Gabe Adams-Wheatley: the beauty influencer born without limbs

4 mins
05 Apr 2022
Gabe Adams-Wheatley: the beauty influencer born without limbs

The beauty industry’s long-standing exclusion of people with disabilities is bust open in Gabe’s joyful TikToks

image Gabe Adams-Wheatley

words Hannah Bertolino

In 2020, after beauty brands worldwide were called out on social media for their long-standing lack of representation and inclusion, the industry was finally forced to spotlight people of different genders, races, and sizes. Despite that progress, however, the beauty industry still remains as a space predominantly designed for able-bodied users – with brands rarely taking opportunities to platform people with disabilities in campaigns, glossing over requests to create disability-friendly products, and in turn, excluding the 14.1 million disabled people in the UK and the one billion disabled people worldwide.

“There’s a lot of people who would benefit if people would take the time to listen and to understand how to make things easier for others,” TikTok MUA Gabe Adams-Wheatley tells Woo, explaining that seeing more disabled people in campaigns would be “eye-opening” for more than just the disabled community alone.

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Since his first post in 2018, Gabe, who is known on Instagram under the username @no_limbs_, has amassed over 2.4 million followers online. Uploading creative make-up tutorials; GRWMs; and beauty challenges, the MUA delivers a joyful glimpse into his daily life without limbs – all while delivering uplifting representation for people with disabilities in the beauty community.

When he was born in São Paulo, Brazil, Gabe was diagnosed with Hanhart syndrome – a condition which left him without any arms or legs, and at nine-months-old, he was adopted into a family with 13 other children in Utah where he attended school in a wheelchair and was taught to live independently by his parents. In seventh grade – trying to avoid being labeled as “the kid in the wheelchair” – he began using creativity as a way to connect with others and prove himself, spending hours secretly teaching himself to dance so that he could perform in his school talent show (which he won with a standing ovation, of course).

Later, while competing in his high school’s dance company, Gabe tried make-up for the first time – drawn in by the fact that “it’s so creative, and anyone can do it” and began practising daily. After years spent working as a motivational speaker to “try to make some change” in his former schools and local businesses, however, Gabe decided to quit his job to focus on his creativity with make-up full-time when the pandemic hit. “Honestly (motivational speaking) was not something I ever wanted to do,” reflects Gabe. “Luckily, when COVID hit, I was able to show more of my creative side with make-up.”

“I was asked by a brand to film a video where I’m holding the product up, and I was so stressed because I can hold it, but it’s not going to look as graceful as somebody else”
Gabe Adams-Wheatley

Since then, the beauty influencer has gathered over 76 million likes on his TikToks, which showcase his unique way of applying make-up using his mouth, neck, and face to swipe brushes, dot on foundation, blend eyeshadow, and glue on false eyelashes. “My favourite part of my make-up routine would have to be the setting powder because it really cleans up the contour,” he explains. “My least favourite part would actually be the setting powder because it gets everywhere.”

While Gabe notes that he’s been able to find his own way to use the products already on the market, he also acknowledges that brands need to spend time listening to people with disabilities. “There needs to be a little more of an open dialogue on how to do things,” Gabe explained in an interview last month. “I was asked by a brand to film a video where I’m holding the product up to show it and I was so stressed because I can hold it up, but it’s not going to look as graceful as somebody else.”

Beyond make-up, Gabe has used his platform to share more personal experiences – from explaining the way that he gets ready in the morning, to sharing videos from his wedding day with his husband, announcing that he identifies as non-binary in drag, and opening up about the bullying he has faced online and IRL. “A lot of you want to make fun of me for being physically different,” he states in one TikTok. “But until you’ve personally lived my life without limbs, maybe don’t comment because I’m doing my best.”

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Through any backlash, however, Gabe explains that the positive responses he receives makes it worth it. “It’s touching to hear that people with disabilities are watching my videos and learning and growing,” he says.

As for the future, Gabe hopes to continue his work in beauty – whether that’s through creating his own palette or getting involved with fashion – and to continue to uplift others with disabilities in the beauty community. “If there's any kind of impact that I hope to have in the beauty industry or even just in general, it would be (the message) that the sky is not the limit,” he says. “And nobody can tell me that I can't because I definitely can… and I will.”

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