Beauty is an art, not a requirement
Everyone’s got something to say about how you wear makeup, or don’t. It can lead to discrimination and bullying as a result. But it’s not their face. It’s yours.
Becoming a woman in the United States — or anywhere, for that matter — can be a difficult thing to achieve. Regardless of your standards of femininity or your definition of what makes one a woman, there will always be people trying to break you down and tell that what you’re doing is wrong.
Between the media and the beauty industry, it feels as though women are constantly being picked apart, reconstructed, and painted over (literally and figuratively) This has been a fairly consistent theme for the U.S’s societal beauty standards, but in recent years (let’s say…since 2010?) it has given birth to a culture of men AND women shaming each other for trying to feel confident about themselves through the power of makeup.
Society as a whole is never happy with what women do.
Yes, there are plenty of wonderful individuals out there who refuse to judge the women in their lives based solely off of their looks, but in general we are still led to believe that we will lose regardless of our choices.
Men will ask us to ‘take care’ of ourselves and put effort into doing our hair and makeup, then post tweets about how you can’t trust girls that aren’t ‘natural’.
Women painted with foundation, mascara, eyeshadow, and lip tint will post on Insta with the caption “No makeup”, then turn around and accuse others of ‘false advertising’ for contouring. If you favour a cakey face over a natural one, you’re jokingly (or not so jokingly) asked if you’re a prostitute, and if you’re more comfortable with your naked face, you get called a slob.
There’s really no way to gain the upper hand in this battle of beauty standards. Or so it would seem.
The ‘norm’ is that the key to selling beauty products is to break down someone’s confidence and tell them that they need this hot, trendy, expensive new product to ‘fix’ their flaws and become a new, more beautiful person. In a way, it does work, but it’s a harmful marketing tactic that has consistently proven to be toxic to people of all genders.
I, as well as many other young women, have grown up believing that I am required to wear makeup; that without it my natural face is lacklustre, dowdy, and unattractive.
At the age of eight years old, I spent a summer with my grandmother where I tried to steal her rouge and mascara to wear back to school.
When I got caught, I cried and screamed because all I wanted was to be pretty.
Fortunately, my grandmother had compassion for this and instead of reprimanding me, decided to teach me how to apply makeup. During our makeover sessions, she would try to encourage me to feel confident without the rouge on my face, but I wouldn’t listen. I was dead set on being gorgeous; makeup was my holy grail.
It also didn’t help that I was an overweight child who was constantly bullied for it. I felt that if I wore a lot of makeup on my face, it would distract from my weight and people would only pay attention to what was on my skin. Boy, was I wrong.
Despite my confidence, the first day I went to school with rouged-up lips and cheeks, I got called a clown by not only the boys in the class, but also by the other young girls who had started wearing makeup at the time. I had things thrown at me, I was spat at, I was glared at, and two students started mocking me by putting red and pink Crayola marker on their lips.
The teasing wouldn’t stop, so our teacher had me go to the nurse to get it washed off. It was a heartbreaking reality check, and I stopped wearing makeup for a long time after that.
I didn’t get back into makeup until high school. My style back then was influenced largely by the music I listened to, and my greatest make up muse was Marilyn Manson. While my body was adorned with grungy pullovers, ripped pants and torn up shoes, I donned full goth makeup until the end of my first year in public high school. I’d coat my face with Manic Panic’s Moonlight foundation, wear dark-toned lipsticks, smoke out my eyes in dark black shimmer shadow, and paint stitches on my neck.
My mother thought I was sick in the head; my teachers thought I was creative. I had an adviser who was in a Riot Girl punk band waaaay back in her day, and she thought my style was the bee’s knees.
To this day, while I favour a thick wing and nude lips, I covet the bold beauty of smoky eyes, smeared lipstick, heavy blush, and painted on brows (think of Sally from American Horror Story: Hotel, or a slightly less polished version of Taylor Momsen circa 2012).
Fortunately for my professional life, I couldn’t pull it off even if I didn’t try. However, it is safe to say that now I feel confident regardless of the mask I’m rocking.
Grabbing the Beauty Bull by the Horns
It can be ridiculously difficult to be self-assured in any aspect of what you’re doing with yourself and your life. Often it’s the little things we can master and control that bring us comfort.
For me, one of those little things is makeup. To me, it is an art. The spark that really ignited my passion for this art form was a quote by a talented musician I listened to in middle school:
“Your maquillage is your mask. Your mask is your liberation. Apply it neatly without vulgarity.”
[Emilie Autumn, Rules to Being a Wayward Victorian Girl, pt. 1]
One of my greatest cosmetic influences, Emilie Autumn taught me that putting on your makeup is like putting on warpaint. Her theory is that, because women have to put up with things like harassment, doubt, discomfort and speaking to people we don’t wish to on a daily basis, the time we spend painting our face is a sacred moment meant to prepare us for the day.
This resonated with me at the age of 13, and I began to try to be more mindful and grateful of these moments I could have all to myself. Even when I wasn’t leaving the house, I would spend hours locked in my bathroom doing theatrical, dramatic, or ethereal makeup.
It became my coping skill. I didn’t care if people thought it was too much, too little, or “more of an evening look”; I’d wear my face proudly because it made me feel good.
The key to this is experimenting and finding what pleases you aesthetically. Being confident with your face is no different to being confident with your body!
Find things you like, affirm these to yourself, and try to find ways to enhance them.
Once you’ve mastered this, you can wield any look and get away with it. Remember that your face truly is a canvas: discover your masterpiece and set your own standard of beauty.
Beauty is, after all, an artform. You are not required to wear makeup, and you are not required to wear less of it.
Just be you, and let your confidence radiate from your face. Life is so much easier when you’re only trying to please yourself.