I was fourteen years old when I began exploring the world of makeup. As is the case with all discoveries, the beginning was an uncertain time. Looking back at photos of myself, I probably overdid it slightly. It’s so funny to click through my selfie-history and wince at the cake-faced image of myself as a young teen. Despite the generous extent to which I applied my makeup, I remember that I didn’t really enjoy doing it. As a person with reactive skin, I’ve always struggled with breakouts, fearing the face-full of foundation that seemed to summon spots in abundance, feeling so weary as I washed my face each night.
In later years, I stopped wearing makeup daily. This was not an empowering choice that I made to accept my face, or my acne. I just felt so exhausted by the whole routine of masking my face with this liquid that, when washed away, would inevitably reveal a plethora of spots. So, it seemed easier to just stop caring, and I lived that way for a long time.
Last year, I was given a gift card to a posh makeup store. I imagined myself with clear skin and shiny hair, prancing past the immaculate displays of cosmetics, the overpowering scent of perfume hanging in the air. Every time I walked past this shop, I battled my desire to transform into this sophisticated human. I had no idea what to even buy, and I just wasn’t in the mood to discuss my acne-prone skin with a salesperson who would most likely persuade me into buying a “magical” product which would certainly cover my face in spots. After an entire year of ignoring this elephant in the room, I finally took my gift card to the shop, opening myself back up to the possibility of quality makeup.
As soon as I stepped foot through the doors, I was greeted by a saleswoman from Chanel, who informed me that one of their world-renowned make-up artists was in the store that day, and she offered to reserve a place for me to have my makeup done. I agreed, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. When I approached the makeup station, I immediately realized that this was not going to be free, as I was offered a glass of champagne. Obviously it wasn’t going to be free. You live and you learn. I discovered that in order to participate, I would have to buy four Chanel products.
“Um, I didn’t know that,” I said, laughing nervously. “Um, I’ll have to think about it…”
This isn’t happening, I thought. I was disappointed. It seemed like such a lovely fantasy to be pampered unexpectedly on a tuesday afternoon, but I worried that I wouldn’t be able to pay the bill at the end.
The saleswoman understood my apprehensive language and said, “Don’t worry, maybe you can just buy three.” I was very grateful for this offering, but I was still unsure.
“I just don’t know if I have… the… money…” I regretted saying this, because it seemed that everything around me was glowing with the promise of luxury, and I felt pathetic for admitting that I could not afford it.
“Don’t worry, just sit down,” she said playfully.
I sat down, trembling with insecurity, sipping my glass of champagne for dear life, feeling very out of place. When the makeup artist arrived, I realized that she was French. Of course. From Paris. Being half-French myself, I felt immediately more at ease. We chatted about my skin, about makeup, about Paris. I was so impressed by the effortless way in which she fluttered the tip of her brush so lightly across my skin. At the end, she asked me whether I wanted some lipstick.
Here’s the thing: I love lipstick. I love the way it looks, hiding inside its tube, revealing its color with the twist of a finger. I love the way it feels to apply it, as if I’m a movie star from early Hollywood, pearls draped across my collarbones. And I even love the way it looks on the edge of a glass, as if I’m tastefully marking my territory.
The makeup artist chose the shade called “Carmen”, a lovely rouge color that spoke to me on a level I can’t explain. I told her I felt like another person, and she told me something that really resonated with me.
She said, “Makeup is an attitude.”
I had always heard people say, “Makeup is meant to accentuate your beauty, not cover up all your flaws.” I understood what they meant. I shouldn’t layer my skin with foundation in an effort to pretend like my skin is made of porcelain. You won’t fool anybody doing that. But I had never thought of makeup as an “attitude” before. That’s what I had wanted from makeup all along, when I fantasized about powdering my nose in the “lady’s room” like a fancy celebrity in the 1950s. To me, it’s not even about transforming yourself, but rather a way of unearthing a the fabulous part that has always been there in the first place.
I’m not saying that everyone should wear makeup at all times. I’m saying that you’re already beautiful, with or without.
Befriend your inner extravagance.