Gabe Adams-Wheatley has Hanhart Syndrome and so he was born with no legs or arms.
Gabe Adams-Wheatley was abandoned by his family before he even had a chance to prove himself. Shortly after his birth in Brazil, his mother was left shocked to learn that Gabe's father had another family. Because she had three other children, the woman knew she would never be able to give Gabe a good life, so she put him up for adoption. One of the reasons behind his family putting him up for adoption was the fact that he had Hanhart Syndrome, a condition due to which Gabe was born without arms or legs. "Hanhart Syndrome affects people differently, some people, like me, don't develop arms or legs, or they have malformed fingers and toes, or a malformed jaw. I also had a cleft palate inside my mouth at the back that wasn't initially seen, which meant I wasn't eating or talking for a while when I was little," he explained in an op-ed for Newsweek.
Now, over two million people watch Gabe share his makeup tutorials and experiences about his life with his husband as well as instances of how he goes about his daily routine without limbs on TikTok. The 22-year-old, who is non-binary and used he/him pronouns, says he was abandoned in a Brazilian hospital soon after birth but thankfully there were some people who wished to make him a part of their family. A religious couple, who are a part of the Mormon church, happened to hear about the baby's story while they were pregnant with their 11th child. "They both felt a calling to adopt me," the young TikToker revealed in an op-ed. Thus, nine months later the Utah, U.S.-based family adopted him.
They never made him feel any different from the rest of his siblings. "Growing up, my mom treated me as she did all her other children. As an adult, I look back and appreciate that so much because the last thing I want is to be treated differently," he noted. Apart from a few household chores, his parents made it a point that Gabe would regularly exercise to remain fit. "All of my 13 siblings and I had chores...My chores were to make sure that my bed was made and to stay fit because I was lifted by others all the time. My parents would have me climb up and down the stairs 20 times in 20 minutes. It really kept me in shape, even though I hated it at the time."
But at school, a young Gabe used a wheelchair and so his fellow students "didn't think I could go out and play with them." He was constantly underestimated by them but this changed after he ditched his wheelchair to perform at the school's talent show when he was in the seventh grade. "My mom worked with me for three weeks practicing and I got a huge standing ovation from the entire gymnasium. It was an eye-opening moment for me and for my classmates. I wasn't just the kid in the wheelchair, I could do so much more," he shared.
As for his TikTok career, Gabe joined the video-sharing platform as a joke in 2018 and began uploading a number of videos of himself dancing. What he did not expect was for the videos to go viral. It was in 2020 when he finally began doing makeup videos, with some help from his husband (who set up a workbench and lights for him) and people were in awe of his talent and undying spirit. But there were many who heartlessly trolled him. This reminded him of the time when he was "verbally and physically" made fun of and constantly told that he "wasn’t good enough." This diminished his self-worth to the point where he attempted suicide seven years ago. Recalling the distressing phase in his life, Gabe acknowledged that he "didn’t know [his] own worth."
At that time, he allowed others to determine his worth but now he keeps reminding himself that "nobody on the internet truly knows." "They only get to see me in a way I hope they see me and they want to see me. It’s been hard reminding myself of that so I don’t take things too personally," he told UNILAD. The beauty and fashion influencer hopes that his social media accounts would help him "have a voice and be a voice for so many people," irrespective of whether they are from "the disability community or people from the LGBTQAI+ community or mental health community." He hopes to inspire everyone as he says, "no matter what you can always push through and give it your all."
For him, knowing that people "watch my videos to just get through their day or that their two-year-old child wants to watch my videos" keeps him going. He reminded everyone to be kind to each other and encouraged those struggling with mental health to never lose hope. "I say this all the time and I know it’s cliché but everybody’s life and experiences are different sometimes. That’s a good thing because then we’re all learning different lessons and able to share. But I would just like to say don’t give up! There’s always going to be people who care and love you. You just gotta find them," said the empowering young talent.
Cover image source: Instagram | Gabe Adams-Wheatley