grace mandeville was born with one hand, but that’s not the biggest obstacle she’s faced
The fearless YouTuber talks beauty, body confidence and diversity in the media.
Image via instagram
Grace Mandeville was born with a foreshortened right arm, which means her right arm ends below her elbow. But that’s all you need to know about that. An actor, model, fashion blogger, presenter and highly successful YouTuber, Grace is defined by many things other than what some mistakenly refer to as a “disability”. That’s not to say she shies away from the matter. In fact some of her most popular (and tbh hilarious) videos are dedicated to challenging the very notion of disability. “ I embarrass myself on YouTube,” reads her Instagram bio. “Oh and I have one hand.” Born in Surrey, Grace has been acting since she was a kid. She’s best known for portraying Holly on CBBC’s The Sparticle Mystery. In 2014, she set up the Mandeville Sisters , a YouTube channel she runs with her sister, which focuses on everything from biting social commentary, fashion and lifestyle to addressing the issue of mental health and uprooting societal norms. Utterly fearless, she’s an example to us all.
“I’ve always been someone who challenges people, whether that means throwing my prosthetic arm at strangers in the supermarket when I was two years old because I didn’t want to wear it, arguing with my dad about anything and everything at age 14 or uploading videos to my YouTube channel to critique media for its shortcomings when its comes to diversity.
I was born with a foreshortened right arm, which basically means my right arm ends below my elbow. So I’ve had to deal with people staring and asking questions for a good 23 years now, most of them are lovely, a few are disgusting. To most this would probably seem like my biggest obstacle in life, but honestly I think that was battling with my sixth form so they would allow me to not go to uni, or that one time when someone kicked a beer bottle into the heel of my foot in Ayia Napa -- that was an interesting experience to get through.
When I was a kid I went through a strong Avril Lavigne phase and managed to persuade my mum to let me wear eyeliner to a school disco. I’m talking Punkyfish clothing, fishnet tights, straightened slick hair, baggy black trousers, wide vans with the shoelaces undone. It was an interesting look, but I felt pretty cool at the time, I’m not going to lie.
I’m not sure about the word “beautiful”, but I’ve felt pretty confident with how I’ve looked from a young age. I was born different, I know everyone is different -- but having one hand is pretty obvious when it comes to differences and because I always knew this it seemed pointless to try and fit in. So I became very comfortable with my body and how I looked at a young age, so much so that I would choose to have one hand over two hands any day.
To me, fashion has always allowed me to be in control of why I stand out from the crowd. When people started stopping me and asking me where my clothes were from instead of asking why I had one hand, that’s when I knew I hound found something cool.
I’d like to say I feel most beautiful when I’ve got no make-up on, just had a shower or awoken from a happy dream, but realistically it’s a 50/50 between that moment after a glass of wine when I’m on the dance floor with my boyfriend (the part before I feel like a sweaty mess) and that moment when I’m about to put some foundation on but my skin actually looks like it’s behaved itself so I decide it actually only needs a few dots of concealer.
To me, beauty is all about being different. Standing out with your opinions, your appearance, your art, your sexuality, your race, your mentality, your intelligence. If it’s different I love it! It’s so important to be who you want to be, do what you enjoy, wear what makes you feel good, ignore opinions that make you feel bad. That’s when you’ll start to feel beautiful.”
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.