Highlighting people with disabilities in the online beauty community

Student Spotlight
Louis Albano, fourth-year marketing major




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Louis Albano’s online makeup persona, Louis Jenson, has a wide variety of makeup looks posted to his Instagram.

Louis Albano is a fourth-year marketing major from Carmel, N.Y., but on Instagram and in the online beauty community, Albano goes by the persona of Louis Jenson. Through Instagram, Facebook Live and YouTube, Albano shares his creativity by making videos and posting photos of his different makeup looks. Using makeup is a fun and creative outlet for him, but Albano is also passionate about making the beauty community and industry more accessible for all people, particularly the deaf community. He says that his goal isn’t to gain internet fame, he simply wants to raise awareness of different accessibility issues and help provide the proper resources to those who may need them.

Albano is going to be featured in a Yahoo Lifestyle video and article celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The article and video, set to be released on Sunday, Dec. 3, put a spotlight on people with disabilities who are making a name for themselves in the fashion and beauty communities. Albano is one of many people who was selected because of his creative talents and innovative methods of navigating the beauty industry with a disability.

Question: Have you always been interested in beauty and makeup?
Answer: I didn’t really start getting into it until I got to RIT and I met a student here who does drag. I’ve seen drag before, but I never saw it that close. I messaged him about it a few times and he let me come to his dorm, watch him while he was doing his makeup and he even gave me some tips. At first, I thought I really wanted to go into drag, but when I took time to think about it I realized I just wanted to do beauty. Drag could be incorporated into that, but my main goal is just doing creative things on my face. I’ve always liked art and I thought that this was a different and fun way to use that creativity.

Question: How did you start getting involved in the online makeup community?
Answer: I have always watched YouTube videos. I remember when it first came out as a platform. I started off looking into tech videos, but once I started being more comfortable with myself I started watching some beauty influencers who made videos about makeup. I have a cochlear implant so I’m able to hear at a certain level, but when I couldn’t hear everything I was stuck because most of these videos weren’t captioned. A lot of beauty influencers in the industry still don’t caption their videos, they rely on the automatic captions that YouTube provides, but those are just junk. So when I started getting into makeup, my deaf and hard-of-hearing friends on campus would ask me where I was learning it. I would give them a person’s name, but then I realized that these videos weren’t captioned so I basically gave them an empty suggestion. I was feeling guilty about it so I started trying to find influencers that had captions, but there weren’t any. I’m sure now there are probably a couple, but it’s still very minimal. I wanted to start creating content that was accessible by listing product names, joining deaf online beauty groups and helping with makeup tips, and ensuring to have closed captions in all my YouTube videos.

Question: What was your reaction when Yahoo contacted you about the video?
Answer: When they initially commented on my Instagram posts I thought it was fishy, but I just decided to go for it because you never know. Once we started emailing back and forth I realized it was actually Yahoo, so I decided to work with them. At first, I was excited, but then I was wondering how I would be able to do this because I have a co-op and I can’t just leave in the middle of the week to travel to New York City. I thought it would be impossible, but the people who I work for at Behind the Bricks were entirely on board. They told me I was kicked out of work, I couldn’t come in and that I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. They were extremely supportive, and that definitely helped a lot.

Question: Can you tell us about your trip to New York City to film the video?
Answer: I drove down there and came back the very next day, so it was a two-day trip. It was an amazing learning experience for me. Once I started looking into the different people participating I was really impressed. There was one girl who had an amputated leg and had a prosthetic. She didn’t like the way it looked, so she had it redesigned. There was another girl who was paralyzed just in her arms, so she worked with a company to create a two-piece jacket that makes it easier for her and the people who assist her to get the jacket on. There were lots of very small things that I had never thought about and seeing what they had done was an eye-opening experience.

Question: Why do you think it’s important to represent people who have disabilities in videos like this and in the beauty community?
Answer: I think it’s important to highlight people with disabilities so we can help people be more mindful. People can really build bridges and make a world that is accessible to everyone if everyone just understands each other. You may not necessarily be able to relate to their experiences, but you can at least take the time to better understand it and do better when communicating or just interacting with others. For example, sometimes hearing people become disconnected with deaf people because they think they can’t communicate, but that isn’t the case. There are a million ways to communicate aside from ASL or voicing. Write a note, send an email, type it on your phone. There are so many ways to communicate, but a lot of people don’t take the time to think about it so the conversation ends before it even starts. If people just take two seconds to analyze the situation they can come up with so many more solutions to communicate. I think people aren’t mindful of accessibility because they aren’t always exposed to it. So videos like this can just make you more mindful.

Question: Do you have any words of wisdom for people who are just starting with makeup or want to post online beauty content?
Answer: I think that people take a lot of time to think about their branding and their strategy and their marketing. I’m a marketing major, and you would think I would advocate for that, but I don’t think that is what people need to focus on. If you want to do makeup, just focus on getting what products you can and paint that face. Even if you’re working with a terrible eyeshadow pallet, you can still use it to practice. If anything, that bad eyeshadow pallet will teach you to think outside the box and come up with new techniques unlike the good pallets. Basically a metaphor of life, right? I started off with low quality products and just really took my time trying to make it work. I didn’t have eye brushes, I just used sponges and other makeshift things, but it got my foot in the door and helped me become more comfortable with makeup. Now I have brushes and all this fancy makeup stuff, but it took starting from scratch for me to really understand what I’m doing. With time, you will become smarter with what you’re doing. It’s important for people to just get started. Do the makeup, get it posted, and let the rest fall into place.

Felicia Swartzenberg compiles “Student Spotlights” for University Communications. Contact her at fds9410@mail.rit.edu with suggestions.