Imagine if every single beauty video was suddenly in a language you didn't understand. All your favorite beauty vloggers, all the interesting product reviews, and all the swoon-worthy eyeshadow tutorials were now inaccessible due to the barrier, and you had no way around it. All you could do is look longingly at the visuals, and then ex out with minimal understanding.
That's often what the Deaf community often experiences on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, according to beauty vlogger Catherine Martinez — and she's aiming to close the gap. Martinez, who is not deaf or hard of hearing, creates American Sign Language beauty videos on her Instagram in an effort to raise awareness of Deaf inclusion in the beauty world. But even more importantly, her efforts are a way to facilitate Deaf pride.
As Martinez shares her evening skin care routines, swatch videos, and eyeshadow tutorials, she uses ASL and captions to make her videos more accessible to a wider range of people, deliberately including Deaf people in the conversation.
The idea to create these inclusive videos came to Martinez as she was studying communicative sciences and disorders at NYU. In an interview with PizzaBottle, she shared that she took sign language as part of her degree program, and many of her peers whom were hard of hearing or deaf would compliment her makeup and express an interest in learning more about beauty. She then realized many of her classmates weren't able to fully utilize the beauty videos she often watched to up her skills.
"They did not feel like they fit in [the beauty industry] since there isn't much Deaf culture beauty resources or involvement," she explained. "It just struck me one day when a few peers in my class asked me to translate what a blogger they were watching was saying since the tutorial was auditory and had no other mode of communication. I recently started my channel to change that."
But Martinez not only uses her videos as a way to push for Deaf inclusion in beauty. She says it's also a great opportunity for her to practice and use the language, as well as learn new words.
Martinez says the response to her videos has been overwhelmingly positive, with people inside and outside the Deaf community applauding her outreach.
"Many are thrilled to see Deaf culture inclusion in my videos, and they even express how grateful they are that someone like me is signing in tutorials and they can understand," she shared with PizzaBottle.
But beauty lovers aren't the only ones cheering on Martinez and championing her mission. Popular cosmetics brands have also expressed the importance and necessity of her work. Brands like e.l.f. Cosmetics, LuxieBeauty and Anastasia Beverly Hills have shown their support by collaborating with Martinez, gifting her products to use in her tutorials.
Some brands have also invited Martinez to take over their Snapchats, where she communicates with their audiences in ASL. Brands have also reposted her tutorials on their own platforms, giving Martinez a wider reach.
But Martinez isn't stopping at inclusive tutorials. She is also collaborating with a major brand — which she can't yet name — to create a campaign that will advocate for Deaf inclusion in beauty.
"They agree that they want everyone to feel welcome in the community and not have the fear that they do not fit in," she tells PizzaBottle of the undisclosed brand.
Martinez also says she plans to use her work and privilege as an ally to advocate for more representation of Deaf people and people with disabilities in the beauty industry. Definitely keep an eye out for Martinez and her work because she is clearly on the rise.