I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Renée, who uses social media to advocate for Albinism awareness.
A rising beauty Influencer, performing artist and award-winning visual artist, she aims to dispel common misconceptions about Albinism as well as inspire other people living with the condition. Born in Indianapolis, her journey has led her to bigger opportunities in New York City.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s show everyone you’re a normal human being. What are your hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeves?
“My favorite hobby is jump rope!
“I began performing with my school’s jump rope team in Indianapolis when I was 7 and I fell in love with the sport. In 2015 I was a coach with Jump for Joy! a youth jump rope program in Baltimore.
“Now I am an instructor/performer with a group called Double Dutch Empire in NYC. My goal is to train and eventually compete in the national jump rope competitions.”
Tell us about YOU when you’re not at the office.
“I’m pretty laid back. You might find me at the library or in the art museums. I like to read and listen to music.”
Can you tell us something about you that few people know?
“I was born legally blind. Most people don’t notice when they first meet me, but my vision can sometimes be a challenge. It can create some awkward social interactions. People sometimes think I’m being rude because I don’t respond when I can’t see them.”
Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?
“Yes! I just finished illustrating my first children’s book project for author Trina Diakabanzila and her daughter, co-author Grace M. The book is Getting to Know My Real Curls Is Fun! is about a little girl embracing her natural curls. The book is fun and colorful. It’s always been a dream of mine to be a published book illustrator, so this first project was very special to me.
“I recently landed a lead role in a short film written by writer Dakota Wollmer. The film is a tragedy about an interdimensional being that falls in love with a half-human but loses his chance to be with her because his idea of love is chaotic and destructive.”
Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Can you describe two that most impacted your success and why.
“When I was a teen, I had never met another person with Albinism, so I searched the internet and found the website of Mem Nahadr, an international music artist who has Albinism.
“I emailed her and was thrilled when she wrote me back. We exchanged emails and kept in touch for years since. Mem was a huge inspiration because when I was younger I did not see people who looked like me represented in the media.
“I also felt very alone being the only person with Albinism in my family and in my community, so it meant a lot to me to be able to connect with Mem. She shared her experiences of growing up with Albinism and I could relate to those experiences.
“Last year, When I moved to New York City I finally got to meet Mem in person. it was a really special moment for the both of us.”
“Another person who had an impact on my success is celebrity makeup artist Candace Corey. In 2004 I decided I wanted to learn makeup artistry. I attended a pro workshop taught by Candace. When Candace was the key artist for the P&G Gymnastics Championships, I had the opportunity to work as one of the artists on her beauty team for the events. I’ve also assisted Candace on set for a TV commercial, a live broadcast, and a bridal fashion show. I’ve learned so much from Candace and she makes me feel supported. When I had some fears about the little challenges I sometimes face being visually impaired, she encouraged me to not let that stop me from pursuing my goals. Her advice gave me the push to just go for it. I’ve done more with my career in beauty than I initially thought was possible.”
Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?
“I’ve always been immersed in the performing arts but acting was not one of my biggest strengths. I submitted my first audition tape in 2010 and landed my first speaking role on an episode of NBC’s Harry’s Law. I played Natalie Sikonge, a Tanzanian woman with Albinism who was seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape witch doctors who believe body parts from a person with Albinism can bring wealth.
“I had some previous acting experience in local theatre but jumping right into television acting on an Emmy Award-winning drama series was something I never imagined. It was way out of my comfort zone and I didn’t know what to expect on my first trip to Hollywood, but I used that experience to soak in all that I could on the spot. I had to train with a vocal coach for an entire day in order to learn how to speak with an authentic accent. Playing the role was so rewarding because I grew up never seeing a person with Albinism on television being depicted in a humanistic way. Characters with Albinism have historically been portrayed as evil, scary or magical in Hollywood films. Now I would love to see more characters written that show people with Albinism as everyday people.”
What unfiltered advice can you give aspiring stars regarding how to avoid common mis-fires in starting their career?
“My advice is to not listen to negativity. There have always been people around me telling me what I wouldn’t be able to do, but now I am doing all of those things. I decided not to let anyone else direct my path. I do things in the best way that works for me. Some people won’t understand the choices you make. Even if you make a mistake, it is part of your personal learning experience. I’ve learned that when I fail, I can always bounce back.”
What is one “efficiency hack” you use consistently in your life to keep your time and mind free to focus on your strengths and passions?
“I haven’t perfected an efficiency hack yet, but I think it does help me to write my ideas down. I can always go back to my notes when I’m feeling low on creativity.”
What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?
“I’ve created a new page on Instagram where I will be hosting new videos for women with Albinism called Albinism Beauty TV @albinismbeautytv. The videos will include Albinism beauty tips and interviews with women with Albinism who would like to share their goals and accomplishments. It is another way to spread Albinism awareness and highlight the women in the Albinism community.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was really awesome! Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com