How many of you have ever seen people with albinism in magazines?
Or on TV?
Probably few of you and even more likely none: albinism is unfortunately linked to many negative stereotypes, so we rarely hear about it.
There are few voices that emerge from the chorus and today I wanted to bring you that of Jennifer Renée, whom I had the opportunity to meet a few weeks ago. She started her career in the beauty industry in 2004, with the intention of bringing more visibility and representation of albinism to the masses…
And here is her story as the first albino influencer!
CAN YOU GIVE A LITTLE PRESENTATION ABOUT YOURSELF TO OUR READERS?
My name is Jennifer Renée also known as J. Renée. I am an African American woman with Albinism, born and raised in Indianapolis, IN. I currently live in NYC where I work as a professional makeup artist, beauty influencer, performing artist, visual artist and musician. I am an entrepreneur and recently launched my own beauty business, Ivoree Beauty.
WHAT IS ALBINISM, AND YOUR PERSONAL SKIN CONDITION FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW IT?
I have a condition called Oculocutaneous Albinism, a genetic disorder which causes a lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It also can cause various eye conditions which can lead to visual impairments. I am legally blind.
AS AN ALBINO AND BLIND WOMAN, WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES YOU FACE WHEN TALKING ABOUT FASHION AND BEAUTY?
A lot of times, there is a lack of inclusivity in the products for people with fair complexions or less common natural hair colors. There is also a lack of representation of people with Albinism yet there is an abundance of negative stereotypes and imagery associated with Albinism.
Accessibility of beauty and fashion products, for the visually impaired, is also something that can be improved.
WHICH BEAUTY BRANDS OR TREATMENTS ALWAYS MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD? WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE SOME TIPS WITH US?
I love to do skincare treatments. Bliss is one of my favorite skincare brands. Removing makeup at the end of the day and keeping skin moisturized are some of my favorite skincare tips. I love to use the serums. ColourPop is another one of my favorite brands for makeup because it is a fun brand. I love the fun names on the products and the packaging.
The picture shows a close-up of Jennifer with reddish-blonde hair. She is wearing gold coloured eye shadow and lipstick and her Ivoree Beauty blonde eyelashes. She is wearing a gold coloured necklace and big round metal earrings.
WHY AND WHEN DID YOU START IVOREE BEAUTY?
I created Ivoree Beauty initially, for a small group of friends with Albinism.
Some of them were actually looking for blonde eyelashes. I thought it would be really great to see a beauty product that is made for us, with a cartoon representation of a woman with Albinism.
This idea came after we realized that we rarely saw people with Albinism represented in a positive way in the media and specifically in beauty and fashion.
It was just one of those things that I always wanted to wear but I personally shied away from: the black lashes just looked unnatural on me. I do like to darken my lashes so that they are more visible, but most of the time, I do like my natural lash color.
Thus I thought: “ wouldn’t it be great if I had false lashes that match my natural lashes and hair”?”
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS?
The picture shows a close-up of Jennifer. She is wearing heavy black make-up and her Ivoree Beauty black eyelashes. Her lips are made up in bright red and she is holding a red lipstick (the same one she used to make up her lips). Her nails are black and gold.
I landed a speaking role on the 1st season of “Harry’s Law”, an Emmy award winning comedy-drama that starred Kathy Bates. It was my first professional acting job and I had a scene with Kathy Bates and Christopher McDonald. I played the role of Natalie Sikonge, a Tanzanian woman with Albinism who was caught while seeking asylum in the US. It was a very exciting experience because I was bothered by the fact that Albinism was never portrayed in a realistic way in TV and film so I had an opportunity to be a part of that change. Since then, we’ve seen more roles casting real people with Albinism who aren’t playing monsters or mythical creatures.
FIRST ALBINO INFLUENCER, BUSINESSWOMAN, “YOUTUBER” AND MANY OTHER THINGS! WHAT MOTIVATES YOU EVERY DAY AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING WITH A DISABILITY OR ALBINISM?
I am motivated by the people with Albinism, around the world, who reach out to me to say that I have inspired them to feel more confident in their skin and pursue their goals. I know what it’s like to live in a world where I felt like I was the only person who looked like me, and everyone else would tell me all of the things I would never be able to do, because of my vision. When I was younger, the only images I saw of Albinism were negative, which made me think that, that was the way the world sees me.
Eventually I internalized that.
I wish I had seen positive images of other people with Albinism living their regular lives, being successful in their careers and raising families. I know how important it is for the younger generation because, yes, the representation absolutely matters.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
I am working on expanding Ivoree Beauty to include a full line of cosmetics. Besides working in beauty, I have done some new acting projects and recently got my first voiceover acting gig (which is something I’ve always wanted to do). I am also returning back to music: writing and recording. I am working on putting out my own music project soon.
If you want to know more about Renée and her products please follow her on Instagram.