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Real Life

Real life: Disabled make-up artist fights abelist stereotypes

I was losing hope, but then something amazing happened.

By Lauren Irvine

Ruby Van Leuven, 23, from Adelaide shares their true life story:

I clutched my resume nervously and put on a big smile.
"So what experience do you have?" the interviewer asked curtly.
"Er, well, I've just completed a course in retail make-up and skincare," I began, but I could tell she wasn't paying attention.
She'd made up her mind the moment I'd wheeled myself in.
Who'd want to employ a disabled make-up artist?
The rejection letter arrived in the mail a few days later.
I'd received dozens of others.I'd been born with a neuromuscular condition that meant my arm and leg joints were very stiff.
As a result, I'd been in a wheelchair since I was three.
But I'd never let it stop me from living a normal life, graduating from high school and going to uni.
I'd always dreamed of getting into the make-up business, and had a real flair for it, but no-one could see past the chair.
An underwear photo of Ruby as a baby being held by their father, Mark. Ruby is smiling and looking up towards the surface of the water, and is wearing a fluoro yellow and orange striped bathing suit.
I began to lose hope.
Truth was I'd never actually seen a woman in a wheelchair working at a beauty counter."Don't give up," my mum said when I told her about the latest setback. "If you're determined, it will pay off!"
I was certainly determined.
But would that really be enough?
I started doing make-up for friends, and soon word spread until I had a decent number of clients.
Ruby (right) is sitting in their wheelchair applying makeup to Olivia Rogers, Miss Universe Australia 2017 (left), for a photo shoot.
Not being able to stand up didn't hold me back at all.
I was getting girls glam for their high school formals and doing up brides for their big day.
Soon, I had multiple appointments nearly every day.
For the first time I was actually being judged on my skills, not my disability.
We're all unique and our differences should be celebrated, not discriminated against.

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