The Landscape

Invisible Melanin: Albinism - Vision Impairment - Identity and More

January 24, 2021 Naveh Eldar / Invisible Melanin Season 2 Episode 2
The Landscape
Invisible Melanin: Albinism - Vision Impairment - Identity and More
Show Notes Transcript

Carrissa, known to her over 300K social media followers as Invisible Melanin, speaks about her specific type of albinism, how it causes vision impairment, and how it has impacted her identity. She gives a fantastic interview that also touches on ADHD, plus size modeling, social media trolling, how she works to grow and learn more about herself, and so much more.

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Naveh Eldar  0:15  
Welcome to the landscape, a podcast to shed light on the people, programs and businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host Naveh Eldar. Today I speak with Karissa who is known as invisible melanin to her over 300,000 followers on social media. She will speak about albinism, vision impairment, identity, and more. That episode was interesting for me to listen to as I was editing, because there was a clear shift from conducting an interview to having a conversation in the middle. The conversation starts with Carissa speaking about her specific type of albinism and how it impacts her vision.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  1:01  
I have a condition called albinism, and it is a hereditary genetic disorder. So your mother and your father both have to carry the gene in order for it to be expressed in the children. So I have ocular albinism, which just means that my eyes also don't have a lot of melanin, and I have a visual impairment and visual impairments are actually like very common in people with albinism, because of a combination of an underdeveloped phobia, and the lack of melanin in the eye actually, lets way too much light into the eye. So a combination of the underdeveloped phobia and light sensitivity can make it kind of difficult to do things day to day. Sometimes it will refer to albinism as a disability just to get it across that there are limitations that come with it. But albinism itself, isn't it's just the fact that it causes visual impairments. And there are different forms of albinism, they can look different, I actually never got tested for my albinism because it was just very apparent with me because I mix and you can look at your you can look at the eyes often and tell because then melanin is missing. I actually think it's very cute either. Depending some eye doctors actually get very excited when they see my eyes. And I think that's very cute. The only time I get the shine in that regard. But it can appear different. Like there's some people who only have albinism, their eyes, even people who have mild form of albinism, we can look very different. There's some people with like darker hair, lighter hair, eye color can range from transparent, that's actually a very common misconception that people with albinism have red eyes, they can appear to be red. But it's not a red pigmentation. It's actually the lack of pigmentation allowing you to see through the iris and see like, all the blood and things that are usually covered up. And so that being said, I don't like to say that people have red eyes, because there's actually a huge stigma. If you look at media, a lot of media where you do see people with albinism, whether it's stated or not stated, they're usually like evil, or quote unquote, crazy. So I'm just like, No, no, there's no mystical nonsense going on here. We just don't got a lot of melanin. It's cool. But yeah, so it can range from like a transparent color to a brown Hazel. It really depends.

Naveh Eldar  3:19  
How does it affect you? Like I've seen a few pictures with you where you use like a sight cane? Is that something that you use regularly? Or is that just every once in a while? So how for you in particular, does it impact your life,

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  3:33  
so we can get into my whole experience, because I feel like that goes more into like my childhood and stuff. But as of right now, I have started using a cane. And I've I started wearing glasses a few years back, I think being visually impaired, as opposed to completely blind can be a different experience. Because there can be a sense of denial for a very long time, especially like if you're like, high functioning, so to speak. I know that's not the proper terminology. But um, so for a long time, I just kind of got by doing the bare minimum. And then I realized I was limiting myself because I wasn't using all the tools available to me. And most people around me Didn't know and for a long time, I kind of took pride in that I however backhanded I realized that is now that people couldn't tell that I had visual impairment. But then I moved to Sacramento and I started working with the Society for the blind here because they're helping me with school and stuff. And I saw all of the wonderful visually impaired to completely blind people just being so independent and functional, and it made me like have a real reality check. And I was like, I'm making my life harder for no reason. Like there's no shame in using my cane and using all the tools that I need to just bring me up to the level that I'm supposed to be at Say.

Naveh Eldar  5:01  
So you talked about your childhood. So let's, let's go back to that. So when did you first realize because you know, when you're growing up, you're just you are who you are. And you may not even like Think of yourself as having a disability or realize that you see differently than other people. At what age? When did you? Did you realize that you had albinism, from a color point of view, like your hair is blonde, and for people that have this a podcast, so people can't see you, although I will post pictures of you if you follow on social media. So you see that lack of melanin, but but also visually, so what was it like as a child?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  5:38  
So growing up, I lived in a predominantly black neighborhood, I went to a predominantly black school, and the only other children in my family that I really interacted with, were on my father's side of the family who are black. So I can't remember exactly when the switch flipped. And I was like, wait a minute, I'm different. But it was more so a realization based off of how people treated me. The first real memory I can think of just being like, wait a minute, I'm different. It sounds so silly. But back then it really did get to me. I was like, maybe five years old. And like the kids in my class were like poking my skin. And they were like, oh, like, it turns white and like saying just like strange things. And I was like, Oh, I am I am different. Hmm.

Naveh Eldar  6:24  
And so going to an all black school, and you're mixed as well, right? Like, where are you accepted as being black? Like I literally saw somebody on social media question. If you were even had albinism, which was like a very strange thing for me to see. And I was wondering like, how much stigma that you deal with how much acceptance that you have to deal with? Or were they just accepting of you.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  6:49  
So I realized in hindsight, as an adult, that I just didn't talk about it. I didn't stand up for myself, I didn't start conversations, I just kind of tried my best to fly under the radar, similar to the visual impairment stuff, just fly under the radar and just fit in where I could. And I won't say I regret it, because it definitely was a survival tactic. But I never really got to develop a really good attachment and sense of identity with my father's side of the family and with my blackness in general until a later age, because I just kind of ignored it around. I remember, I got around to my teenage years, and I started mentioning it to people, and then realizing what people thought about it. And then I was like, wait,

Naveh Eldar  7:37  
you know, I'm mixed. And I personally never had a question of what I was, I guess I just never thought about it. I'm just like, I am what I am. I didn't try to categorize myself. But I know a lot of other MCs people that have like they like, you know, I don't feel like I belong here. I don't feel like I belong there. And then now you have on top of it albinism. So I imagined that there was a lot of you no questions of where you belong going on. So Exactly. You said when you were older, exactly. At what age? And do you identify, or categorize yourself is one thing or another.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  8:13  
So if somebody approaches me and like a genuine way, I will be like, I'm mixed, because I am mixed. And I don't try to hide that fact. But for people that are that clearly do have an agenda, or they're approaching me trying, there's like all these people like trying to prove me wrong. I'm just like, I'm a black woman. We don't have to go any further into it.

Naveh Eldar  8:34  
So having a vision impairment, how did it impact? How did that just impact you like in your schooling? Because I imagine it was difficult, like the teachers writing on the board and you said, Did you really didn't even want to talk about it or deal with it so much. So how did it impact your studies?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  8:50  
So I'm very fortunate that for the most part, I don't know if it was a developed skill or an innate ability, but auditory learning has never been that difficult for me. So for the most part, I get what I could, based off what the teachers were saying, you know, I have my books in front of me for the most part in my textbooks, and I just kind of made it through the sad thing. An interesting thing is I was typically in gifted and honors classes. So I think because my grades never suffered, people just assumed I was okay. But now and in college as an adult, my study habits due to a combination of my experiences prior in the fact that I have ADHD are awful. They're so awful, and I wish there would have been earlier intervention with that with me because I'm obviously struggling because of it now.

Naveh Eldar  9:43  
I heard you talk in another interview about you know, the accommodations that you're aware of now, and that you wish you had utilized before. So what are some of those, like if if there's young individuals that are listening right now or parents that have kids with vision impairments, what are some things you you think that they should be aware of?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  10:06  
So whenever I talk to parents, like new parents of visually impaired children, one of the first things I always say is get your kids into orientation and mobility and all those classes sooner rather than later. Because I've noticed, like, it seems to me the most adjusted adults are adults who had parents who were hands on about teaching their children how to navigate the world, but also didn't limit them didn't make their children feel as if they had a disability just gave them the tools to navigate the world with the abilities they did have.

Naveh Eldar  10:43  
And since you tried the did your best just to fit in, like your everybody else, when you finally did come, you know, say that, hey, I have this, I need some assistance. Did you have any friends or even family members who like didn't believe you who who felt that? Like, yeah, you don't have a disability, you just want attention.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  11:04  
I think for better for worse, my family took a very hands off approach to it. They're like, she's fine, you know, for a very long time. So even to this day, like no one ever really treats me like I have a disability. And to be frank, I meant to mention this earlier, when you were asking about my accessibility tools and stuff. I really only use my cane when I'm traveling by myself. Because for the most part, if I'm with somebody, I feel like it's almost not, I think it's the wrong way to say it's a burden. But I'm just so used to just traveling with people and being with people. But when I am by myself, I do notice there's like little things that I don't feel safe walking around by myself without it. So for the most part of my friends don't really see my cane, like if I'm going to meet somebody, sure, I'll have the cane when I approach. But then I'll just like fold it up and put it in my bag and keep it moving. But as far as like having to have things big, and just having certain magnifiers and stuff, no one really bats an eye about it. And I think the interesting thing is most of the time when I have to whip those things that most people will say, Oh, I forgot, you couldn't see, well.

Naveh Eldar  12:11  
I wrote you this earlier, you had a vocational rehabilitation counselor, I'll let you tell the story to explain the story of your goal, and then what you were told.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  12:23  
So at one point, I was trying to be a behavioral technician to kind of support me through college, and just to get some experience in the mental health field. And the counselor basically said to me that it wouldn't be safe for me to work with children.

Naveh Eldar  12:40  
And what was her logic for that?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  12:42  
Her logic was, you know, when working with children, you need to be able to see what they're doing all the time. And just be very attentive, make sure they're not hurting themselves. And I took that as such an offence for multiple reasons. There's literally completely blind parents. Are you trying to insinuate that they're not good parents?

Naveh Eldar  13:00  
Or that they shouldn't be parents? Right? Like, like, I would imagine you would think Well, I mean, I want a baby. I want kids and you're telling me I can't be a mom or a good mom. Yeah,

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  13:10  
yeah, exactly. And on top of that, through like 18 to 20. I literally nannied for two years, right? I've watched people have trusted me with their baby babies. And I was always very honest. Like, once I was gonna book a job with someone, I'd be like, by the way, I have a visual impairment, I just kind of explained to them the fact that I had it, but also would explain to them like, but it's not that big of a deal. You know, I know how to work around it. I know what not to do. I just can't drive. That's usually that would be the make or break situation most of the time actually, with parents, because some of them would need people to like, pick their kids up from school and stuff. And I'm like, Oh, I can't do that. First of all, did

Naveh Eldar  13:47  
you ask for another counselor? Or how did you deal with it? Because I got hot. Like, when I when I heard that story, I got like, very upset. So how did you deal with it? And did it even in a small way impact you and make you question it.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  14:02  
So because I was pretty confident my ability to work with children, because I've done it before, it didn't affect me. And that's kind of been my whole relationship with her in general. The sad thing to me, more so than what she says to me, what she does, to me is the fact that she probably talks to younger, more impressionable, more vulnerable people who she does have an impact on what they want to do because of that.

Naveh Eldar  14:24  
Sure. Absolutely. Um, you know, one thing that we work really hard with in the on the employment side is not making decisions for people with disabilities because because historically, that's what we've had a tendency to do, like, Oh, this is the job you should do instead of like just listening to what they want to do and helping them achieve that. So and I'll say for people who follow you on social media who go and look, you are clearly a very confident individual. That seems like you will stand up for what you wanted. So you're a big advocate, which you've decided to be I was wondering what what point did you decide, you know, this is something I want to talk about this is something I want to educate people on. When did that hit you?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  15:07  
So it actually started around the end of high school. I started on Tumblr. Funny and Okay, just Tumblr was actually I think Tumblr is so cute. I think for so many people, it was just a safe, some semi anonymous place to express yourself. And I took advantage of that. So I started posting like, posts about having albinism there. And I've never really talked about it on social media before I kind of started on Instagram, but it was like very vague. And I just stare, like post like pictures and meet myself pictures of other people start sharing, like little bits of information here and there. And that's actually when I really, that's when it really hit me that people don't perceive me as black. I think that's when it really hit me because people in my real life like people in my real life, people in my personal life, I mean, sure, I'd tell them like once when I first met them, if they didn't realize it already, and the conversation will pretty much be over. I'm very good about not letting certain energies and certain people around me so I think that's why I have such I've had such a positive experience in that regard. But, um, Tumblr, it was a Tumblr had an anonymous feature. So you can message people anonymously and those are the nastiest messages I've ever gotten. So the hate I get now online, I'm just like, Okay,

Naveh Eldar  16:28  
so what kind of hate do you get? I'm curious. Now, first of all, I want to say so you you have a pretty really decent following on Instagram with over 40,000 followers. But But tik tok is where you make your money. And I'm not saying literally make your money but you have how many followers on tik tok?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  16:46  
Like 300,000,

Naveh Eldar  16:47  
like 300,000. So, what kind of hate or shade Do you get in social media? Because I can't imagine.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  16:55  
So there's really two to three common things. And the fact that they're common, actually just really puts into perspective how little it matters to me, strangely enough, my size, people like to comment on my size, I'm a plus size woman. And it's interesting, because a lot of times they'll say is if I didn't know, and then sometimes you see my eyes wobbling, so people, I'm not gonna lie, the eye movement thing was almost my breaking point, because I never really posted a lot of video content because of that very reason. And even when taking pictures, I would try my best to make sure my eyes were as straight, quote, unquote, as possible. If my eyes were a little too turned, I'd delete it. And then that kind of translated over to my video content until eventually I was like, it is what it is. And the way I see it, is, the more people see my eyes moving, the more people see minus stag Miss, the more desensitized they become to it. And let's say they meet someone down the line. Maybe they don't have to explain themselves. Or maybe they're like, Oh, yeah, I've seen that. Like, no worry, no need to explain. So eventually, at least with like, all the hate, about my size, but my eyes and also obviously, there's people trying to prove me wrong about my albinism and about my, you know, racial background.

Naveh Eldar  18:15  
So so that's what I want to go back to, because I mentioned it earlier interview that I saw a comment where somebody was questioning if you have albinism, so I didn't understand it. So what is their argument that did you just actually white and that you're not black at all? Or did you dye your hair blonde? Like, what are they? I was very confused.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  18:35  
I think it's everything I think people just don't understand. So they will I've seen people say that my hair isn't real, that they'll ask me how I got my hair like this as far as the curls go. There's people that think that people have said like, I have the same quote disease Michael Jackson had, okay. And then they'll will be there will be people that's like, she's just white. She's just what I've seen white people with curly hair before and I'm like, do you like this type of curly hair? Have you?

Naveh Eldar  19:13  
So if you I mean, you have to I don't know if brave is the right word. You know, some sometimes people throw words around like brave and it's not like you're storming into, you know, a battle or anything. But there there is. You're vulnerable. We're all vulnerable when we put our personal life out there right. And so now you have you have over 300,000 followers, so goodness knows how many additional people see you. And you have been criticized for being plus size, but you don't. You don't seem to care like you post lots of you're very into fashion, which I want to get into later. And you just you don't seem to care. You seem to be very comfortable in like, this is who I am. I'm beautiful. I love me. Is that the case? Or did you have to like Work your way to get there in confidence.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  20:04  
I 100% had to work to get here, man, it's been a uphill battle since I was young. I've been a chunky person since, um, honestly, I remember when I started to become chunky, as I say, because I, they were kind of like bouncing me around on different medication for my ADHD and my body did not respond well. So ever since I was about the third grade, I guess you'd classify me as plus size because there's juniors plus, Mmm hmm. And if you look at old pictures of me, which aren't really on my Instagram, every once in a while, I'll share them and like a video or like a throwback post or something I usually always had on a jacket, I was very just like, in just turned inward in myself. Like, when I sit down, even now I have old habits like I sit down, I put pillows in front of me just very much like trying to make myself small, right, hide myself. Um, and then eventually, I really had to tackle the issues in my brain that were making me feel that way. And inevitably, I kind of came to the realization like, hey, if I was on a deserted island by myself, never saw another human being, I wouldn't think twice about how I looked. Right. And then through that realization, it was just kind of like that other people making me feel bad about myself, it has absolutely nothing to do with me. And I'm not gonna lie and say that everyone smile, I don't still feel bad. The main source of those bad feelings I actually knows come from clothing. And then I was like, wait a minute, that's also has nothing to do with me. Because let's be honest, and I actually done like a research report and college for this because very interested in the topic. The majority of people in the United States are a little chunkier, then I guess there's a quote unquote, supposed to be right. And that being said, the average American woman wears a size 14, which is considered plus size. And if the average American woman is plus size, how can you justify and say that we're, there's like, all these arguments, saying that plus size fashion doesn't exist, because one clothes wouldn't look right on them, or it would cost too much money, but the average consumer actually wears that size. It's just a lot of nonsense to justify fatphobia. Let's be honest, right? Right. So that being said, I was having issues finding clothes that were in my style, that fit me properly. And that would make me feel like there was something wrong with me. I remember crying in dressing rooms, you know, like, it's all basically be like being like, it's my fault. But no, why would you have to make yourself fit clothes, clothes are supposed to fit you.

Naveh Eldar  22:48  

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  22:49  
And that's kind of like where I'm at right now. And I am trying to like dabble in, I got a sewing machine. So I'm trying to dabble in, like maybe making my own clothes and altering clothes and getting them to fit better. I also noticed that about celebrities, a lot of times like you think like celebrities just looks so much better than you. But then you realize they have like tailored clothes, tailored skincare routines, personal hairstylist, I love the phrase, you're not ugly, you're just broke. And I

Naveh Eldar  23:18  
have never heard that, which probably is a reflection of my age. Don't judge me. But that's fantastic. And so but but you are very fashionable. And it seems like it maybe it's because of the work I'm in that designers are starting to catch up to being inclusive in their clothing in many ways, right? Which is, which is, you know, plus sized people or people who are taller or shorter or you know, people that are in a wheelchair, for example. Is that accurate? Or is that not accurate? Is it any easier now to find closing didn't say 10 years ago, that I can ask about clothing.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  23:59  
I agree it's easier, but I still wouldn't call it easy because I can tell you so many situations where my friends and I go to the mall or like, oh, we're gonna go out this Saturday. And they have all these choices, all these choices, and my choices were forever 21, which has a small plus size section and toward

Naveh Eldar  24:17  
gotcha. But again, you're you're very into fashion, you're very into hair. And so how long have you been like that?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  24:25  
I've always fantasized about it. TBL To be honest, I was a broken I was a broke kid.

Unknown Speaker  24:34  
Uh huh.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  24:35  
So I didn't really have access to the things that I would have liked to express myself with. So I'm kind of catching up right now.

Naveh Eldar  24:45  
And so with all these I want to go back to your Tiktok for a second with me you know what I didn't know you had ADHD and I want to get to that just for a second to in a minute. But so what what is your What is your vision For the message you're trying to, to get out there on tik tok or Instagram, like, what is it that you're What are you trying to impact?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  25:09  
I think if I had to boil it down to just a very rough idea, it's just the fact that there's absolutely no reason to not love yourself. And like I was saying earlier, most of the insecurities that people have are brought about by other people. So on one hand, I do want to advocate for like the plus size community, the albinism, community, visual parents community, like, I want to advocate for all these communities. But at the same time, I do also want to get the message across that we're all just people, right? And there's literally nothing to be ashamed about. And just being a living, breathing person, we all have to eat sleep poop, you know, like, we're not really that different to have this, like, it's hard for me to gather my thoughts about it. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings. And sometimes it's hard for me to articulate them. But I think that is just like the basic synopsis.

Naveh Eldar  26:02  
So your ADHD, like, again, I wasn't aware of that. So So how much did that impact you? Does it still impact you.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  26:10  
So you probably weren't aware, because I don't talk about it often, mainly, because so I for a long time was in denial. I was in denial that I had ADHD because, as I mentioned, previously, I was kind of they, I was on medication, and it just felt very experimental, very like shooting fish in a barrel. And I only have a negative perception of that period of time, because I felt just so lethargic and sad.

Naveh Eldar  26:39  

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  26:41  
And so eventually got to a point where I stopped taking the medication, that elementary school because I was just like, I can't do this anymore. And so for a long time, I was like, I didn't actually have ADHD, I was just part of that wave in the early 2000s, where they just thought every kid had ADHD,

Naveh Eldar  26:55  

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  26:56  
And then I started getting into therapy. And I started learning more about myself healing from past traumas and starting to separate, what are parts of my personality? And what are like trauma responses, what are coping mechanisms, you know, what are all these things. And I've kind of gotten to a point in therapy where I have to realize you actually had ADHD this whole time. And because I get to a point of healing and learning about myself, where I'd see cycles, I'd keep seeing the same patterns, the same struggles, and they weren't getting better. And they were all symptoms of ADHD.

Naveh Eldar  27:31  

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  27:33  
so I'm just now getting to a point recently in life to where I'm being able to accept it. And I'm actually going to my first psychiatrist appointment next week, so I'm very nervous about that to maybe get medication to help me with just like day to day things, because my executive dysfunction, I went through like a kind of a major depressive episode back in 2019. And ever since then, it's like my ADHD symptoms were exacerbated, I was just thrown through a loop. And I just need a little help sometimes with certain things.

Naveh Eldar  28:02  
I feel like you're always evolving, right? It's like, I feel like, you know, you're in denial about your vision impairment. And then you have to come to, to, to accept that and be like, I deserve to have accommodations that will help me right, it helped me, you know, live on a higher level and an ADHD, it seems like it's the same thing. Are you a very self reflective person? Because it's, it's hard for anybody, like you could have gone to rest of your life and in total denial of both of those things. Is it something that you consciously work on? Or, or do other people kind of nudge you in that direction?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  28:41  
Here's the thing. So I mentioned earlier that I came from a pretty impoverished background. And that being said, I know that not everyone in those positions, are battling with mental health issues, but I've seen firsthand what not dealing with your problems leads to, okay. I think if you can pick a struggle there, I have a grab bag of family members back in Georgia that you can find that will match that struggle, just because they all have gotten so complacent in their lifestyles with their issues, just doing the bare minimum. So growing up even, I saw all of the ways that my family was negatively impacting themselves by not tackling these issues. And I was like, not me. I was like, when I get into a position to be able to work on myself and grow and he'll, I'm going to do it. And I've been doing it

Naveh Eldar  29:33  
good for you. No, seriously good for you. Because I've seen countless people that that want to do that and say they're going to do that but it's like I said, it's just really hard for people to to change and take that step. So, you know, again, I told you we can edit anything out. So if you don't feel like talking about anything, you just say the word. You know, you mentioned that you had some trauma and it sounds like you had a lot of struggles from different areas from socio economic problems to identity problems to disability issues. But they all made you you they all made you who you are today what but what were some of the bigger barriers that you've overcome or that you had to overcome earlier in your life from from all of that ball?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  30:19  
I don't really talk about it often. But I think the biggest barrier to becoming the person I am today was really getting over my relationship with my mother. For like, she has, she has an undiagnosed person personality disorder, I

Naveh Eldar  30:38  
believe. Okay.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  30:40  
So growing up for a long time, I had a lot of resentment towards her for how she treated me and how she raised me and the opportunities that I kind of missed out on. Because she would always be in like her own little bubble. And obviously, there was the day to day struggles of having to navigate the world around somebody who isn't really in the same world that you are. So I've always kind of been in that role of having a parent myself. So that being said, there are just like, even to this day, little social skills, little adult skills that I still find myself struggling with because I never had a very good example of what a functioning adult looks like.

Naveh Eldar  31:19  
Do you still have a relationship with her now?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  31:22  
I'd say we have the best relationship we've ever had. But that's not saying too much. Because at the end of the day, I've gotten to a point where I'm learning how to communicate with her, but it's still so exhausting. Gotcha.

Naveh Eldar  31:36  
I do want to ask a little bit about, I saw that you were in a magazine, recently. Stunning pictures. I wanted to know what what was that? And was it something you pursued? Or did they just reach out to you?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  31:50  
So the photographer, her name is Elena, and we actually met on a Sacramento photography group, because I was trying to dip my toes into plus size modeling, because I think that is one of my like, micro goals, not even to just be a full blown model, but I just want to be a part of an inclusive fashion campaign, which is one of my goals. So I was like, in order to do that, I can't just be one of those people. That's just like, I'm different. Of course, everybody's gonna want me I need to actually be able to model right. So I was kind of put up a little advertisement for TFP photoshoots, for like time for photos. And a few people reached out to me a few people were interested, but she was the only one that really stuck, because we were both very much like driven people have just like, you have an idea. Let's do it. So we ended up linking up and we took a few photos. I don't know if you've seen them. It was kind of like the fairy shoot where I have like, the big fluffy skirt.

Naveh Eldar  32:44  
Right? I saw it.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  32:46  
Yeah. So um, I started just like working with her on little things. And she actually works for glass factory. And they just started their new magazine. So she wanted to have me I mean,

Naveh Eldar  32:56  
how was it? How was that experience?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  32:58  
It was cool. I love Elena, honestly, she is a dream for my first photographer model relationship, because she's so professional. And I do still have insecurities about my body and how it folds and you know, all those things. And she's very good about when she's in work mode, she's very much like, I'll notice she's correcting me or she'll see something that looks a little wonky. But she addresses it in a way where it's just like, we're making shapes with your body. We're seeing what we can do in that regard. It's not like, you know, You're spilling over there, stop doing that.

Naveh Eldar  33:33  
Well, I mean, we need you. I say that, in all honesty, I mean, diversity of every kind is nothing but good. And there's beauty and there's many different kinds of beauty. So, you know, representation is important, whether it's from a ethnic point of view or a gender point of view, or, you know, a sighs point of view. So, I love all of your stuff. Just as an FYI. My last regular question. Before we get to some fun questions. It kind of taps on what you just talked about. So what are you doing right now? And what are some of your immediate future goals? Like you just said, one of your micro goals is to to get into plus size modeling. What else do you got going on?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  34:15  
My goals are a little all over the place. I think one of my more concrete goals is I want to be a clinical psychologist. It's not really short term because I still am in the middle of my bachelor's. Okay. But I do want to be a clinical psychologist. I want to start making YouTube videos. I keep saying that. I think I've said that to people, at least like three different times in interviews. It's just like, I need to start doing YouTube because I want to do it. It's just for some reason. It's so scary. I feel like the bar for quality on YouTube is a lot harder than other social media apps and okay. I feel like that bar is almost maybe not higher for me because there's some people with like movie quality production on YouTube, but I feel like it has to be hard like Higher, because I feel like people aren't gonna give me a chance like some people, some people aren't gonna give me a chance. If it's like, oh, I don't look like what they're used to seeing. I'm not talking about topics they're used to hearing. And on top of that my video and audio quality sucks. So I've been very scared.

Naveh Eldar  35:20  
So what kind of videos Would you like to make? Like, what would the theme be of the channel?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  35:26  
I just, that's another thing that's been stopping me. Right? It's like, I have so many worries. Um, so I just kind of want to be lifestyle. Obviously, I'll have some natural hair content, cuz that one's the moneymaker. Let's be real. And I just want to exist on the internet. I think that's pretty much it. I do see the power in me just existing on the internet. Because like I said earlier, I'm not what you're used to seeing. But a lot of ways that's a good thing. So I'd love to do just like I envy channels that literally just do what they want to do like you they woke up that morning. Like, I want to make a plaster mold of my face. And they do it on YouTube. And you come for the personality. You know, it's this is some fun.

Naveh Eldar  36:09  
Right? Exactly. Well, I hope to see it let me Well, obviously I follow you. So when you put it up, get it done, girl quit playing around. I always end with some just kind of personal silly questions. One is who is who are you closest with in your family? And this can actually just start a fight because that would be awesome. I always talking about who my favorite cousin is, but then I have to change it the next time I say it so so you know, we don't have infighting. Who who are you closest with?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  36:39  
So my favorite person in my family is part of the family that I've built myself. Okay? Honestly, my favorite people aren't my family if I'm being honest.

Naveh Eldar  36:47  
All right.

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  36:49  
But I think number one person in my life, like I'm just so thankful that they exist. Her name is Becky. And she was actually I played an orchestra at a church and she was the pianist there. And we bonded while I was in high school, not in like a weird way. But like at first it was like a mentor type of relationship. And she just helped me with so much like she really filled a lot of those motherly roles that I needed. And even to this day, like I can call her crying, chill, chill, chill, understand, she'll talk to me, and I just love her so much.

Naveh Eldar  37:19  
Oh, hi, Becky. And then the last question is, I understand that you like anime. And so I was wondering, what is your favorite series? And what is the series you would recommend for a beginning anime watcher, because that may not be your favorite series, right? Like maybe your favorite series is a little too heavy. So so both of those,

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  37:42  
I think for both nostalgic purposes. And the fact that I'm just like a little psycho code Gaea. This is my favorite anime of all time. I absolutely love it. I think that the themes in it are wonderful. I think the storytelling is wonderful. I watched it recently. It is a little dated, I'll give it to you. But the way that they tie everything together and the themes Just get me every time. But if I had to say something accessible, something that just gets you hooked my your academia, I feel like that one gets tossed around a lot because it is so popular. But it's popular for a reason. It's easy to digest for the average person, because it is focused around like Western superhero culture. So it's like, not something completely crazy you haven't seen before. But I still also it's like, it can be very emotional at times. Very fun. Very cute. I like it.

Naveh Eldar  38:34  
So great. I need to look that up because I've never even heard the the second one I've heard I've actually started watching out a little bit, but I have never heard of code Gale. So I'm gonna have to check that one out. Well, thank you very, very much. Karissa, you are you are wonderful. You are wonderful. I just want to thank you for taking the time to come and be on the show. And for educating us a little bit. And do you have any final words or words of advice for for other little boys and girls out in the world that may be dealing with some of the things you went through?

Carrissa - (Invisible Melanin)  39:07  
I think being yourself and being unique is so beautiful and so powerful? Because I don't know if you really realize it, but the more you look at social media, the more you will get the big people, the popular people, they're all starting to look the same. And how do you stand out when everybody looks the same? How are you special? How do you make your mark when you're all cookie cutter clone of the ideal body part body shape the ideal aesthetic? Like there is no ideal really, if you want me to be honest, social norms are 100% made up and I'm not going to be the type of person that does something just because someone tells me to do it.

Naveh Eldar  39:46  
That is that's great advice is great. And it's truth. I mean, that's the most important thing is that you speaking truth. So thank you again, so much. Sorry that I accidentally logged on early before but we got it worked out You can find a link to Chris's link tree in the episode description, which will take you to her different social media pages. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast, leave a review and give a star rating if you listen on Apple podcast. In the next episode, we will speak about how employment impacts your disability benefits with national subject matter experts, a lawyer and program director at Cornell University, whose program trains and certifies benefits counselors from all over the country. We'll see you then.

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