Beauty entrepreneur Aaliyah Thompson named a McDonald’s ‘Change Leader’

The community leader was recognized as 1 of the 10 ‘2023 McDonald’s Change Leaders’

Aaliyah Thompson, who is autistic, is the owner of a beauty bar that specializes in makeup and hair. Recently recognized as part of the 2023 class of McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden Change Leaders, she is passionate about serving as a role model to those with autism.

Thompson opened up about the recognition from McDonald’s “Black and Positively Golden” campaign, how she educates the community on autism, and how she overcame challenges in her life.

As a beauty entrepreneur, how does it feel to be recognized as one of McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden Change Leaders?

It gave me an opportunity [to share with the] world that people with autism do not have a [certain] look, they can like be equal to [everyone]. So that’s why I was glad when McDonald’s chose me because I had the chance to show everybody what autism really is and that [those with autism] can do their own thing.

When were you diagnosed with autism? How did it impact your career?

I’ve been diagnosed since the age of 5, so in my younger days, it was kind of rocky until I got older. Before I got older I would just be watching people doing hair, makeup, and nails [for clients]. So while I’ve been watching, I feel like it [became] my passion when it comes to beauty. I’m able to do hair, be myself, and grow in my career.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Well, my biggest struggle is communication when I come around certain people. Some people think [that people with] autism [are] off. They are not really off, they just have different levels when it comes to having autism. So that’s what people don’t understand. So that’s why I need to put that out there that there are different levels. At the end of the day, they are just being themselves, so I feel like people need to be careful how they are around people.

What message do you have for people who look up to you as a beauty entrepreneur and advocate for the autism community?

The message I want to give [beauty entrepreneurs] is to be yourself. So just be who you believe in and be who you are, and what your heart tells you to do. … So, just be yourself. Don’t let anybody bring you down. … Also, my message to those with autism or caregivers of those with autism is to find the right school for them. … [Get] speech therapy. … Find the right people to teach them … because this world is hard. So help them find a way to learn the different struggles and a different path in this life for themselves and their career.

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