Millions inspired by story of woman with no arms

While many Chinese women chase fame and fortune via the booming livestreaming industry, Yang Li has touched the hearts of millions of viewers by sharing her daily life.

Yang Li puts on her makeup with her toes at home in Bengbu, Anhui Province, in this photo taken last month. Her arms were amputated after an accident when she was 4 years old.

While many Chinese women chase fame and fortune by having plastic surgery and showing off their “beach bodies” via the booming livestreaming industry, Yang Li has touched the hearts of millions of viewers by sharing her daily life.

It’s not the first time that Yang, 27, has gained public attention.

The disabled woman made headlines in 2006, by completing the gaokao, China’s college entrance exam, with her feet.

In fact, she does everything regular people can do with their hands with her feet, from washing, cooking, eating to shopping, and even applying makeup.

“I learned to do makeup during college,” Yang said, “My classmates all styled their eyebrows and applied lipstick. I thought they looked pretty.”

The confident young woman works at a company in Bengbu, east China’s Anhui Province. During her lunch break, she uses a livestreaming app on her mobile phone to show her followers how she overcomes her disability to live independently.

Yang usually holds her phone with one foot while talking about her life. She also shows her followers around her neighborhood by placing the phone on her chest with a stabilizer.

After she shared her first video in July, her posts went viral, earning her more than 2 million followers who call her “wingless angel” and “inspirational sister.”

“Unlike other hosts, I don’t sing, tell jokes or pretend to be cute in my videos. I just show them how I live my life.”

She has never asked for a “gift,” a term for rewards given online by followers. However, some people have criticized her for taking advantage of her disability by begging.

But Yang said she doesn’t let the comments affect her. “Normal people can livestream, so why can’t I? I’m not upset by those remarks,” she said.

“Most people encourage me. I can feel their respect and kindness. As a disabled person, I’ve earned the recognition from society that I have longed for since childhood,” she added.

Yang’s arms were amputated after a severe high voltage cable accident when she was 4 years old. Her mother taught her how to use her feet to do things that seem impossible to others, such as using chopsticks, brushing her teeth and writing.

She remembers how it used to take her two hours to finish a meal, and how she had to hold a pen with her bare feet to do her homework in winter when temperature dropped to minus 5 degrees Celsius.

Practise makes perfect, her mother often told her.

“At that time my mother taught me to be independent so that one day I would be able to look after myself when I’m alone,” she said.

Yang’s feet and backbone have become deformed after 20 years of constant practise and hard work.

She was proud to be accepted to study at Anhui Agricultural University in 2007 and now she earns her own living working in Bengbu.

Now that her parents are aging, “I don’t want to be a burden on them any more. I have to live my own life,” she said.

Special Reports