Makeup: a tool of empowerment

Written by SZubair

My first ever experience with makeup (not counting the time when I ate one of my mum’s lipsticks as an, err, ‘inquisitive’ 5 year-old) was when I was 14. I was swept by the pop-punk boyband phase of 2010 and desperately wanted to look like the lead singers who I worshipped. Ripping my shirts up and/or getting a tattoo was strictly out of the question, so one morning, I lined my eyes in the darkest and cheapest black kohl that I could get my hands on. Off I went to school, feeling brave, feeling cool, feeling oh-so-edgy.

I didn’t care that people at school would make fun of me. I didn’t care that my eyes were watering. I didn’t care that I possibly did resemble a mutated human-panda hybrid. I just cared about the fact that it made me feel amazing, and I thrived on that feeling the whole day.

It was definitely a slow process for me to get into this complex and intricate world. I started out with unblended eyeshadow and clumped mascara, eventually proceeding to foundation that was slightly too dark for me and blush that was too bright. However, I’ve come a long way since then; years of YouTube tutorials, blog reviews and (often failed) experimentation have taught me well, and applying makeup has become a part of my everyday routine. In fact, I’d even say that it’s therapeutic in a sense. Seeing my face transform from ultimate zombie chic to perfectly perked up provides me with a sense of energy and excitement. It prepares me for my day and gives me that much-needed boost everyone needs before hauling themselves to a horrendously packed District line on a Monday at 9am. It makes me feel powerful, strong, beautiful – most importantly, it makes me feel confident.

Everyone has different reasons for wearing makeup; some, like me, wear to increase their confidence and to accentuate their beauty. I mean, blue eyes are gorgeous, but blue eyes coupled with a sharp wing and a smoky eye are just absolute killer! Some see it as a form of creativity, and love to experiment with various shades, brushes, finishes, etc. Some use to conceal their blemishes, spots, all those imperfections that they’re insecure about, and that’s okay. All of these reasons, and whatever others there may be for wearing makeup are perfectly acceptable.

What is not acceptable, however, is shaming those that wear makeup. They are not ‘faking’ it, they are not ‘lying,’ they are not ‘hiding’ behind it. Empowerment takes shape in many forms, and makeup is one of those forms. It is not some wicked and treacherous disguise, something I desperately wish people would stop conspiring about. Me wearing a highlighter is not trying to trick you, it’s me simply trying to make myself feel beautiful. Furthermore, a makeup-free face isn’t something to be scrutinised either. A bare face is just as beautiful, and someone’s natural form deserves as much celebration and praise as someone all glammed up for a night out.

It is also time to eradicate conceptualised gender stereotypes around makeup – it is not just for women anymore. There has been a huge rise in male makeup artists across social media, showing off their skills and expertise to the masses. In fact, US cosmetics brand CoverGirl recently announced its first ever male face to represent the company. 17 year-old James Charles, an Instagram sensation with over 700K followers, will be joining the current ambassador Katy Perry to help promote and sell products. This important representation will definitely help lots more young boys and men to accept themselves and their desire for beauty and makeup products. Hopefully, other makeup companies will follow suit and open up their campaigns to appeal to men and women of all race and sexuality.

I am firm believer in the saying ‘live and let live,’ no matter how worn or cliché it sounds. We should let people do whatever it takes to feel comfortable in their own skin, and if that involves buying 10 shades of lipstick in the same colour, so be it! Individuality and freedom of expression are extremely crucial and should be celebrated, not belittled.