How doing someone else’s makeup helped changed my attitude towards it
Before my mid-20s makeup and skincare were things that in my eyes were luxuries that were afforded to those with high incomes, or those who were trying to hide from their true selves.
I didn’t grow up wearing makeup. My mum had a strict “no makeup until you are 16” policy that at first I bristled against. At around 14 when my school friends were plastering on matte mouse foundation in layers, I was sheepishly trying to convince my mum to let me at least use her mascara, but after a few crying episodes and my mums strong as iron will power, I stopped thinking about it.
I completely disengaged from it, and it genuinely wasn’t a priority. So by the time, I could wear makeup, it no longer occurred to me to do it. In fact, the few occasions I did, I would panic and make jokes about being a lady of the night.
Now I know that that discomfort came from a combination of having little knowledge about cosmetics and the fact that I genuinely felt I didn’t qualify as one of those girls “worthy of makeup”, but it became part of the internalised phobias I carried within myself. It would take work to undo it.
By the time I was 16 and going prom, I remember one of older sisters taking time to do my makeup and after seeing the finished product, bursting into tears when I looked in the mirror. Instead of feeling beautiful, I felt awful. It was as if the makeup was highlighting all of the things I hated about myself. I was utterly distraught and cried right up until I arrived at my friend’s house for the limo.
Where was my 80s teen romantic comedy moment? Where I looked in the mirror and finally saw my beauty and my worth and got the guy?
Truthfully it didn’t happen, and in fact, the experience of my prom makeup set me back a decade. I got comfortable real fast-living a makeup-less state because as a teenage girl, there were already too many dynamics to navigate, let alone why I would meltdown over makeup.
In some ways, it was a release from something that could have acted as a shackle. I recognise that I could have lived my entire teens thinking the only way I would be accepted in public was with makeup, but instead I got used to the fact that I was better off without it.
That resignation was at first only a guise to make me think I was accepting myself, but I knew deep down that wasn’t the truth, but over time it becomes the truth.
My truth evolved from fear, which is not an evolution you would expect and yet happens for so many of us in multiple areas of our lives. It didn’t come as a sudden rush. It was a slow burn.
It has been an often painful process in which I have learned so much about myself and my ability to overcome the limitations I have set upon myself, but overall it has been growth and therefore beautiful.
Instead of dodging looking at myself in the mirror and living in a state of unworthiness, I slowly began my body positive journey that led to my self-acceptance journey.
So while I was slowly casting away my feelings of unworthiness it wasn’t until I started working professionally as an actor that I began realising that taking time to invest in this particular area of my life was important to me, not because of how an audience or my employers would view me, but genuinely just me.
Now I say me because the truth is some people absolutely don’t have a complicated relationship with cosmetics and worthiness. We are all in different places. It might be you use it a lot or very little or not at all and in your choices you feel contentment.
Truthfully I probably fall in the middle somewhere because as I said when I started working professionally, everything changed. A lot of shows I have been in required me to wear a full face of makeup in order to embrace the process of becoming another person, but it was amid these processes that I began to find myself and what I liked.
Suddenly I loved highlighter and dark lips and realised I couldn’t skin match in mac studio fix but I could in Bobbi Brown long-lasting wear. These small lessons became active choices. I was no longer passive but engaging.
There were phases of being afraid of matte looks, and then afraid of natural, to then having a love for both, resenting both and back again, but my relationship with makeup finally felt like it came to fruition recently when I had to help someone else with a makeup look.
As I stood there painstakingly applying each product and explaining as I went along, I realised that I had come full circle.
There was no longer fear for the thing I had once been convinced I didn’t deserve. There were no worries of feeling inadequate in that moment of helping another. There was no more ache in the pit of my stomach for so wanting to be part of a world I didn’t understand.
I stood there and I felt…free.
Somehow without even being conscious of it, my career had helped set a part of me free. It helped me discover, nurture, and adore this whole other part of me I had been convinced not only didn’t exist but wouldn’t be worthy of the time and effort invested.
My heart warmed as I thought of the kid I used to be. I wished I could travel back in time just for a moment, back to a place where we would meet, stand across a street from her and wave. I wished she could look up and see me and see herself and know that everything was absolutely going to be okay.
Then I remembered that that kid is in me. She is still present in so many ways because she was part of this journey and has done as much work as me, and she is proud.
As am I.
Opening image: @JourdanDunn