By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
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Videographer / director: Scott Dulson
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Pete Ansell
Lhouraii Li, who previously made the news in 2013 as the ‘Barbie of Bradford’, has undergone a dramatic change over the past six years and now regularly covers herself in blue paint.
Aside from the paint, she also now suffers from severe Agoraphobia, which means she can’t be in public or she’ll experience a panic attack.
Lhouraii, who spends her time on her canal boat in the north of England, told Barcroft Studios: “I’ve always wanted blue skin. Whenever I’d watch films or shows or see a game with a blue character I’d just think it looked so beautiful.
“When I’m blue I just feel like myself. I really don't feel like I belong anywhere, even in this body, and being blue is the most I feel like I belong somewhere and belong in this body.”
She is now looking for a way to turn permanently blue so she doesn’t have to use so much makeup.
She said: “I don't paint myself every day just because I can’t afford the amount of paint that would take. But I've tried a lot of things to become blue.
“I thought about tattooing my skin blue, but I think I might be allergic to tattooing. I've tried dyeing my skin blue by taking baths in hair dye, but I just turned blue and then back to my natural skin color.”
For now, Lhouraii is happy with her face paint and cites ‘Diva’ from the film ‘Fifth Element’ and the Zora from video game ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ as specific inspiration for her look.
And she manages to keep the cost of her unique style to a minimum by using “the cheapest good makeup” she can find, which works out to around £10 a month.
The nail artist now sells her press-on nail and clothing designs online, working from her brightly-colored canal boat where she lives with her boyfriend of 11 years, Nathan.
She also shares her unique makeup and fashion on social media, where she has managed to rack up close to 5,000 followers on Instagram as ‘@lhouraii’.
But despite her thriving social media presence, it’s been four years since Lhouraii has been in a public place due to the Agoraphobia she developed over the last six years.
She isn’t sure of the precise cause, but recalls some “bad events” led up to the start of her disorder – though she can’t remember the specifics of the events themselves.
“Agoraphobia, for me, is a fear of people,” she explained. “I can go outside as long as it’s countryside and there’s no people around but I can’t go anywhere where there’s people – so streets, shops, and populated areas.
“I have a problem with my memory so it seems like decades ago [that I went out into society] because I don’t remember things. I don’t remember what people are like or what the world’s like.”
While she deals with the Agoraphobia and builds up the courage to start therapy, Lhouraii says the blue paint and her canal boat with custom decor make her feel better.
She said: “I’ve always felt quite alone and like I don't belong and it's a really horrible feeling. So I tried to make myself a little world where I kind of feel like I do belong.
“I’ve got pictures of space in the windows, because I'm in here 99.9% of the time so if I'm feeling down, I can pretend like I exist in a place that’s happy and just look like I'm in a spaceship or something.
“And I think that's the same with being blue as well – it’s just a way for me to feel like myself.”
Lhouraii started the all-blue look two years ago, but prior to that she would often use white face paint with blue eye shadow and says the latest look is an evolution of her previous Japanese fashion-inspired style of six years ago.
She said: “My style used to be mistaken as me trying to look like a Barbie and I wasn't actually. The style was a Japanese subculture called Gyaru and I still consider myself Gyaru but just blue.”
She has previously tried different colour body paint, including purple which she says didn’t feel right, but says blue has always felt like her natural skin color.
She also makes most of her elaborate outfits, buying cheap clothes and customising them to fit her taste.
Boyfriend, Nathan, who also has his own unique goth-inspired style, said: “Lhouraii is a very creative and kind person. She just loves creating things.
“I’m just sad for her because she loves going out and she’d never choose Agoraphobia. It’s probably one of the worst things I could think for her to have.
“But I do see Lhouraii getting over Agoraphobia soon. I’ve seen small progress throughout the last few years. I think her desire to go outside will overcome her Agoraphobia sooner or later.”
Lhouraii added: “I don't have friends. I don't really have anyone but I'm very lucky to have Nathan because I feel unconditionally loved.
“I know that he loves me no matter what. I looked nothing like this when we first met. He's happy to see me being myself and living for myself.”
In the future, Lhouraii hasn’t ruled out cosmetic procedures to enhance her appearance, and says having her ears shaped to look more elfin is a real possibility.
“I think my idea of beauty is people being themselves,” she said. “If I see someone with blue skin I’ll think they look ten times better just because I truly love blue skin.
“But people being their true selves, living for themselves, and just dressing how they want to dress – I find that so beautiful.”
The main thing she’s looking forward to is overcoming her Agoraphobia and seeing society again.
“I have a book of things that I want to do when I'm able to go outside,” she said.
“See a water fountain, see a statue, see and smell flowers, visit a therapist and visit a skin doctor. They’re the things I'm looking forward to the most.”