Lancashire makeup artist’s traumatic nine-year battle with HIV
Written by Skywave Radio News on June 18, 2020
A makeup artist from Chorley is speaking out about his mental health struggles following his diagnosis of HIV.
Ross Griffiths, 30, who grew up in Charnock Richard in Chorley, was diagnosed with the virus nine years ago which ultimately resulted in him falling into a depression.
Following an attempt to take his own life, the makeup artist has recently found the strength to turn his life around by following his passion for beauty.
Ross is now the proud owner of his own makeup brand, Leto Visage Cosmetics, which he set up solely last year and hopes to be a huge success both in Chorley and eventually nationally.
He is now bravely sharing his story in the hopes to raise awareness of HIV and inspire others struggling with their mental health or who are living with HIV, to show them that their condition doesn’t define them.
Ross was diagnosed with HIV nine years ago after moving back to Chorley following a period living in Carlisle.
He began to develop severe symptoms but was completely oblivious to the virus he had contracted.
“I suddenly became really ill to the point where I couldn’t walk, eat or sleep. My mum said I was grey,” he said.
“I’d never felt like this in my life, I thought I was going to die.
“I went to the emergency doctors in Preston where they did me a full check over.
“It was then the doctor told me I needed to get to the hospital immediately as my life was at risk.”
At the hospital Ross was given a full body examination and a full sexual health test.
The following day he was told that he had contracted HIV along with other sexual transmitted diseases.
“I received a call from the nurse who told me they’d received my results and that I had HIV, hepatitis B and gonorrhea,” he said.
“I dropped the phone and fell straight to the floor. I’ve never felt emotion like it.
“I didn’t have a clue which of my previous partners I’d caught it from, how long I’d had it for or if whoever had given it to me knew they had it.”
It transpired that one of Ross’ previous partners had the virus for a number of years and did not make Ross aware of this prior to having sexual intercourse without protection.
The police were then involved and the man was arrested for reckless HIV transmission.
“I really struggled to come to terms with my condition, I wanted to refuse that I even had it,” Ross said.
“Over the years I confided in my friends but each and every one turned me away.
“They said to me ‘I can’t have you in my house you have HIV’, and ‘I can’t have you anywhere near me’.
“I was so depressed and felt so alone that I tried to take my own life.”
Having lived with the disease for nine years, Ross has now learnt to accept his condition and doesn’t let it define him as a person.
“I’m now at the point where I’ve accepted it and over the past two years I’ve used my HIV diagnosis and the way that I was treated during this time to make me stronger,” he said.
“It’s been a real whirlwind for me but the diagnosis forced me to see the world in a different way and has totally changed me as a person, for the better.
“Everybody around me is so uneducated about HIV and stuck in their times. People aren’t educated enough and their needs to be more awareness.
“Before my diagnosis I was going down the wrong path, I was doing drugs and I was mixed in with the wrong crowd.
“One of my school teachers turned around to me when I was 16 and said ‘you will make nothing of your life’.
“People said that I would either end up in prison, dead or in the gutters. But I’ve proved them wrong.”
Following his diagnosis, Ross turned to makeup to help him feel more confident.
“I first got into makeup about eight years ago,” he said.
“I went to a beauty salon to feel better about myself, and I fell in love with the beauty industry that way.
“I thought ‘if she makes me feel this good, I want to make people feel that good too’.
“I went to Runshaw College in Chorley to do a beauty course but my condition stopped me from completing it as I was really ill.
“In the meantime I’ve done the mini courses like makeup and nails so I am qualified.”
Ross’ brand, Leto Visage Cosmetics, was launched in 2019 and is a solo project with Ross handling everything from the designs to the advertising.
“I’ve created a brand which is all about being bold, being brave and being unique,” he explained.
“I wear makeup, I wear heels and I wear short shorts, because that makes me feel good and that’s who I want to be.
“When people wear my cosmetics I want their confidence to shine through.
“My brand includes everything from eyeshadow palettes and concealers to makeup bags and brushes.
“Each product is my own design and is created with its own individual storyline.
“It’s just me on my own and it’s my full time job so as well as designing the products I manage the website, advertising, deal with the suppliers and manufactures.”
Due to growing up in Chorley, Ross launched his business there however he admits that this has been quite the challenge.
“I’m a Lancashire boy born and bred so I’ve tried to keep it local to support local businesses but to find a lab or palette company in Chorley has proved very difficult,” he said.
“Being from a small town, it’s hard to find connections and make contacts for my brand.
“My products are manufactured all over the world so lockdown has effected my business a lot.
“I want my brand to be a success and I want to put Chorley on the map.”
Ross is set to release a brand collection later this year which he has named DNA.
The collection is based on his journey and diagnosis of HIV.
“The DNA collection launches on October 9 and it’s based on my story and the journey that I’ve been on,” he said.
“I want my customers to feel connected to me. I am who I am and I love me for me.
“I want to inspire others who may be in the same mental state as I was or the same situation with HIV.
“My HIV doesn’t define me and any condition or a bad situation shouldn’t define us or control our lives.
“My mental health has now improved so much and if I can help just one person flip that switch to change their lives then that’s good enough for me.”
Ross has organised a launch event for his new DNA collection to coincide with the release date on October 9.
The launch will be held at the Cosmopolitan Cocktail Lounge in Chorley and is a ticketed event.
A £40 ticket includes a live masterclass to showcase looks using the DNA collection, two free cocktails, a goody bag, exclusive merchandise and a cosmetics stall.
You can buy tickets for the launch event here.