In prison, life is far from easy. The struggle is even more significant when you're trans, in fact, 2016 showed a record high number of suicides amongst trans prisoners in the UK. With beauty items such as mirrors and eyeliners contraband because of their potential as weapons, lots of trans women - especially those still transitioning or those who have been denied HRT - serving sentences find it difficult to maintain their identity, as beauty regimens and cosmetics are essentially a large part of that.
Welsh make up artist Jessica Blackler launched JECCA over 18 months ago, and worked to create products that were trans and gender inclusive. The first product was a palette with a colour corrector and concealer, which was designed with multiple things in mind, including beard shadow, scars and tattoos. When she received some press in a local newspaper, prison inmates at Parc Prison in South Wales read about her trans-inclusive line during their time in the newsroom. The page was ripped from the paper and placed under an officer's door, who then got in touch.
Now, Blackler goes to visit trans inmates on a regular basis, teaching them how to improve their make up skills and giving them an opportunity to reclaim their identity during the sessions.
“The trans women aren’t all kept together on one ward, so prison can be a very isolating experience for them — more so than for cisgender prisoners — and they often face violence and discrimination because of their gender identity from the other inmates,” Blackler said. “This was a nice way to bring all the trans women together for an hour or two to have some bonding girly time.”
She also added that spending time with the inmates has meant that she's witnessed some special milestones in their lives, including helping a prisoner do her make up before having her mother visit for the first time in years.
JECCA is aiming to expand to bring more products to the range, as skin tones are currently very limited; Jessica has launched a crowdfund via Indiegogo in order to release two darker Correct and Conceal palettes. She's also a Stonewall ambassador, and 5% of all profits go to charity. We look forward to seeing more opportunities for LGBTQA+ folk opening up starting with beauty brands catering to their needs. Here's to the future of JECCA!