Blind YouTube star Molly Burke wants to help young people with disabilities navigate wellness

Molly Burke wants to make wellness more accessible. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Relax is Yahoo Life’s wellness series where experts, influencers and celebrities share their approach to wellness and mental healthfrom self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Molly Burke has been on YouTube For six years she regularly shared her life as a young blind woman with nearly two million people – including daily routines, unique challenge videos, and anecdotes about losing her vision due to an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. However, with her recent partnership with Schick, the 27-year-old wants to do more than share her life experiences on her platform, but also use it to make wellness more accessible.

“I’m used to doing most things in my life differently than people with disabilities. But there are simple changes that many companies can make to their designs that make it so much easier for me and other people like me to do those things,” Burke tells Yahoo Life. “The way Schick designed their two-in-one razor eliminates the need for shaving cream and shaving cream. For me personally, that was what made shaving quite difficult, simply because I shave by feel.”

Partnering with the brand was a no-brainer for Burke, who admits that over-the-counter brands still have a long way to go when it comes to catering to the disabled community. “By sharing some of the more challenging elements of everyday tasks publicly, I can hopefully inspire more companies to think about design and how they can tweak it slightly to make it more accessible,” she says. “And the reality is that when we make things more accessible for people with disabilities, it’s often more accessible and easier to use for everyone. That’s why it’s important to think of these things as inclusive, not just accessible.”

In conversation with Yahoo Life, the motivational speaker and author of the original Audible audiobook It’s not what it seems, shared more about her relationship with wellness and how she indulges in self-care.

There is such a lack of representation when it comes to disabilities in the self-care space. What impact do you think that had on you growing up?

As millennials, we always talk about awkward phases. Gen Z now never has difficult phases. They just go straight from kid to happy looking adults. They never have that, like a dorky, nerdy, prepubescent stage it seems. And I think that’s because, unlike our generation that didn’t have access to things like YouTube, they have access to so much information and content to teach them how to do their makeup flawlessly so they don’t go through that awkwardness. learning process have to go through phase we have all gone through. And so, just like for able-bodied people, having access to these things has improved their skills and how they do things and know which products not to waste their money on. The same would have been true if I had access to those things. If I had access to someone who taught me how to do my makeup as a blind man, or at least gave me some tips, I wouldn’t have had to go through the trial and error process of doing it myself. and mascara all over my face. I’m grateful that hopefully I can be someone who can do that for other young blind people.

You were diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 4, but at age 14 you lost most of your vision. Were there any routines you had to relearn at that time?

It’s definitely rediscovering and reshaping my whole life, not just that one self-care element. I’ve always been obsessed with makeup and fashion and skin care and hair care. That’s always been who I am. So I started using a deep skin care routine morning and night when I was 11 years old. And so for me I was actually already into makeup and skincare when I lost most of my sight, even though I had been legally blind from birth. So even if I started it to begin with, I was faced with that barrier. But it certainly changed when I lost more of my vision. I had to think, okay, how am I going to do this? And make up my own unique little hacks and tricks to help myself and now hopefully I can help other people by sharing them.

How did you create your own unique place on YouTube as one of the platform’s first disabled creators?

I grew up with the OG beauty lifestyle girls when everything was flawless and perfect and nobody made mistakes and it was all aesthetic B-roll and voiceovers. They have all portrayed the perfect lifestyle. That’s the YouTube I watched in my teens. And I knew that when I started my channel, as much as I loved those girls and still love many of those channels, I wanted to portray a realistic lifestyle. Because I knew I could enjoy the highs of what they shared, but I also had the lows. And so it was important for me to show all the fun, glamorous aspects of my life, but it was also important to show the really challenging struggles of my life. Not only do I believe that sharing struggles allows us to bridge gaps, but I also believe that sharing struggles allows us to bond more closely and connect on a deeper level. And that was important to build a community that felt like a safe place for everyone, no matter what their lives look like.

You’ve shared some thoughts on Twitter about what the wellness industry can do to become more accessible. Can you tell me a little more about what those ideas are and how far we are from reality?

It is unbelievable to see how many brands have added Braille to their packaging in recent years. And then of course it’s a bit of a bit to add brands to universal symbols [slower]. I think for most people the idea of ​​universal design is a little further behind than accessible design. But I think we’re headed in the right direction. My personal goal would be to see the brand name in braille on the packaging and then have the same universal symbol on the actual product in it. So when I’m shopping, when I want a night cream, I know the symbol — a crescent moon representing a night cream, for example — and then I feel the brand name in braille on the outside to make sure I’m getting the right one. If it’s the same symbol inside, I don’t remember a new symbol system every time.

What does self-care look like to you when you step away from the camera?

It’s something I’ve been working on to be honest. I kind of shared it all and I realized, especially in the last year of my life, that I had to find a way to somehow have some kind of privacy or personal life. It’s hard to find that line when your career and your life are more or less the same. So I’ve been working on that myself and I think it’s been a big part of my own mental health this year.

When I’m in my spare time, I’m obsessed with sleeping. Everyone will tell you. I always root hard for people who invest a lot of money in their sleeping life. I feel we should all have high quality mattresses, pillows, blankets, sheets and pajamas. We should have the highest quality stuff as much of our most important time we spend in bed is to live our best life. So I sleep a lot, a lot of bubble baths. I like yoga. I do my foam rolling and my yoga stretching every night. Those are the things I obviously don’t shoot on the internet when I do them. And they’re just fun things for me.

What is one piece of advice that you have taken with you throughout your personal and professional life?

One that I often think about is something that one of my mentors told me when I was in high school and that was, “Live, learn, pass on.” You know, if you can live your life, learn from your experiences, your mistakes and pass that on to others to make a difference, then none of your mistakes, none of the hardships you’ve had will ever be lost. And I think that’s exactly what I’ve done in my career.