By Danny Baggott @dan_baggie
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Edward Sanchez
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote
Editor: Florence Kennard
Jlissa Austin, 31, stands at 3’4” and was born without arms, knees and with only seven toes.
Chassidy Young, 32, lives with Tetra-Amelia syndrome – also 3’4”, she was born with a rare congenital disorder that has left her without hands and very short legs.
Both women filmed documentaries for Barcroft TV’s ‘Born Different’ series earlier this year, and after watching each other’s life story, they have since become best friends through their very rare similarities.
With their friendship going from strength to strength, they have now met in person for the very first time with Chassidy travelling across state from her home in Dallas Texas, to Jlissa who lives in Houston.
Neither of them had ever met anyone like themselves before and Barcroft TV was there to capture the emotional moment on camera.
Chassidy told Barcroft TV: “I saw Jlissa’s story and I got so emotional.
“I was like, I can’t be the only person on this whole earth missing arms. Where they at?!
“And then Jlissa confirmed there’s actually somebody out there who shares the same experience as me.
“I was just like, I have to find her.
“When you don’t see people like you, it feels like you’re the only person in the world that’s like that.
“Everybody needs an identity. I’m so happy to have met Jlissa because I now have somebody to identify with.
“You know, we have our family and we have our friends. But it’s those moments where you need somebody like you because we have our own struggles that they could never relate to.”
Some 30 years ago, doctors predicted Jlissa would never be able to lead a normal life and, to this day, she is still unsure of what caused her abnormalities.
But Jlissa has certainly proved her doubters wrong – learning to use her feet when conducting everyday tasks like brushing her teeth and texting on her phone.
She said: “Most of the questions I get are basically, ‘How do you eat?’, ‘how do you write?’, ‘who takes you to the restroom?’, ‘who puts your make-up on?’.
“My condition hasn’t affected anything in my life.
“There are so many people that aren’t able to be themselves because they are scared of the world.
“You need to be yourself and be thankful. That’s what me and Chassidy are doing now.”
Chassidy, similarly, has learnt to use her feet to perform activities that she would otherwise struggle with.
Both women have been on the receiving end of lots of staring and pointing in public spaces, but they’ve quickly learnt to ignore their haters and stay positive with the people closest to them.
Chassidy said: “I prefer it for kids to come up and say to me, ‘Hey lady, what’s up, where’s your hands at, why are you so little like me?’
“And then we can have a conversation. I always try not to be offended.
“I don’t call it disability, because that makes it sound like something is restricting you from doing something else. It restricts you from getting from A to B.
“But I’ve made it. A, B, C, D. E, F, G – you name it.”
Jlissa and Chassidy have racked up thousands of followers on their social profiles and remain thankful to Barcroft TV for bringing them together.
Chassidy said: “I really appreciate Barcroft TV and what they do. My experience with them has been amazing.
“I hope they continue to help raise awareness.”
Jlissa added: “I’ve really loved the experience of telling my story. And through Born Different, I’ve had so many positive messages. I’m just so glad for the opportunity.”
Jlissa is currently planning her wedding with fiancé, Jonathan, a 5’6” able-bodied man – with a date set for next year.
Whilst Chassidy, along with Jlissa, is continuing to be an advocate for people with ‘disabilities’ and is helping others to learn to love their body no matter what.
Chassidy said: “I think my future has zero limits.
“Being an advocate for people with ‘disabilities’ is very important to me, so I’ll continue to do that.”
The two of them are thrilled to have met each other in person and can’t wait to continue their friendship.
Jlissa added: “The future is strong for me and Chassidy. We’re friends forever.”