Rhys Yarbrough wants to make one thing very clear — there’s no excuse not to wear a face mask in a global pandemic.
The 20-year-old Missouri college student, who was born with one ear due to a congenital craniofacial birth defect called Goldenhar syndrome, went viral on TikTok after sharing the creative ways she can keep her mask secure.
In a video that has since been viewed more than 27.9M times, Yarbrough affixes a cellphone pop socket she purchased at Walmart to the side of her head. She then attaches one strap of a mask to the device and the other to her one ear, creating what appears to be a snug fit across her face.
In another similar video, which has been viewed a whopping 4.5M times, the student uses a command hook in a similar fashion.
Yarbrough, who is completely deaf on her right side and wears a bone-anchored hearing aid to help her hear, told In The Know she typically wears a prosthetic ear both for the aesthetic and to help her keep her face mask secure.
However, after spotting a video of 22-year-old TikTok user lentuk, in which she jokingly asks how she’s supposed to wear a mask with only one ear, Yarbrough decided to create her own iteration of the video using the same audio.
“One night I was just scrolling on TikTok and I came across a video of a girl with one ear and I was just in shock,” Yarbrough told In The Know. “I have never seen anyone that looked like me before. I showed my boyfriend, Zack, and he really encouraged me to put myself out there.”
Yarbrough’s recreation of lentuk’s video ended up blowing up, with over 5.6M views.
After the clip went viral, Yarbrough noticed a few comments on her video asking her to try items like pop sockets and command hooks to hold a mask to her face — naturally, she decided to humor the requests.
“I was at Walmart the next day and I just kept thinking about those comments and just decided I have to try it,” she recalled. “I’ve never used anything but my prosthesis as an ear and I was curious about how it would actually work. I bought them and filmed both right after the other when I got into my car.”
Her combined videos stemming from the bit have since been viewed more than 61.1M times and racked up countless comments from users impressed with her resourcefulness and sense of humor.
"Morden-day problems call for modern-day solutions," a user commented on one of Yarbrough's TikToks.
"That’s actually extremely smart," added one viewer, with another commenting that the hack was "brilliant."
Although she doesn’t have any more videos of the sort in the works, Yarbrough promised she’d be interested in creating additional iterations if funny suggestions continue to come in.
“I haven’t really gotten any more realistic suggestions, if I had I would have definitely made more videos by now,” she told In The Know.
All fun and pop socket jokes aside, Yarbrough says she hopes her videos can hammer home that it is extremely important to prioritize wearing a mask, no matter who you are.
“It really upsets me to see people trying to make up medical excuses and try to justify not wearing a mask,” she told In The Know. “Masks save and protect lives.”
“I also want to remind everyone that we all face daily obstacles, but we were made to adapt,” she added. “I have never seen or heard of anyone with a legitimate disability or medical condition make excuses on why they can’t wear a mask and I think that speaks volumes.”
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