|Wang Leilei (L) trains a child on her posture in Shenyang, Liaoning Province on May 13. [Xinhua]|
SHENYANG — "Keep your body straight when you are walking, and remain this way when you stop at the end," said Wang Leilei, an entrepreneur and ex-model, as she demonstrates how to walk the catwalk at an art school in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning Province.
Currently in her forties, Wang remains elegant and graceful in her every move, making it easy to forget that she suffers from near-blindness.
Wang began her career as a model at the age of 16, but six years before that, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye illness that causes a gradual loss of eyesight.
|File photo: Wang Leilei (C) poses with fellow contestants after a modeling competition in 2007. [Xinhua]|
The illness did not keep Wang from choosing her dream career. "When I was in junior high school, I underwent surgery and regained some of my eyesight," said Wang. "Later I decided to study to be a model."
Wang treasured her years on the catwalk, but the worsening illness still took its toll. "Sometimes I had to clutch on the sleeves of my fellow models so not to stumble," Wang recalled. "Later it became so bad that I couldn't see myself clearly even when standing close to a mirror."
In 2004, Wang had to leave behind her beloved world of spotlights and catwalks. But luckily for her, she was then accompanied by her newly married husband Ai Shuyi, whom she met a year before.
"I knew her troubles, and I said I would be her eyes," said Ai. It was these words that touched Wang's heart.
|Wang Leilei corrects a child's posture in Shenyang, Liaoning Province on May 13. [Xinhua]|
With their first son born in the next year, the two started a business of their own. "We trained models and service personnel in etiquette," said Wang, who took great pride and pleasure in seeing her students on the catwalk.
Yet in 2011, the business hit a bottleneck. Moreover, Wang was grief-stricken by the passing of her father and grandmother. "The future looked so dim at that moment," said Wang.
It was her father's words from his sickbed that gave her strength. "You must make your life shine, for every day you live," she remembers him saying.
And that was exactly what Wang did. After shedding her tears, Wang carried on with the business along with her husband.
Wang Leilei (R) reacts while filming a charity short film for children with special needs in Shanyang, Liaoning Province on May 6. [Xinhua]
In 2012, Wang found solace in the birth of her second son. "I couldn't see his face, but I managed to guess what he looks like."
Since then, Wang has had three pairs of eyes to see for her.
In supermarkets, Wang always has her elder son as her guide. The boy, now 15, often offers to describe the goods to his mother when she makes purchases.
The younger son, who is now eight years old, has learned to watch over his mother as well. "My eyes are my mom's eyes too," said the boy.
Wang made a brief return to the catwalk in a TV program in 2017. Behind the scenes, her husband and two boys took up the responsibilities of dresser and make-up artist. With the love of her family, Wang's brief return was impressive.
Wang Leilei (back, C) poses with her students during a live broadcast in Shanyang, Liaoning Province on May 13. [Xinhua]
Wang's illness is worsening all the time. By the time of her interview, her left eye had gone completely blind and her right eye could barely sense the light.
"Every evening I leave the curtains open a little, so when the sunlight comes in the next morning, I will know if my right eye is still light-sensitive," said Wang.
Nevertheless, Wang never felt desperate. "I still have my husband and boys there for me, and I always dream of them."
Wang is now making more out of her life than ever. Apart from tending to her business, she has also taken up the work of proofreading with the help of screen-reading apps, finished a biography of more than 100,000 Chinese characters, and established a service center for the disabled in 2017.
Wang's resilience and kindness was repaid by kindness from people around her. Over the years, the Liaoning Provincial Women's Federation and Disabled Persons' Federation have been helping with her life and career.
"I got to know a lot of friends through these two organizations, and we are inspired by each other's experience," said Wang.
For netizens who are touched or inspired by her story, Wang always replies to their praise in person. "I tried to convince her to send pre-written replies to these messages, but she wouldn't," said Ai.
Although Wang is slowly losing her ability to sense light due to the illness, to her, she can always see the light in her life.
"Life put a wall in front of me, but I climbed up," Wang said.
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