Beauty Trends

I Have One Hand. Here’s How I Paint My Nails

This story is part of The Beauty of Accessibility, our series on inclusivity and representation for people with disabilities in the beauty industry and beyond.

I was born without my left hand, otherwise known as being a congenital amputee below the elbow. My doctors think that when I was in the womb a piece of amniotic tissue got wrapped around my arm and prevented it from growing. This is called amniotic band syndrome, or ABS, and happens to about 1 in 15,000 babies. As a result, I have a short forearm, some wrist and hand bones, and little finger “nubbins.” I absolutely love my “stump,” as I now affectionately refer to my arm.

When I was five years old, my younger sister named my little arm Bebe — she was trying to say “baby hand” but was too young, so Bebe just sort of stuck, to this day. My sister and I loved to play games with our arms. Most often, Bebe was a superhero and my right hand was the bad guy, Biggie. My sister was entertained for hours. At such a young age, she was the first one to show me how incredible it is to love one’s body fully, for exactly how it is. I grew up with an excellent sense of body awareness and pride because of my sister.

As I got older and started exploring makeup, I experimented with painting my nails. You’d think I only have five nails — the ones on my right hand — but I also have a little nail on my thumb on my stump. This little nail grows like any other nail and I have to trim it sometimes; sometimes I bite it; and, when I’m in the mood, I paint it. Because I grew up in an environment where I didn’t get treated differently for having one hand, I feel confident trying new things that typically require two hands. Nail polish is just another fun thing to use in my unique way.

Courtesy Alexis Hillyard. Design by Bella Geraci.

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