Makeup artist and content creator Naomi Heather Hadar talks about what she’s experienced having cleft lip and lip pits, the importance of positive representation for those with facial differences in media, and why people who look different are beautiful.
What is the disorder that caused your facial differences?
Nager syndrome, and then there was an incomplete showing of Van der Woude syndrome. It’s in between those. I have a bilateral cleft and I also have lip pits on my bottom lip. So, I had to have several surgeries to try to reconstruct my bottom lip.
What are some of the highs and lows you’ve dealt with as a result of having cranial differences?
The lows of my life were in grade school; I had a very hard time fitting in with my peers, and I also had a really hard time establishing who I was as a person. I think that kind of influenced the mistakes I made growing up. But I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Surgery is really hard to explain and going through them was not particularly easy. I think those experiences still kind of give me some remnants of body dysmorphia and not being myself. I had to learn as I got older to accept myself, and I think that is something I continually have to do.
I really love how empathetic my experiences have been, and the value of the community I found. That allowed me to be able to advocate and connect to people.
That was really difficult to come by, because when I was growing up, there really wasn’t much representation in media. I wasn’t really able to know I was beautiful until I was older and claimed it for myself.
It’s been great to be able to talk to people who are younger than me, who are gonna go through similar situations to the one I did, and help them not feel so alone.
What are some common questions you get from people about your facial differences, both when you were growing up and now?
I would get, like, “What’s wrong with [your] face?”, What’s wrong with you?” Some really nasty things. But there was some compassion as well, which I appreciate. Language like, “Naomi, how are you?” Capability,
From those within my community, people would often ask me what procedures I’ve had done, what they should know, what they should expect. And I feel really good being able to help someone with that, because even as I go through some of my current like surgeries, I to educate myself.
Like, when I got my nose done, it was a very big procedure — it wasn’t your typical rhinoplasty in Beverly Hills. It took me a month to feel like a person again, and I was still so swollen and so bruised. I was having such a difficult time to be able to even share what I was going through with people. But it’s important to be able to give them an idea of what to expect, and I like being able to do that.
It sounds like you’ve experienced a real lack of empathy from a lot of people. What’s something you want those who don’t have facial differences to understand about your community?
There’s a real need for representation and diversity in a positive light on TV and in movies. A lot of times, an actor will play a person like me, with cranial or facial differences, and they’ll do it with a bunch of makeup on their face. And most of the time, the portrayal is not done in a positive light.
People like me need to be shown in a positive light, and we need to be able to share out own stories, rather than having people in makeup tell our stories for us — I don’t think that’s right.
I wanna be seen, I want others to see people like me as love interests and superheroes, and be more than just what we look like physically. I’ve met a lot of people in my community, and we’re all very different. We all have our own thoughts, feelings, and capabilities.
I also wish people, like you said, expressed more empathy. I wish more people would decide to be the kind of person where, in a room full of maybe not-so-kind people, would step up and be more empathetic.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone in your community, who is going through what you’ve gone through?
It gets better. There are so many places you haven’t seen, people you haven’t met, experiences you haven’t experienced, and being able to be around long enough to see that is important.
Even when things get hard, just remember that there’s a whole life in front of you. It’s never too late to be the person you wanna be, and live your life the way you see fit. It’s never too late.
I think I had a lot of times when I was a kid where I thought, “My life is ruined,” or it wasn’t worth living. Now, I see how narrow-minded that was. I just needed the time and the grace to get through those awful times, because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Also, I would say recognize your own beauty and power, because we are beautiful. Even if media and beauty standards don’t want to recognize that, we are beautiful.
Loving yourself and and feeling gorgeous is not a linear path. There are going to be days where you do not feel good. And that goes for everyone. Even supermodels, there are days where they feel ugly and, you know, I can laugh at them, because that’s ridiculous.
I encourage people to just give themselves the love and patience they deserve, because we all deserve that love and patience.