ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Wearing masks has become a way of life, but imagine what it’s like for people missing an ear.
Twenty-year-old Rhys Yarbrough never expected her videos, explaining how to do just that, would go viral.
“I’m just kind of still in shock that millions of people kind of know who I am,” she said.
Yarbrough was born with a craniofacial birth defect called Goldenhar syndrome. She’s worn a prosthetic ear since she was 12.
“I’ve had a lot of reconstruction surgery to make me look the way I am today, but basically the right side of my face did not form correctly,” she explained.
Last week, she was scrolling through Tik Tok, a popular social media app, when a video inspired her to post her own video pondering how one wears a mask when they only have one ear. Users posted comments suggesting a Pop Socket or command strip.
Having a little bit of fun at her own expense, Yarbrough tested them out.
“I filmed it all in two minutes and drove home, and by the time I drove home it had like 30,000 views,” she said.
As of Wednesday night, the four videos on her page collectively had been viewed more than 60 million times.
“I’ve gotten hundreds of comments from people like, ‘Hey I’ve never seen anybody who looks just like me and like this is really cool, and you’ve really helped me feel normal today,’ and that means a lot to me,” she said.
Yarbrough, who’s studying political science at Missouri Western State, said it’s frustrating that wearing masks has been political.
“I don’t think that’s really appropriate in the time we’re living in right now because masks do save lives, help protect the people we love,” she said.
Agree or not, she wants the videos to show that it’s OK to sometimes laugh at yourself.
“I think it’s important to make something like a medical condition, something you face in life that isn’t that fun, and I think it also creates awareness,” she said.
Yarbrough said the Pop Socket and command strips weren’t as comfortable as her prosthetic, which is fitted. She added that wearing a mask around her ear can create tension, which is why instead, she typically wears a mask that goes around head.