Photo by Christine Buzan Hair and makeup by Heather Schnell

It’s taken me twenty years to finally feel comfortable enough to really talk about this. More importantly, to find the right words.

I’m half Mexican and half Ethiopian. When I was born, my dark brown eyes were almond shaped. At about four years old my retina detached and because of it, I had a total eye enucleation surgery. My entire left eye was removed. For years, I refused to talk about it. I had no idea how to cope with my changed physical appearance and it made me hide away in fear. I was endlessly teased in elementary school, and the biggest difficulty I had was making friends up until high school. Unlike everyone I had ever known, my self loathing didn’t come from a place where I couldn’t loose weight or change an outift. I could never alter the part of myself I most disliked. 

Throughout my youth, with the few friends I did have, I was the center of every sleepover for “makeovers”. It didn’t occur to them that they were being crass. Similar to most growing girls, I went through an awkward stage. On top of that I was still attempting to normalize my eye loss. I felt frustrated, and what’s worse, is that I didn’t like or appreciate myself. I was completely embarrassed by the way I looked. Because of this, I spent most of my life covering half of my face with my hair. I felt like I had to hide my face and my prosthetic. No amount of “makeovers” would make my prosthetic cool. My mother encouraged me to be courageous and stop hiding behind the hair, but I still struggled to want to do it for myself.

All I saw was a reflection of a girl who was missing a part of her face. I couldn’t help but feel powerless over my own body. Learning to love your face after such a life altering surgery is so immensely difficult.  Nobody ever tells you that even though you’re okay physically, that there is still major emotional scarring that comes along with eye loss. For me, I just avoided looking at myself altogether. What I feared the most was that it wasn’t just kids being cruel to me, but that for the rest of my life, the entire world would be cruel to me also. When my world felt dismal, I grasped at ways to find beauty in myself, and that’s when fashion came into the picture.

With fashion, I could be anyone and anything my heart desired. I had always loved fashion, so much so that as soon as I could walk, I was twirling around in circle skirts. In high school I gained a better grasp of my sense of aesthetic. Personal style gave me a confidence I didn’t realize existed. Wearing the clothing I loved gave me the armor I needed to step into the world with confidence and grace. The realization for me was that attitude, and just like style, it transformed me.

With newfound love and acceptance for myself, I was able to overcome the fear and doubt instilled from my surgeries. Though I never considered talking about my experience and my prosthetic until I found a personal hero in an unlikely place. It was 2015, when Fetty Wap ascended to the billboard top 100. It was the first time I had ever seen a person appear without a prosthetic and proudly show it off.

It was the first time I felt like I could face the world without my own. 

Fetty didn’t just put his face on the cover of his album. He put his most vulnerable self on display. I felt empowered by him, blown away by his immense confidence, and quite honestly, it made him even more fucking cool.

There’s a special kind of magic that happens to your sense of self when you don’t just learn to live with who you are, but you truly like who you are. And while I don’t like everything about myself and my eye loss, I have learned to deeply appreciate how God formed me, and I’m grateful for the vision I do have.

My advice for anyone who is struggling with their body image after loss, or self-esteem in general, is to take it one day at a time. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your very best friend. You deserve to be loved just as much as anyone else. Healing for me has taken almost twenty years, and I’m still growing and learning to accept every part of myself each and every day. It’s a process. It doesn’t end after a string of good days, it lasts the entirety of one’s life. And while I’m now happy with who I am, I know this is a never ending journey. I embrace it openly, without fear. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you don’t just have to accept the body you’re in. It’s okay to like all of yourself too. Quirks and flaws included. God doesn’t make mistakes. Beauty is and can be anything. And just because I may not be viewed as beautiful by traditional standards, I’m beautiful by my standards.

I’m sure you’ve heard a million times over that a girl’s best day in her life is her wedding day. But I think that would almost be an understatement to how I feel about the day I finally said I do. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous when the day came. I felt ecstatic and my dad and I were laughing down the aisle because he admitted to me he was more nervous than I was. Though I was feeling super anxious a few days prior with all of the things that could possibly go wrong, I accepted that I couldn’t control anything further I was still going to marry the love of my life if something didn’t go as planned. (Plus any last minute problems were now assigned to the help I hired, and she made sure my day was perfect). What might have shocked me more than anything is that at the end of the night, every single thing I planned went as expected. I can’t thank every single person involved in our wedding enough to have made our dream wedding a reality.  View Full Post

 Living in New York, I often make the joke that anyone that lives here needs therapy. The constant bustle (that I love), competition, life, and general anxieties- they all add up! Which got me thinking about self care tips that I use all the time and throwing a next level bath might just be the self care you need to try. View Full Post

Photo by Andrew Morales/WWD

I wore this particular outfit to Naeem Khan, which was the show I was most excited for this season. I’ve been very excited to see his work for this year so I wanted to put together something special to wear that day. I take a lot of care in what I choose to wear; always ensuring my entire look fits together and describes how I am feeling in that moment. I carefully hand select the vintage pieces I find, restore them to good health, and wear them with pride. The morning before the show, I even made a special appointment with my good friend Heather Schnell to curl my hair in a retro style.

After the show I had asked the lovely couple next to me to take my photo – which they were kind enough to do – even complimenting my outfit in the process. Which is why, during their quick snap, I was so surprised to hear from behind me:

“Wow. That girl looks like vintage furniture. I guess everything gets recycled.”

Photo by Denton Taylor

Fashion is all about expressing yourself. If and when you dislike something that someone else is wearing – and it will happen – it’s important to remember that the things you say are not just harmful, they are rude. I said nothing while my outfit I had worked on for weeks was torn apart in seconds. I knew I felt good in what I was wearing and I wasn’t about to feel bad about it because someone else thought it resembled “furniture.”

Photo by Denton Taylor 🙂

So here’s to all the women who choose to wear colour instead of the ubiquitous NYC black, and for stepping out bravely in something totally unexpected.

Here’s to the women that choose not to follow every trend; that wear what makes them feel their absolute best and reflect what they feel. Not what everyone else is choosing to embrace.

This NYFW I learned that when you stay true to yourself and your personal style, wonderful things can happen. After all, fashion is all about expressing yourself. Even if you decide next season to go as a shag carpet.

Thank you for noticing my personal style WWD.

XO

-Belle

OUTFIT DETAILS:
CAPE: Vintage 60’s
FAUX FUR: Imposter 4 U
YELLOW CARDIGAN: Vintage 50’s Cheerleader
DRESS: Vintage 70’s
DRESS 2: Glittery Topshop
BEADED HANDBAG: Vintage (date being researched)
SHOES: Prada

SPECIAL THANKS TO HEATHER SCHNELL XX

I had the pleasure of going to The Club by DM for a wash and blow dry. My good friend Scarlett organized the whole event and I met some wonderful ladies who blog! I was greeted right away and had a mega luxurious wash. Is there anything more delicious than having your hair washed and styled for you? I think it’s such a treat. The DM team used Cloud 9 to wash and style my hair and it looked (and smelled!!) amazing! Here are the results…

 

Thank you so much The Club by DM for such a relaxing (and wonderful) experience! Be sure to stop by and give them a try- three minute walk from the A or C train 😉

 

OUTFIT DETAILS:
COAT: Vintage Mink
SWEATER: Vintage Milly
PANTS: Ann Taylor
SHOES: American Apparel
HANDBAG: Balenciaga