“I’m NOT a Little Miss Makeup!”
Apparently, that is what I once said to Just Mom, with all the righteous indignation a 3-year-old can muster, after she accused me of being a little mess-maker. (Which I was not. At all. Never ever ever.)
I have no recollection of that event, but I’ve spent the past few days marvelling at how apt my declaration has become.
You see, I hate makeup.
Okay, that’s not entirely true.
I don’t hate makeup, I just don’t like to wear it. I mean, I’ll slap some on for the occasional party or night on the town, and I never had a problem wearing it onstage for dance recitals but, for the most part, I’ve always thought it was too much fuss and bother. I was never really into makeup as a child, save for playing dress-up with my mother’s clothes. As I got older, I was even less interested in it, for reasons that have only recently become clear to me.
You see, I was never pretty.
Or, at least, I never felt pretty, which is an important distinction.
Growing up as a Black girl in a mostly White, pre-United Colours of Benetton world meant that there were very few representations of women who a) looked like me, period; and b) looked like me and were considered beautiful. In addition, from early adolescence right through to my twenties, I struggled with acne. So, I never bothered too much with makeup, because I was convinced that it wasn’t going to do much to help my looks, anyway.
Now, even though my skin is clear and healthy, and I feel more beautiful than ever (I gotta say, being in your thirties is awesome!), I still have this weird, psychosomatic reaction whenever I put anything heavier than mineral powder on my face: it’s like I can feel the pores clogging, and the zits forming, and I never want to have to deal with that again.
It’s understandable, therefore, that I was a little less than enthusiastic about getting makeup done for my wedding (not to mention less than thrilled about how much it was going to cost me, Just Mom, and my Maid of Honour). But, since spending upwards of $200 on professional makeup is just one of those things the Wedding Industrial Vortex says you must do when you’re getting married, I figured I would just have to suck it up deal with it.
So, I dutifully scheduled trials with a couple of professional makeup artists. While I wasn’t particularly unhappy with the final results, within an hour of each trial, I wanted to scratch and claw at my face because my skin felt like it was suffocating. As I was talking it over with Just Mom, the thought dawned on me that I should just do my makeup myself. I was a little apprehensive about that, given how rarely I wear the stuff (and when I do, it’s just the basics, nothing fancy). But, I figured I had pretty decent makeup application skills from all my years of performing, so why not look into it?
Enter the Customized Makeup Application service at Sephora. I went earlier this week, and was unbelievably happy with the results. The makeup artist took my needs and concerns seriously, and gave me a beautiful makeup job which, importantly, didn’t feel like I was wearing any makeup at all.
I’ve been kind of surprised by my elation, given my general ambivalence towards makeup. What I’ve since realized is that, more than feeling happy, I felt liberated, because I found a way to remain true to myself even while swirling around in the WIV. I also felt validated by the fact that I was able to walk into a mainstream cosmetics store, ask for products that matched my skin tone, and not have it be a weird or awkward request. Even in 2013, there are still many hair and beauty places where I am unable to do that.
Clearly, we still have a long way to go in terms of destabilizing Eurocentric notions of beauty.* But, I can take some comfort in the fact that, on my wedding day in a few months, not only I am going to look beautiful, I’m going to feel it, too.
In my own skin, and on my own terms.
That’s definitely something to be elated about. 😉
* And in terms of not “exoticizing” a select few who look different – but not too different – from that norm.