Hey guys! It’s me. Thought I’d holler at y’all with some hot tips on how to achieve a sultry smokey eye, in case you’re feeling particularly femme fatale this season, or are in a hurry to achieve some beauty goals since it could be our final fall forever-ever. Nothing like the end-times to pull out all the stops! The eyes are often acknowledged as our windows to the soul, so whether or not your soul is screaming in fear, is in deep regressive sleep-mode, or blazing with fury of a thousand Amazonian warrior queens — nothing off-sets deep existential fear like kohl eyeliner and some kicky eyeshadows. I want make up.
Step 1! The first trick to ‘getting it right’ is making sure you are in the right head-space. How are you feeling today? Like there’s no point in general? Or is this current political climate making you feel totes SYFOF (sexy yet full of fury)? I always begin by peering into the mirror, pondering the far-reaching existential issues facing us currently. “Is this all really happening now? Are we in an alternate history? Will we perish in a nuclear war in the next 6 or so months? Is he president still? I checked this morning but its been a few hours.” Checks news again. Frantically paces. Hides money under floorboards for no discernible reason. “Would this president consider me a human since I’m probably just a level-four in his ratings-scale? Has my life been shaped by a patriarchal system? Do I still have Health Insurance?” Checks news again.“Maybe? Wait I can’t tell…No. Yes? What time is the vote today?” Writes angry letter to anyone. Sets up donation to 7th organization.
OK, Great! Now that you’ve played a little emotional chaos-jazz to get the creative juices flowing, let’s get glam.
Well, flimflam. You know what? Just skip step 2. You can slap foundation on later. We somehow lost 45 minutes while pondering futility and need to make up some time. I don’t really understand why I keep losing so much time these days. Stares at phone with unbridled, wide-eyed fear for another 20 minutes.
Step 4. Line the eyes thickly, blending it up towards the crease before the liner ‘sets’, using a flat brush. Actually, use whatever the hell you want to. Use a Q-tip. You know what? Use your fingers. Don’t waste your money buying a million brushes if you don’t have the extra funds. You have to pay for birth control again, so save save save. It’s not like women are responsible for not-having or having babies or are the gender paying more the functioning of our bodies or make less on the dollar than cis-gendered straight men as rules about existing in our bodies are tossed out like candy at a candy-themed-parade. But Viagra? Totes free. Haha! Hold on my vision just got blurry. Is the earth vibrating? Is it 5pm yet? Is there whisky anywhere? Is everything ok in the newziez? Do I still have health insurance? Is the earth shaking or am I having a panic attack? Is there a hurricane at my door? Is Trump a hurricane? Instead of ‘man’ is he a human fury-ball of destruction? Is that him at my door? Did he bring paper towels to clean up after himself? Where am I? Oh, right — we’re just gabbin’ beauty. Anyhow, yeah no brushes. Screw it.
Step 5. Apply eye-shadow, with the darkest color being placed closest to the lash line, blending up into the crease. Just dig into the shadow with your hands. It will soothe you. Maybe ‘meow’ the entirety of Beethoven’s 5th as you apply the shadow with your bare hands. You know how the smoke closest to the flame is the darkest? It’s like that- as though your soul is a flame and your eyes are a campfire and the shadow is the billowy smoke gently dissipating as it reaches the tree-tops, your eyebrows are like the trees. Ahhhh — remember the trees? Those sturdy earth statues that help us breathe and filter out toxins, stretching to the heavens through hopeful clear skies. We’d climb up their branches perching in them like they were thrones, all before we began staring endlessly into our phones awaiting news of environmental chaos and executive orders and terrifying twitter aler — -Oooh! A news alert! Maybe there is a small piece of hope in my phone!
Shouldn’t have done that. Trump is still President and the Hamburglar is now head of Health and Human services. YES it is humorously ironic that a masked cartoon villain famous for stealing extremely poor-quality burgers would have such a job. Now that vibrating panic has returned. Life hack: Take advantage that tremble. As your hands are shaking uncontrollably, just hold a brush or a q-tip to your eye and allow the shaking to naturally blend the shadows. Make your panic work for *you*. Is this all normal? Well, Betsy Devos is the Hamburglar of Education so Trump’s got himself a trope and he’s sticking to it. Have you watched those clips of the icebergs collapsing yet?
Step 6. Scream. Bellow. Let it out. Text a friend. Log-off from Facebook. Look at an old photo album and remember how soft your grandmother’s hands were. Ask photos of beloved ancestors if you’re doing ok. DO NOT LOOK AT SOCIAL MEDIA. Trust me. Someone you last saw decades ago is posting currently about All Lives Mattering and rhyming guns with ‘fun’ and you’re going to ruin your face. BREATHE. Remember what you were doing — Makeup! This all still matters, right? Why did we begin wearing makeup anyway? For them? For a President who talks down to women no matter if he’s judging them or seemingly complimenting them? Ohhhhh dear. Am I feeding into it all by loving lipstick? Will men call me ‘girl’ forever? I’m a woman, damnit! Stop spiraling, Sarah! You love makeup because its powerful and makes you feel good and it’s valuable. WE MUST COMPLETE THE TASK.
Step 7. It can’t be 2pm already. We started at 8am. We haven’t done mascara. Maybe you’re running out of steam or doubting whether or not the center will continue to hold, you mustn’t forget mascara. Universe collapsing or not, there is zero sense in having done all that work only to skirt the mascara. Catch your breath, tell your boss you were at a protest, and finish on the train. Pack it on, coating the front and backs of the lashes with mascara. Add more liner to the waterline. The kids call it ‘tight-lining’. Isn’t that a nice new thing to know? Appreciate the mindless time away from the news. Figure out how you want to fight today. Acknowledge something has shifted, though Trump is still President for another 200 years according to the ‘Trump Emotional and Destruction Calendar”. Is this a death rattle? Is this the end? Is Maybeline Great Lash an amazing mascara? The future is unwritten.
Warning: There is a 97% chance a male-timbered voice will interrupt you if you do any primping in public to say something like ‘Hey girl you’re hot you don’t need all that stuff’ or “Stop right there, you look GREAT!” or ‘I happen to think you look better with no makeup.” Why? Why this always? Clearly there’s a handbook out there titled “Phrasebook for Men Addressing Those Who Sport the Makeups” written in 1953, and is in its eighteenth printing. The book is outdated, my dudes! That book should be blank with the photo below on every page!
Maybe most of us are simply used to it now — but haven’t you once wondered: Why is Trump Orange? IS Steve Bannon actually OK, health-wise? Why does Stephen Miller look like he’s sweating under so much matte makeup? Who did Kellyanne Conway’s makeup today? She could look better! Is there anyone in the wings over there with some powder and a comb? The universe bellows back “I don’t think so”. It leads me to wonder if there’s something deeper going on? I ask this as a concerned citizen, emotional empath, and professional makeup artist.
It’s easy, cruel fun to pick apart how people look on television. It’s a catty sport many of us play. I’m occasionally conflicted about my right to judge the appearances of those who aren’t myself. I justify any judgements based on my career: I have an opinion on faces! After working on thousands of faces, I can definitively say I know when a client is happy, sad, or is struggling with a soul that is restless. I know when a person lives and dies by bronzer, even if they show up clean-faced. I know whether or not someone will suggest contour, regardless of age. I can tell by the darting of one’s eyes whether they trust me, or anyone else for that matter. A seasoned artist can tell whether or not a client is comfortable in their own skin. I have never ever seen a crew of bandits who knew themselves less than the Trump administration, and I’ve only seen them on screens.
A public figure tells us who they are by what they say and how they allow themselves to be presented to the public. How you choose to look when recording begins is 100% intentional, unless you’re in jail or are being ambushed by a crew. Those whose chosen jobs place them on screens (politicians/gurus/hosts) are giving us permission to see them. They want to be in the public eye. They want to run our country, sell us our goods, or save us from ourselves. Look at the late Tammy Faye Baker. That’s who she was, from the tips of her lashes to the tears down her cheeks. She patiently, thoughtfully painted her face on everyday. Then she wept. She wanted us to see the mascara’d tears.
If someone chooses to not wear makeup, they’re saying ‘I don’t wanna be a makeup person’. Alicia Keys is telling us she doesn’t wanna be judged by her vanity, makeup wise. She is foundation free, and seems gloriously happy that way. There’s no disputing what her narrative is. If a personality wants to feather their bangs, layer on 10 coats of mascara, and rock some indigo blue eyeliner, that is a lot of solid information to base an opinion on.
Trump is orange and his hair is famously peroxide blonde. He rocks a fake-tan like a star from the 80’s who can’t let that go. Have you ever really looked at the whites around his eyes? Chances are those lighter patches are the result of tanning bed goggles. We have a bronzer addict running the country, and I have very strong opinions about bronzer addicts. I’ve rarely ever met one who doesn’t have a disjointed view of who they are or nurse a strange self-image. Sometimes that self-image is inflated. I wouldn’t be confident in saying this if I’d only been a makeup artist for a few years and simply hated the orangey hue of excessive bronzer. He likely reached his physical and sexual (sorry) prime in the 80’s, and though his power has skyrocketed to his being the most powerful man in America. It seems he is still chasing the dragon of his 80’s Trump facade. Why else would he still emulate that 80’s bronze glow?
Beware of anyone stuck in any decade. Especially the 80’s.
Meanwhile his top advisors look as though there is something wrong, in various dark ways. I’m not being glib — it’s worrisome. Steve Bannon looks as though he has ceased taking care of himself. He looks like he may drink a lot. Perhaps doesn’t sleep. He has a rigorously stated bleak world-view, which sound to be the rumblings of a darkly depressed man. If I judge his facial health, combined with his point of view, I am led to ask whether or not he is making decisions from a solid mental place? Yes, his skin quality tells me that. And what about Steve Miller? Why so much matte foundation, and why does he still look like he’s sweating? Is he nervous? I’ve never seen such an upper lip sweat under that much powder. He seems uncomfortable. Most broadly — what is going on with Kellyanne Conway?
Kellyanne Conway has a tendency to look busted. (I pondered delicacy in word choice when writing that sentence, but that’s just the truth whittled down.) I’ve scrutinized this for nearly a year. Something is amiss, deeper than ‘please, curl your lashes and blend your shadow.” It causes me both confusion as well as sharp twinges of empathy. She looks tired. She looks like she’s trying hard, but failing. But should she be trying that hard, makeup wise. Why isn’t anyone helping her?
Make up shop uk
Her makeup is wrong, in a paint-by-numbers sense. She’s a beautiful woman. Yet, the foundation is off, in shade and consistency. The concealer doesn’t work. (There are concealers that work for everyone, trust me.) The lashes are wonky, the mascara is clumpy, and the eyeshadow palettes she uses change practically every damned day. *There is absolutely nothing wrong with ‘new makeup every day’, but she is not that kind of make-up wearer. That’s not her journey. She is not living that kind of life! She’s a talking head of our government, and is clearly rejecting the help of makeup artists with regularity. Which is disconcerting, based on her desire not only to help run the free-world, but also to be one of the few public faces of it. We want our leaders to trust the advice of professionals. Does she not trust a makeup artist?
If she worked at the bank, I wouldn’t care. I’d find the blue no, wait green no, wait gold eye-shadow switcharoo endearing. If she was my hair-stylist, I’d chalk it up to creative choice. If she made my coffee or brought me my pizza, I wouldn’t care, beyond wishing I could recommend a new concealer. I love watching people make creative choices. Some people are ‘themselves’ in the very act of creative re-invention (yes, like Cher). I have many friends who cut, color, or even shave their heads when they need a change. Myself? I change my own lip color daily. That’s how I’m ‘me’ — I’m living that life! But if I’m going through something difficult, my instances of changing my hair and adjusting my eyeshadow tick up a bit more dramatically. Then I know my soul is restless. Over-done concealer and clumpy mascara is my canary in a coal mine. I know something is wrong. Is Conway changing it so often because she’s ‘finding herself’ while being internally conflicted?
If I need to hire a lawyer, and if that lawyer showed up with wonky eye makeup and unmatched foundation, I’d shout without pause, “Not today, Esquire! I need you to know who you are and I need that you to be professional!” Those I’m hiring to help me should know who they are, and I openly reject ‘too kooky’ in any professional setting. Same reason I don’t look busted when I show up for a job. My job is helping people so they need to trust that I know who I am.
I desire the same for those running our country. I need you to know and trust yourself now.Their beauty routines make them appear restless, unhappy, erratic, and uncomfortable in their own skin. If they have a professional artist at their disposal, then that artist is likely being rejected.
“But what if the artists they’re using are bad?” Impossible. It’s a ludicrous notion that a highly skilled artist would be that bad that many times in a row. “What if they don’t wanna pay for a makeup artist?” Nope. I know poor 21-year-old’s who put together the money to pay for an artist for a big event.
When someone of significant stature appears on a network, that network supplies an artist, or they will pay for the cost of one. I’m occasionally that artist in the wings at CNN with a personality on a publicity tour. Sometimes I show up to studios, and they have ANOTHER artist there on staff, just in case. It seems rare that any artist is doing the work. Yes, I’ve found a few instances where Conway is done and it looks fabulous. She isn’t obligated to look ‘done’ if that isn’t how she wants to be seen. But she’s putting on a lot, so she’s trying. She’s rejecting the use of a professional makeup artist.
In the instance when a personality insists on doing makeup him or herself, I still always ask ‘Can I blend this or that or add some powder?’ They never say “no”, at which point I remove some of the sparkles or blend for the sake of the person and the viewers. Always. Maybe twice in a decade I’ve been turned down. Only when the most nervous and untrusting figure decided they were a better makeup artist than I was. They powdered themselves up, looked at me like they knew better, and then plopped themselves in front of the camera with uncertain eyes and uneven skin.
So, here we all are. They’re on our TV constantly. They are running our country. I’d love to give them some HD powder and proper concealer. If only they trusted the experts.
My great grandmother Nana wore Oil of Olay and smoked Menthol Kools. She was a warm, solitary woman with tight curls who sat in a faded green chair and told us stories about growing up poor during the depression. She made strawberry jam and crafted my cousin and I beloved dolls out of towels which we creatively called ‘towel-dolls’. What I remember the most is the scent of Olay with a gentle ‘cigarette smoke’ note.
It’s a poignant perfume, which is why I can’t use Oil of Olay to this day. That scent is tightly held in the corner of my brain reserved for memories of Nana. The descriptions of so many that I’ve loved begin with a scent, or a memory of how they groomed themselves. Our beauty potions and perfumes floating around like gentle ghost’s for those we’ve held close in life.
I’ve been dosing myself in moisturizer and scents since I was a kid. It’s a cottage industry on both sides of my family branches. We all spent summers in the sun, coated thickly in sunscreen, then were encouraged to moisturize instantly post shower. This is the only time to moisturize productively (did anyone else’s mothers, aunts, or grandmothers repeat this thousands of times?) Before bed one should always moisturize his or her face. I’d tap vaseline around my eyes just like mom did. She looked good and I prayed I would grow up in a similar fashion. Guess what? The reports are true— us little ladies are taught real early that our looks are incredibly vitally, ridiculously all important. Am I aware that’s a little bit bullshit? Read my future essay ‘The Bullshit Reality That My Face and Body Are More Important Than My Mind, and Other Rants’ next Tuesday. Today, I choose to punch things out in the middle of the beauty ring, swinging happily while I enjoy the trappings of taking care of my skin and smelling like a flower. Can there be strength in that? (answer is yes.)
I believe passionately in moisturizer, both in the science of it as well as the emotional magic. If it’s nothing more than a type of sugar pill, I’ll take that daily, please. I know it’s a bit ephemeral and largely exists to make me feel better about the inevitable aging process. I hate to break it to anyone not quite there yet, but HOLY CRAP it actually happens! We get older and then…? Yep, that’s correct, we will all die (just throwing that in to keep things breezy and honest). Moisturizer won’t keep me forever young or alive any more than it will turn me into Gigi Hagid. I can see the signs of aging already. My tan doesn’t come or go as evenly. I need more eyeliner to do a cat-eye than I once it. I look realistically at myself in the mirror at the end of most days, taking stock in my skin’s new qualities while pressing a lightly perfumed lotion into my skin. Sometimes I spend a lot of money on it. Sometimes I buy the less expensive stuff. The months I’m dipping into the pricey jar? I swear I look better. I deeply love this process. Why?
It’s fun! It’s expensive! It’s frivolous! It’s 100% about my own vanity! I personally don’t care if I’m judged for it — I get power from it. Women are as strong and useful as men — which is a belief finally getting some valid attention these days. Believing this, I equally indulge in the genteel rituals of beauty. My skin glows, which comforts me and gives me a sense of control.
The first boy I ever liked so much that maybe I loved him a little wore Cool Water cologne. Don’t put that cheap shit on around me ever, cause I will stare at you like 14 year old teen who just discovered cooing into the phone and daydreaming is the purest form of survival. That crush is nearly 25 years behind me, but the scent transports me instantly to the hallways of junior high. Coolwater leads me to the scent of Noxema, which I began that year as a nightly ritual, probably due to the boy. I likely believed I was immortal at fourteen, so it wasn’t to keep me looking young. I’d apply a layer to my skin each night until it tingled, would rinse, and then apply a coat of moisturizer from my mom’s stash. She knew I did this. She never hid it. Thank you, Mom for the fancy shit. If you combine the scent of Cool Water with the tingle of Noxema, my eyes will roll into the back of my head and I’ll babble homework from beginning Spanish class “Donde esta la bilbioteca?’ while doing a slow running man to a PM Dawn track. (and in case you’re wondering what lipstick I wore that era, it was Black Honey, by Clinique thankyou very much. Yes, each life’s chapter could be titled by the lipstick I wore.)
My mother holds a strict nightly routine: Face-wash, rich moisturizer, then a thin layer of vaseline around her eyes and on lips. Say what you will about Vaseline, but my mom looks like she’s 45. I’m not too far away from 40 and she had me at 30, so you know something is working. We are about to start looking the same age, which is strange for me and is very good for the makers of vaseline and mainly my mother. Vaseline seems to works, guys. It’s not pricey. Go get yourself a jar.
The ritual of a beauty routine connects me to the female relatives who have preceded me in life — a witchy communion with my ghostly ancestors as I pat the cream around my eyes and spritz myself with a flowery perfume.
Mom kept pearls around a bottle of Tea Rose, and her solitaire diamond necklace draped around a bottle of Joy. Both bottles lasted the duration of my childhood, which proves mom was classy as she was thrifty. You didn’t need much perfume if your pearls already smelled of Tea Rose (that sentence can only be read allowed in a southern accent while fanning oneself). My cousin recently reminded me that the ‘consequence’ of Joy being their mother’s scent meant the three sisters each believed Joy was ‘the only scent they could each wear and is (also) their favorite.”
That’s some powerful memory, as tied to a mother’s perfume.
On my father’s side was Grandmother Graalman (Yes we called her Grandmother. That was her name and she was fabulous.) Grandmother wore Hermes scarves all months but the sweltering summer ones. A bombshell blonde who rocked a deep tan year round, which was procured with a tanning board outside on their back patio. Sun-science will tell you this is a bad idea and will definitely have an impact on anyone’s skin-quality. But Grandmother always looked radiant. She had a few more lines than she would have if she’d hidden from the sun, but she seemed to enjoy herself bronzey, so bronzey she was. She washed her face with Erno Lazlo black soap, which I would fantasize about owning when I was grown. I don’t know where she bought it out in Oklahoma. I assume she had a secret salesperson at some fancy store who had it sent in from New York. I would fact-check that with family, but I don’t want to ruin the mystique by learning she bought it at the Piggly Wiggly. This is the ritual mythology I’ve built for myself, and I’m sticking with it.
While she cooked us lunch, I would tip-toe into her room and try to mimic her beauty routine. I put on every lipstick. I put on every eyeshadow. I was almost always caught — not that she ever minded. She’d saddle up along side me with her collection of pinky brown nail-polishes (her signature color which matched perfectly with her always bronzey skin) and would instruct me on proper nail-painting techniques. She wore Fracas perfume most days, and her scarves still smell very softly of the scent. I breathe in and the olfactory magic is released. Closing my eyes, her memory and presence becomes tangible.
Even in Alicia Key’s current non-makeup wearing sabbatical, her makeup artist revealed how she cares for her skin. It’s a routine that doesn’t go away, even when the color and powders are dismissed. Based on interviews she’s given, to Alicia Keys, the expectations of made-up (as in makeup) beauty feel like trappings to her. She’s right, then. No one gets to declare that she’s wrong for not obliging societal opinion that all women be ‘made up’. If she feels overwhelmed by the expectations, then she should release herself of those expectations.
I love that Alicia Keys is making the decision to go fresh faced. However, I dislike the idea that some people take the decision to mean ‘makeup and the beauty industry is bad’. The conversation can and should be nuanced, and we each get to have our own truth and reality when it comes to how deeply we wade into the waters of product consumption.
I have clients who will occasionally admit that they feel guilty for spending the money on the service, or the products. Or guilty for caring. I very quickly state “there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to indulge in your vanity. It’s your face. There is zero weakness in obliging.” It is fun and important if you decide that to be true for yourself. Some of these faces are seen by throngs of people and fans — some faces are seen by casting directors. Are you getting your face done because 1 (one) person you’re sweet on is taking you to dinner? That’s more than fine— you are saying this person matters and so you’re wanting to look hot/beautiful/powerful/sexy/demure/however the hell you want, using some tools. I love helping clients discover new ways of seeing themselves. It can be surprise to find a new source of power in an eyeliner technique or lipcolor. To seek individuality in a perfume. “This is my scent. This is my color. This is who I’ve decided I’m going to be today.”
My beauty rituals tie me to my ancestors — each female relative in my rear view mirror indulged in the tradition of splendidly grooming themselves. They pin-curled their hair, pinched their cheeks, brushed their brows, and even did facersize in the 80’s. They painted on bold lips and smized into cameras as confident, strong women even when their gender was seen as ‘less than’.
Adele’s cover this past winter on Time is pure delicious make-up candy to me — original, bold, vulnerable and sexy as hell. She’s staring towards camera draped in a red sweater, done up perfectly in heavy-handed contour.
The first moment I saw the cover, I was instantly inspired to try harder at embracing my femininity in full-female-drag (the heightened, un-lazy version of myself has always been a bit trashy and vampy). Conversely, many Kardashian-like images make me shudder. Which is an issue I’ve been pondering. Why does Adele’s makeup look so good, and the the latter tribe of K’s make me squirm?
It’s not that they aren’t beautiful. It just seems that some of their natural beauty is stripped away by the manner in which the make-up is applied. Adele’s artist and the Kardashian’s both bow deeply to the ‘full-faced-make-up’ goddess, who I bow to as often as I can. Both fake-lashed, contoured, lined and powdered within an inch of their lives. Yet Adele looks exquisitely alive and the Kardashian version of make-up looks a bit like a mortician went at them post mortem. The Kardashian’s are trend-setters of the highest degree, so when I say ‘them’ I’m now talking about wayyy more than those sisters five.
Imagine, if you will — A nineteen-year-old sits down in your make-up chair and immediately asks about her need for botox while confessing she hasn’t left home without fake lashes in a year. A seventeen-year-old shows you her ‘contour’ technique, which she refuses to leave the house without. You keep seeing young women with bruises on their cheeks which turn out to actually be poorly placed contour. These scenarios have repeated themselves in great succession this past year. These scenarios never happened in the twelve years before I was working as a make-up artist. I have realized there is a problem. Or a trend. A bad trend.
The Kardashian style of shaping the face is in. Yet it doesn’t feel like a ‘look’ as much as it feels like a mask, once just reserved (and very necessary) for actors on proscenium stages, aging public figures, or drag queens. Now full facial contouring has hit the strip malls, 7-eleven parking lots, and high-schools of America. It’s a fad, you say? Fine. But there is also some neurosis saddling itself to those younger kids being carried away on the trend.
Young women and men are shading and highlighting their faces as though life has already cast them aside. It doesn’t look fun, or care free. It looks as though there’s something wrong to begin with. As though the point of make-up is to ‘correct’ as opposed to ‘have a good time with your youth, girl’.
But, lo! The contour! The need for it when young is so unnecessary I wish to make it obsolete. The technique is complicated and difficult to master so the results often look somewhat violent. The reason one contours for images is because dimension is taken away by the act of taking a 3-D person and making them 2-D.
Contouring is used for stage due to distance and lighting issues. Remember when women were getting made fun of in the 90’s for lining their lips with darker liners, larger than their lips were? As Jerry Seinfeld said, “Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not color, but to accept God’s final word on where your lips end.” This is being done to the whole face. The entire face. being outlined.
I often preach that the wearing of make-up should be to reveal, not conceal. People also happen to love advice that rhymes. My favorite un-rhymed advice: I do my own makeup until I kinda want to make out with myself. I do my make-up until I feel a snap in my brain and step back and think ‘hell yes’. That moment changes daily — sometimes it’s heavy, bright and loud. Sometimes it’s just a dab of concealer with some lip balm. What are your intentions with your product? If you’re hiding behind it, people will see that. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a time or place for corrective techniques. I use corrective products. The Dream Barbie version of myself sure as hell doesn’t have circles under her eyes. But once I conceal, I then choose what I want to highlight. I fell in love with make-up because I could express my personality using it, magnifying with bold colors and dramatic technique who I hoped to grow into as a woman.
What is the invisible line between an Adele-style beat-down and a Kardashian contour bonanza? It’s lies somewhere between statement “I getto wear this” versus “I need to wear this”. Adele was giving us face for a year-end issue. The Kardashians sometimes are just going to the grocery store. Why do any of us need it? Hopefully because it’s fun and makes us feel more like ourselves. It’s as if there’s an existential sadness revealed when slathering on make-up because you feel you ‘have to’. Yes, we are all strangely under the scrutiny of the public eye now, with an endless social media cycle. Maybe we should just take a deep breath, say ‘screw it’ to what we think we need to be seen as, and remember what it was like to have fun with our faces.
Young youths of now, your faces are great. They’re naturally contoured by your taut skin and healthy bones. You aren’t gonna look older now for years to come. So go put on some purple eyeshadow, tacky gloss and glitter and take some creative chances. There is a time and place for us all to go full Adele. Even the occasional full Kardashian. But it’s not a world we need to judge ourselves in every day.
I love being a make-up artist. I feel powerful at my job. I am in control at my job. I’m good at it. I’m successful in bringing what has perhaps been stripped away from many women and occasional men. Dormant-lying confidence as they struggle with being seen as objects, being seen as powerful, or being old past 30.
Women cut themselves down and apologize in the make-up chair for things I can’t see because I’ve come to realize what we see is often what society has projected on us. Sometimes we need to polish the lens to see ourselves clearly. Sometimes a little gloss does the trick. When they leave with their face on, they simply apologize less.
I am a free-agent makeup artist, meaning I do a little bit of everything: magazine, theater, television, commercials, red carpet, personal/private client, weddings, bachelorette parties, actor headshots, corporate headshots. Each scenario brings me into a new world in which I discover from my ‘fun makeup artist bubble’ a little something about society and how we each relate to the idea of beauty. It’s a pretty sublime bubble to exist in, from my perspective as a feminist. The industry is filled with strong, creative intelligent women and men who are passionate about their work. The beauty field is largely a ‘feminine’ field. It’s considered this because women and gay men are the largest users of beauty products. We grew up needing it, wanting it, while exploring ourselves and our personalities with it. Now we’re grown, working professionally in the industry, and we get to give back — teaching others how to love it, use it, and own it.
Occasionally, someone will say that working in makeup must be “so fun,” which is certainly is — I have a lot of fun. Sometimes the person saying it will make a little shimmy-smile when they say it. “Soooooo fun!” And I widen my eyes and I reiterate and say, “Yeah, it’s so fun!” But it my head I think, “It’s not a pajama puppy party.” It’s a legit world and huge industry and its value is immeasurable (for proof of that, apply makeup on a survivor of abuse, on someone who has suffered burns, or someone fighting through cancer). It is not girly to need, want, or explore makeup. “Girly” is a word I loathe as a grown woman. “Girly” immediately dictates that the colors/products as frivolous or purely youthful. For example, I love pink… hell, put a hot-pink lip on me and I can deal with any bullshit that comes my way, whether that is someone bumping me on the subway or some dude mansplaining life to me. Is having a hot-pink bullet in my purse to help me get through my day girly? I dunno. My brother still likes the color blue and last time I checked there was nothing “boyishy” about any color he likes. And how often do we even HEAR the word “boyishy”? IT’S NOT EVEN A WORD. When I think of the word “girly” I think of a bunch of kids going, “Wheeeee!” And that almost makes me want to roll my eyes like a teenager. Which I won’t do. Because I’m a lady.
Let’s cut to the world of the corporate headshot. This scenario has taken place 20 separate times, and every time it plays out nearly the same way. The women are excited. (Also, maybe 1–2 men, which always brings me joy.) As the day wears on, the straight men in the office pop their heads in and playfully chide the women getting glammed up. “Hey do I NEED more lashes?” <Chuckle chuckle.>” “What are you gonna do to me?” <Tee hee.>And—then the lines that get me every time — directed at one of the women in the chair, “Hey, you look FINE! You don’t need that stuff.” Or “Woah, hey that’s a lot of make-up!” Or “Woah, _______________ (some flippant and dismissive phrase).” It happens so regularly, I could make my own tape of it, walk in, press play, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between my canned bro-voice comments and the live ones.
It’s as though they’re saying “Aw, you cute women-girls in that silly chair.”
Having make-up put on for a picture — let alone a professional photo, certainly isn’t out of the norm. Furthermore, a woman in make-up certainly isn’t out of the norm. But having it done out in the wilds of the office? Seems it becomes a bigger deal than it should be.
I can’t tell you how many times the woman (often powerful, often older) waits for the men to end their doorway tap-dances and exit, so they can turn to me and say, “I can’t tell you how happy I am you’re here, and how hard it is dealing with sexism at this level of power.” I’m not making that sentence up. I ask, “Would you ever write anything?” And they respond, “I wish, but I can’t. It’d be too bad for business. But you’re here and thank god. I just want to look good.” Yes, a woman who has crawled and fought her way up a corporate ladder, being giggled at like a school girl because she dared to have a make-up artist show up for a professional photo. She struts out of the makeup chair, has her photo snapped, and she feels extra powerful on top of already being powerful.
When asked if I deal with sexism at my job, my response is, “Occasionally, of course, but at work — very rarely.” Yes, I deal always with institutional, societal sexism. But no one ever cuts me down in a board meeting. My co-workers and I delight in new shades and contouring techniques and no one makes me feel lesser for it. Occasionally on a job I will encounter fear and discomfort from a man needing powder. I try explaining why what I’m doing as a makeup artist isn’t always “feminine.” I’m not trying to make them “look like a girl.” Sometimes the product is for shine, due to lighting or the camera-type being used. Occasionally I deal with run-of-the-mill sexism — being snapped at by some powerful man’s assistant who wants me to fetch a water for his boss sitting in the bright light. Since I am the only woman in the room so I may as WELL be the one to fetch the water (which doesn’t so much bother me because I feel sorry for them, plus I have on my hot-pink lipstick so who really cares anyways). Aside from that I work happily, surrounded by other feminine types who want the subjects to look good.
This is why make-up isn’t frivolous, or shallow, or derogatorily girly. The beauty industry brings in billions of dollars annually — many women work and lead in this industry. It can be difficult navigating the world, being seen as weaker, or not being taken seriously for not being pretty enough or even for being too pretty. In other words, it is difficult being a woman. It’s 2016, and we still have sexism. We all know this. I simply no longer want to deal with the word “girly” for myself, as a 37 year-old woman who has countless lipsticks. Yeah, that’s a lot of make-up. It’s just the right amount, as a matter of fact, for what I do. I use it to make women feel better about themselves. I use it myself to to feel stronger. I don’t wish to defend the task of allowing a woman to be seen as “girly.” Make-up is a tool used to bring out both the stronger and softer edges of who we are. Those who wear make-up do it in order to articulate our personalities out to the world. Yes, it’s often fun. But it’s equally important. It is the lucky modern warpaint of millions who go out into the world everyday, hoping to be seen as exactly what we are — equals.
I first felt that I could be my own person when I realized I could put something bright on my lips. I was allowed in elementary school to wear lipstick when performing in plays or dance recitals, or I could 'play' if I asked properly, and then would ask if I could wear the color up an down the block before removing it. I was a born bright-lip exhibitionist. I would sneak into my mom's, or my grandmother's make-up drawers and would slather colors on my face and lips until I felt satisfied. It took a lot of applying until I felt that click of satisfaction. But when it was right, I was brain-buzzingly perfect.
Upon my entering 7th grade, I was told "You can pick ONE make-up product, and put it on here at home, and then that is it." and so I decided on an Estee Lauder orang-ey pink and I put it on and on and on and on and until until it was probably a centimeter thick. When my ride to school picked me up for school, my friend's mom said "Well, you sure have something on your lips.' and I proudly tossed my hair and responded 'YEAH I do."
When you're young enough you don't give a whit. You like the strange things you're drawn to, regardless of how silly others may think you look. You are what you are, unfiltered. At least I was. My most confident years were those before 13 or 14, which is when many girls who start apologizing for themselves (but that is another story for a different kind of day).
I reckon I looked ridiculous, but I was happily ridiculous. I was 'me'--or rather, trying to find myself. I felt fabulous, even if no one thought I was fabulous. I rocked over-the-top lipsticks straight through my school-days. Orange to pinky-tan to a matte deep plum called 'Perfect Mystery' I STILL fantasize about. I went from a teenyboppy girl who liked bright things to a girl in flannels who liked dark matte lips pretty quickly. It was 1993-4 when that transition occurred... when Perfect Mystery brought it all together for me. That and a mix tape given to me by a boy I met at an Art-camp I 'summered' at a few years. The mix tape contained a decent mix of The Stone Roses and Primus and Ani DiFranco. I can still see an emotional snap-shot of listening to that mix-tape, putting on a dark matte lip, and thinking "This is being grown-up now, isn't it?" This is before we knew what a smize was, or had a million photos of ourselves plastered on the internet. I had my review-mirror and my best friend telling me I looked cute.
There were the hours of searching in grocery stores and beauty supply stores and weird small town department stores. Standing alone in the aisles of the Consumer's IGA, with my mom or dad or brother anxiously begging me to hurry up. Staring, thinking about who I wanted to be that next week. At grocery stores trying on wasn't allowed. You had to imagine what the color would become on your skin. You had to take a leap of faith. You had to know you were about to spend 3 dollars or 4 dollars on something that MAY be a disaster (it was never a disaster, because all new colors at that point were fun.)
When at the department store, I bothered the sales-girls. I talked to them like they were gurus who held the keys to the universe. As though they'd tell me some secret about some color and a new world would unfold for me. They knew how old I was, what my financial ramifications were as a pre-teen, yet they entertained my enthusiasm. I'd tinker and try-on and beg for money to get those long-stared at and coveted cream-bullets. I remember the shade-names. The Black Honey's and the Perfect Mystery's and the Ginger Berry's and I can feel the flush of excitement when I'd open the new tube.
Because they were perfectly loud. Because I began to assert myself as a person then. Because these products were going to play a very important role in my life, I just didn't know it yet.