Play Hard

Behind the ‘gram: Katie Meehan

This week we caught up with one of our region's best-known bloggers, Katie Meehan, on empowerment, her love for the North East and her favourite beauty products.

Written by High Life North
Published 27.07.2020

Bekki Ramsay

This week we’ve interviewed none other than Katie Meehan who’s a fashion and beauty blogger, Prince’s Trust digital ambassador, “Young Achiever” award winner and a body positivity speaker, who has covered the topic both on BBC Three and This Morning. Oh, and last year, she was invited to parliament to partake in a round-table discussion alongside Gateshead College to talk about education equality. Talk about being a superwoman. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Katie. In her own words, this whole journey began online when “she started writing about equality and diversity after realising that the beauty industry featured no one like her. A girl who was born with a facial disfigurement and didn’t fit the mould of a typical influencer at the time.”Katie has Cystic Hygroma – a rare facial condition that has caused it disfigurement and has had to have many corrective surgeries, that had to be privately fundraised. From an early age, she was in the media due to the complex nature of her condition and nowadays, she’s still in the media, but mostly for all of her successes.So, with that, we wanted to interview Katie about her story. Read on to find out what she had to say…

One of High Life North’s core values is ’empowerment’ which, based on your online presence, appears to be one of your personal values, too. Why is this such an important value of yours?

It’s important for me because I really do believe that we all have a story. We’ve all been through something in our lives that has shaped us or changed us, and that in itself, can bring us together if we share our experiences. Whilst my own story may not be the case for many people, it’s relatable to some and there are, of course, aspects of it that people can connect to in different ways – so that is why I share it.

However, I truly believe that I was born the way I was for a reason. I don’t want to waste the chances I’ve been given, and I want to inspire others to chase their dreams, too.

There was no way I’d have thought I’d be doing what I am doing back when I was six years old. I mean I’d never imagined that I’d go on to have a career involving being in front of the camera a lot, or working with big-name beauty brands.

That’s why, throughout my social media, I try to get the message across that no matter what you have faced in life, you always have the option to at least try and achieve your dreams. So, if people can see me taking leaps and bounds to work on myself and follow my own heart, I hope that inspires at least one person to do the same thing, too.

I love your positivity! I guess one of the ways in which you empower others is by regularly sharing your own personal experiences of living with Cystic Hygroma as well as sharing your online friends’ experiences of it, too. Would you care to delve into this in more detail, and share the impact this has had on you?

Being born this way is all I’ve ever known so sometimes; I find it hard to talk about something I’ve always perceived as normal. However, forming a close relationship with a group of people who have also experienced the same things as me has definitely made me think about it more. 

As a group, we talk a lot about having Cystic Hygroma and lean on each other for support, as living with it has its own share of negatives. For example, I guess a lot of people like to focus on the fact that it makes me look visibly different and that often creates a lot of pain and physical discomfort for me to deal with.

But raising awareness online and being a part of the group helps as we all have different experiences and can talk about things that truly, no one else understands. We also share things with each other as a form of education, as well as emotional support. The condition we have is so rare that there’s little actual research into the medical condition, so we find that sharing our own experiences between each other helps answers many questions medical professionals can’t. There’s nothing but understanding and support in our group and I’m truly thankful for it.

Undoubtedly, I have absolutely no idea what my life would look like if I didn’t have this disfigurement, however, it has awarded me so much in life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It feels odd that something that is so negative has also brought such positivity.  For example, I’ve spoken in Parliament, worked with some of my favourite brands, made friends for life and been able to help people with their self-image and confidence. Something I’d never have been able to achieve if it wasn’t for having Cystic Hygroma.

However, it’s not just about physical successes – mentally I think it has made me an extremely empathetic person and able to connect with people on a deeper level.

Thank you so much for opening up. I really admire your openness and honesty about your experience and can see why you’ve gained yourself a big following online. However, it’s also worth mentioning that you’re also a digital ambassador for the incredible Prince’s Trust, too. Could you tell us what it is that you do for this charity, and what it means for you?

The Prince’s Trust is an amazing charity. As a young person, I felt completely misunderstood and let down by the education system. My aspiring career choice in social media was not something they understood (as it wasn’t much of a thing back then), so they just discarded me completely. I dragged myself through Sixth Form because I didn’t really know what else to do. I felt lost, abandoned and my self-worth was rock bottom because of it.

It wasn’t until I attended Gateshead College at 19 years old, and was introduced to the Prince’s Trust, that I finally felt like I was understood and was given a voice. The Princes Trust supports people like myself, who have had difficult lives but wish to use their talents, passions and love for life to create something.

They will help anyone and embrace everyone and are so incredibly welcoming. So, to be able to support a charity like that and help spread the work they do is something I’ll forever be grateful for.  My work with the Prince’s Trust includes taking part in photoshoots for their campaigns and attending their annual Princes Trust Awards to support the young people. I’ve also spoken a few times with the young people and helped them with their social media account, and it’s something I plan on diving into a little deeper once COVID is done and dusted.

My experience with the online world is really valuable for people, so I’m happy to share what I’ve learned wherever I can.

Speaking of photoshoots, you’re regularly invited down to London for big-name blogger events, yet you seem super happy in the North East. What is it about the North East that you love, and would you ever consider moving to London?

I love the North East. It’s a community that really embraced me and one I’ll always feel a part of. It has truly changed my life for the better, as the South Shields community helped fundraise the money for me to receive the surgery I needed.

However, I love London and am definitely a big city girl at heart. I love to explore whenever I’m visiting, and I guess I’m trying to throw myself into more uncomfortable situations to challenge myself, so something new may be on the cards. Just watch this space.

Lastly, I couldn’t speak to you without adding in a question about one of your favourite topics, beauty! So, let’s get straight into it: If you could only use five skincare or beauty items for the rest of your life, what would they be and why? And yes, I really do mean just five.

Ooh, this is hard but here we go:

For my moisturiser, I would pick the Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream. It’s so hydrating and makes my skin look super glowy!

When it comes to my base, it has to be IT Cosmetics CC Cream. It’s quite full coverage but can be nicely sheered out into a lighter coverage, and it covers all bases – literally and figuratively in this scenario.

Highlighter wise, it has to be Becca’s highlighter in ‘Champagne Pop’ as I’d sneakily use it as an eyeshadow, too. Plus, imagine never wearing highlighter again?! I couldn’t.

For my lips, I’d go for Colourpop’s ‘Just A Tint’ which is a gorgeous glossy wash of colour. A mix between a lipstick, balm and gloss. I guess it could also be used as a blusher and an eyeshadow if I’m sneaky about it.

And finally, I hate mascara, so I’d have to go with a pair of false eyelashes. Eyelure’s natural-looking lashes are my go-to for the barely-there look.

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