By my late 20s I’d hit a point in my life when I was feeling lost, struggling to find work, and had to move back home with my family. I’d tell all my friends I didn’t know what to do. One of them reminded me that I’d always loved beauty: I spent my childhood listening to my family’s skincare ailments and dispensing what I thought were appropriate lotions. She suggested I do a six-month academy course to get my beauty licence, which would give me the freedom to set up my own business.
It was exactly the direction I needed. The only problem was that tuition fees were $6,000 (£4,634), which was way out of my budget. I wasn’t eligible for scholarships or funding. To help pay the fees, I got a job as a quality control technician at a construction company. I tested the emulsion that went into the asphalt used to pave roads. It was intense, and I knew I’d have to work long hours to pay the fees for the course. To do both at the same time was going to put me under a lot of pressure. But I’m very stubborn, so I was determined to make it happen, one way or another.
People can be uncomfortable about asking for help or financial support; but I knew that even working full-time, my salary wouldn’t cover all the fees. I’d seen others set up crowdfunding pages to help them meet their goals. I thought I’d do the same; I knew if I could get a little help, it would leave me more time to concentrate on learning.
I set up the page at the start of a week in early April and posted about it on Twitter. Within a few days I’d received donations of $300, which I was over the moon about. I couldn’t believe people were being so generous. Then, on the Friday night, while I was at work conducting an experiment, my phone pinged. I checked the notification and saw that a deposit had been made to my PayPal account: a very large amount of money. I had to sit down to read the words properly. There had to be some mistake. I assumed it was a scam.
What I saw next blew me away. A stranger had made a very generous donation to cover all of my remaining fees for the course: $5,605.
The name on the donation was one I instantly recognised: Chrissy Teigen, the model and TV host who is married to the singer John Legend. I read the email once, twice, and still couldn’t take it all in. I lost it. I started screaming and completely messed up the test I was conducting.
Chrissy had left a note alongside the donation: “I’ve seen this be your passion for such a long time now. So excited to see you fulfil your dream!” Immediately, I called my mum and my boyfriend. I was crying and not making much sense. I just managed to say that Chrissy Teigen had made my dream come true.
I’ve never met Chrissy and have no idea why she decided to donate the money to me. I knew that, a few months earlier, she had started following me on Twitter, but never dreamed that she’d see my tweet or act upon it. I’ve always been a fan of hers. I thought she was funny and quirky – that’s why I started following her. I don’t know why she started following me. We’d never spoken.
The amount might have been a drop in the ocean for her, but it was life-altering for me. It was the stamp that made me feel, “Yes, I’m on the right track.” She didn’t have to do that.
Lots of other people donated after her. I guess they thought, if Chrissy Teigen can see that she is passionate about skincare, she must be doing something right.
The next morning, I paid the $895 deposit for the course. I couldn’t have been happier.
I’ve now set up my own business, Ixora Botanical, and I use the lessons from my time at the academy every day. I always think about Chrissy’s generosity. I did thank her, and we still follow each other. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to give her a facial.
• As told to Sophie Haydock
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