“Excuse me, is that a contact?” It’s a question I’ve been asked everywhere from a department store to my usual corner deli. The answer is no, it’s not a contact: It’s a novelty or “fun eye” prosthetic. I’ve been alternating between two: an opal and purple glitter prosthetic that mimics the inside of an amethyst stone and a 24-karat gold flaked version that looks almost bright orange when it catches the light. Truth be told, I’ve never felt more beautiful and confident.
Since losing my left eye at the age of four, I’ve worn a prosthetic. For most people who experience the loss of an eye, having a prosthetic made to match your natural eye color is the only option presented to you when seeing an ocularist, a medical professional that makes prosthetic eyes. It was the only option I had ever known — that is, until I stumbled upon a TikTok video of Rachel Mayta, who had a single gold iris.
Mayta has a following of over 500k and uses her platform to answer questions about what it’s like to live with a prosthetic in a lighthearted way. Mayta also usually wears a novelty prosthetic. “There isn’t anything wrong with preferring a typical prosthetic, it just never felt like me,” she tells me. “I was proud of the fact that I was different. I wanted a way to show that not only am I ‘okay’ with that, but that I also find strength in what I’ve been able to overcome.”
After discovering Mayta’s profile, I immediately slid into her DMs. We quickly became online friends, and I learned the secret behind her unique prosthetics: Christina King, an ocularist who creates one-of-a-kind, medical-grade prosthetics. King had made a few unique prosthetics in prior years, but it wasn’t until she made one for Mayta that “fun eyes” took off on TikTok, she says. Hundreds of people with one eye reached out and asked about a custom prosthetic, and it became clear to King that a trend was being set. Today, her designs vary from colorful gemstone-like irises to full gold shells that can illuminate a room like a disco ball.
Once Mayta clued me into her prosthetic plug, I reached out to King myself on Instagram and she invited me to her Portland, Oregon office to create a fun eye of my own and meet other monocular people (some of whom I also knew from online). During our initial phone call about the process of receiving a fun eye, I was immediately won over by how kind and welcoming she was. Naturally, I asked everyone in my life if I should take a flight across the country for the opportunity for a fun eye. It was unanimous that I was absolutely meant to go. I booked a flight straight to Oregon.