June 22, 2020 at 01:00PM
Molly Burke’s love for makeup runs deep, an admiration that began to flourish when she was 12 and her mom took her to a M.A.C counter at a local Hudson’s Bay store for a makeover one Christmas. “That was my big gift that year; my mom bought me all the products they used on me,” shares the 26-year-old, who was born and raised in Oakville, Ont., and now lives in Los Angeles. After that, Burke was hooked, and beauty counter visits and product hauls became her go-to wish for every birthday and Christmas during her teen years.
Most of us are lucky to hold a vivid visual memory of our first encounter with makeup, from the overall look to the colours swept on. In Burke’s case, she couldn’t see herself in the mirror. At the age of four, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa—a rare degenerative eye disease that slowly deteriorated her vision for the next 10 years. By the age of 14, she was legally blind. As if the prognosis weren’t hard enough, Burke soon found herself an easy target for bullying by classmates, an experience that left her severely depressed and led her to turn to YouTube’s beauty vlogging community for solace. “I really gravitated toward girls who were around the same age as me. When I went blind, I lost any friends that I had; these girls online felt like my friends when I really had nobody,” says Burke, adding that the descriptive video tutorials opened her up to the plethora of iconic beauty brands.
Today, Burke is a social media heavyweight herself, with almost two million subscribers to her YouTube channel and more than 850K Instagram followers. Having turned her disability into her strongest power source, she posts regular lighthearted and educational vlogs and beauty tutorials that give curious fans raw and genuine footage inside her life as a blind woman. Burke’s content is no doubt a breath of fresh air in a giant sea of YouTubers, and, what’s more, her strong reputation extends far beyond a screen: The social media buff has been public speaking since the age of five and has shared stages with the likes of Justin Trudeau, Malala Yousafzai and Meghan Markle.
Despite a life without sight, Burke has never let her vision loss stop her from revelling daily in applying makeup or doing her signature updos, like messy topknots and high ponies. “For me, it’s never been about covering anything,” she says. “It’s never been about making myself feel more beautiful or more confident—because I can’t see myself in the mirror. It’s all an act of self-care: taking that time for myself every single morning, when I sit at my vanity and do my makeup and hair and I play and express myself.”
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Gallop and I had such a wonderful time @streamys last night with all our friends! So grateful ????? Styled by @theclothingtherapist HMU by @maureensherwoodmakeup . . . #accessability Photo Descriptions: Molly is standing with Gallop on the red carpet. She is dress in a one piece tuxedo style one piece that are shorts. Her ankle boots are sparkly and she loves them:) Gallop has a blinged collar and was just groomed before he left for the event!]
Burke has even mastered her own unique ways of acing her go-to looks. “I’m always asked for tutorials on my ponytail because I do it all the time,” she says. “Honestly, I just lie on my bed and flip my hair off to the side, and then I brush it into a ponytail and that’s it.” And that topknot? “I flip my head upside down, pull all my hair on top of my head, twist it and I’m done!”
The millennial powerhouse is also as passionate about fashion as she is about beauty, with an obsession for flowy maxi-skirts that can easily be paired with crop tops—especially come summertime, she says. “I feel like that’s my look as a 26-year-old.” As for how she navigates her closet at home? “I memorize everything by how it feels,” she reveals, noting that her fingers are extra-sensitive (compared to people who are sighted) due to her Braille expertise. The same applies for the makeup on her vanity. “I memorize everything in my life: from where every lipstick sits in my makeup collection to where every eyeshadow is in a palette. It’s not work for me.”
Being blind has never held Burke back from indulging in her love of beauty and fashion—and the global pandemic isn’t either. “Right now, beauty and fashion make me feel normal: putting on a cute outfit (even if it’s loungewear), still doing my full face of makeup every day, putting my hair up, shaving my legs—I even still put self-tanner on,” she says of her quarantine routine. “I’m doing all the things that I would do if I was living my normal life, because doing these things truly makes me feel better.”
In Her Kit
These are the makeup staples that line Molly’s vanity.
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