by: Bobby Crowley
I remember being younger and looking at my peers, who lavished their faces with creams and powders to cover their “flaws.” I always used to think to myself how silly it seemed. These girls wanted to show off their beauty, so they covered it up and created an alternate mask which they then called “their face.” These young girls were obsessed with covering pimples, creases, and marks of any sort.
It was even at this age, when my self esteem was in the sewers, that I struggled with answering the question I have yet to understand. “Why do people care so much about what we look like and about how others see us?” This question is not only the reason I swore off makeup as a child, it is also the foundation of why I wear makeup now.
This may seem a little twisted at first. How could something that makes you never want to use makeup, also inspire you to wear it almost every day later in life? This is actually quite easy to explain. I don’t wear makeup to make me look beautiful.
I’ve never used a powder or cream to hide my “flaws” because I believe they are just a part of being human. If we all know we all have the flaws and we all know most people cover them up, then are we really tricking anyone by covering them up?
You may think me mad for letting my occasional pimple walk around naked as day, no armor or shield from prying eyes. I just think if we all get them, why make having them a big deal? To me, covering up pimples and wrinkles is like pretending you’re washing your hands every time you have to go potty. We all do it. Relax.
Okay, you may say, but what about the makeup you do wear? Isn’t that all just for enhancing your beauty, no matter what you say? Actually, if you’ve met me, you’d realize I don’t really do makeup the way most people do makeup. Now, I’m not boasting on ingenuity, because I’m certainly not the only one who does.
However, I do recognize that my approach is different from most. I wear extremely bright colors and combine them in odd ways and slap some cheetah print on top, because I look at makeup like art. I like to test things and go crazy. I like to have fun with my makeup, because it’s just that, MY makeup. Why would I take the time to paint my own face for someone else’s amusement? Why would they even care or think, “Oh, hey, she looks pretty stellar today, must have done it for me?”
People ask me all the time how I learned to do my makeup the way I do it now. My answer is two-fold: practice and the inability to care if I look stupid. If I cared how stupid I looked, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am now. Trust me, it took a lot of days of crappy looking makeup with colors mixed in truly horrendous combinations to get to this point.
Now, I use more precision, have a better taste of what works together and what doesn’t. But I still do my makeup for the fun of it. Basically, makeup is just like anything else in this world that we do. Makeup is fun, if you do it for yourself. And like everything you actively do for yourself, it can be incredibly empowering.
When I do my makeup, whether I’m toning it down or living it up, I’m doing it for myself. Just knowing this, knowing I would do this small thing for my own enjoyment, empowers me beyond belief. In those few minutes I take to paint my eyes and lips, I feel like a soldier suiting up for war. Well, maybe less of a soldier and more of a go-go dancer. Well, okay what I’m trying to say is that I feel empowered, strong, and ready to appreciate every amazing thing that comes my way. That’s it, I feel like a go-go soldier.
Being a queer woman makes it that much more important to me to have this moment every morning. Not only does my war paint empower me, it reminds me how fabulous I am. I don’t mean this in an “I’m superior to you” way, I believe we are all extremely fabulous. This is just the way I remind myself and sometimes, I need it.
Some mornings I fall into thinking about what the world might think of me as a person, as a woman, as queer, and it is the practice of my self-empowerment that helps me rise above the questions to the answers I know in my heart. It doesn’t matter what strangers see when they look at me. It doesn’t matter how superficially beautiful I am today. What matters is how I see myself. I love myself.
I love myself enough to use something that has been used against people for so long in a way that shatters the ideals for which its been used. We don’t need artificial creams and powders to create a better beauty than what we have. We have everything we could ever want, naturally. Our beauty surpasses our skin, so the creams and powders on it are useless.
I know all of this. Because of this, I can use these powerless creams and powders in a new way. I don’t have to shy away from their previous role in society because I know that I can control what they mean to me. That control empowers me even more. Because I don’t need makeup, I can feel good about using it.
Makeup isn’t the villain in the story of self-empowerment, we are. Makeup is simply a prop, a prop that can be used by society against us or by us for ourselves. We have that power. We have the power to stand up against whatever ideals make us feel weak, ugly, and unimportant.
Sometimes it’s harder than it sounds, I know this. Sometimes I have it easy, I know this, too. But, I still believe that deep within each of us is the power to stand up and take control of our lives and the props that are wielded against us. Makeup is just one small element of this machine, but it’s a step, a step towards self-empowerment and acceptance. Both of which we could all use in our lives.
Bobby Crowley is a Queer woman with a love for all that is fabulous. She is currently working on her Creative Writing degree at Loyola University where she is also on the board of Advocate and a writer for the alt. magazine LUChameleon. She is in love with Andrea Gibson, her labradaniel puppies, and singing loudly in the shower.