 minutes while on oxygen, it makes me feel much more sane than sitting around decomposing. I also continue to choreograph or teach twice a week when I’m not in the hospital. Last week, for example, I was on IV’s (which means the portacath in my chest is accessed 24-7 for IV antibiotics,) but I still went to work and taught vocally. Keeping my mind and creativity active is just as beneficial as my body, which is why I need equal parts dance and writing in my life, come hell or high mucus.”
About my beauty routine…
“Maybe the hardest part about dealing with chronic illness is how disconnected you start to feel from yourself, which in turn totally fractures your identity and self worth. Every time I have a major surgery, I try to reward myself by getting a super cheap walk-in manicure because nothing makes me feel more “human” and it’s such a rare treat. If my port is accessed, I’m not allowed to take normal showers or wash my hair, so dry shampoo becomes a godsend. Things as routine as hot water on your neck, someone gently touching your hand, lotion on your skin. — it all feels like a five-star vacation. In short, I certainly never take anything for granted!
Something as mundane as bathing can be physically draining and leave me super out of breath, so I’ve started to find ways to stretch my hair between washes. Right now, I’m experimenting with the new John Frieda Luxurious Volume 7-Day Treatment, which I apply to my roots in the shower, and it has really brought out the natural curl in my hair. As the week goes on, I “fake clean” it by spraying Herbal Essence Naked Dry Shampoo to my roots (it’s only $5 and smells like tangerines), then using Garnier Fructis Style Curl Sculpting Cream Gel on my ends, and piling my hair into a high bun. Later on, I can shake it out, and it’s no longer verging on dreadlocks, which is a win in my book.
Although my lungs are super impacted, other organs are as well, including my pancreas, digestive system, and so on. I have a very hard time absorbing foods properly, even with my feeding tube running at night, which leaves me with vitamin deficiencies, pancreatic insufficiency, and so on. In turn, my complexion is the first thing to take a hit. Not only is stress a constant factor (plus, diabetic dryness and gross hospital air), but being a deaf woman means my face is a literal source of expression. So, wrinkles are sort of a given.
At the moment, I am using a lot of RoC products because I can get them anywhere. The Daily Resurfacing Disks let me cleanse without a sink, and their Retinol Correction Deep Wrinkle Night Cream fights signs of aging. I am loving L’Oreal’s Revitalift Volume Filler Cream as well, because it fills lines quickly and feels like a silky primer.
I often don’t have the time or energy for makeup. When I do, I mix bareMinerals Foundation with a small amount of Bactine, which oddly helps prolong the product by turning it into a liquid and stops breakouts. I apply that with a fat brush, then add Mineral Fusion SPF 30 Brush-On Sun Defense, which I found at Target. I coat my lashes with Hard Candy 1,000 Lashes Mascara, and use Hard Candy Lash Ink on top to create darker looking eyelashes that last for three days. Maybelline Brow Drama helps me pretend I’m Jennifer Connolly in The Labyrinth.”
When I feel my most beautiful….
“I feel most beautiful curled up in bed reading books to my little girls, when they ask my questions about the world and show tolerance and kindness for everyone around them. We have huge debates about why marriage should be equal for everyone, or why we shouldn’t judge anyone else for being different. They are fully accepting of transgender, gay, sick, healthy — all of it. When I see that, I feel like my life has been worthwhile. “
Want to know more about Cystic Fibrosis? Here’s how….
“Awareness is the most important thing, and we can never have too much. At the moment, I am trying to support the More Than Just Me foundation, which raises money through races (you can participate locally as a “ghost runner;”) and the Just Breathe book project, which, along with a side concept called Salty Girls, is all about embracing our scars and showing that life goes on despite our sickness. Simply researching these organizations, or asking “How can I help?” is a great first step. I also love making new friends via my social media channels like Twitter and Instagram: answering questions, explaining new ways that someone can help, and so on. So, please reach out!”