Jennifer Renée Rhodes is carving out space in the beauty industry so that people with albinism can enhance their look in a natural way.
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Roughly one in 20,000 Americans have some sort of albinism, which is a condition that causes a complete or partial absence of skin, hair and eye pigment. But growing up in Indianapolis, Rhodes was the only person she knew with it, and at first, it influenced her understanding of beauty in a negative way.
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“My idea of beauty was shaped by the reactions of other people, which, growing up, was always very negative,” Rhodes told In The Know. “People would stare, point and ask questions and just be very rude to me when I didn’t really know them. They just felt entitled to tell me their opinion that they didn’t like how I looked.”
Rhodes grew up in a family of artists and started winning competitions throughout high school, but her nearsightedness made it harder to continue art in college. Visual impairment is a condition commonly associated with albinism, and Rhodes’ sight could not be fully corrected with glasses or contacts.
But Rhodes’ love of art and color pushed her towards makeup. At first, she felt limited with the options that were presented for very fair-skinned people in the drug store beauty aisle.
“There were fewer color options for someone who is very fair and has lighter color hair,” she said. “I felt like if we had more makeup products that matched my complexion, matched my hair and my lashes, then I can still participate in those same beauty rituals.”
“There were people without albinism that were excited about being able to wear a lash color that matched their hair as well,” she explained. “[Ivoree Beauty] is giving that option that wasn’t there.”
Her favorite product so far is the “Blondie,” a set of blonde false lashes.
“The first time I put on my blonde lashes I was like, ‘OK, this is cute, this matches me, it looks like they’re mine,'” Rhodes said. “To be able to hold them in my hands and put them on myself, I felt OK. Now I can wear lashes as much as I want to because I have one that looks natural on me.”
Rhodes also stayed true to her artistic roots — each product package is adorned in her own artwork.
“I wanted to make a product that shows images of us on it because in the beauty industry and the beauty world, there isn’t a lot of representation of albinism,” she said. “I would love to change the way that people perceive albinism and to understand that there are many types of albinism and that it can look many ways.”
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