Real Life

Real life: Disabled make-up artist fights abelist stereotypes

I was losing hope, but then something amazing happened.
Loading the player...

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.

Related stories