True Colors

As a young child, I hated makeup. I thought it was dumb. My only role model for how to apply makeup was my mother, who would cover her entire face with a heavy foundation and then wipe most of it off. It seemed wasteful and gross. I’d watch the transformation of my mother’s face and ask questions that were mostly ignored. The summary of my experience was that makeup was just one of the many required, and unpleasant things women must do to be accepted.

When I was about ten years old, I found some old pictures of my aunt doing my brothers’ makeup for a KISS concert. I thought my brothers looked amazing and was immediately jealous that they got to have “professional” makeup. I was amazed at how different they looked, but also somehow the same. I was sold. Makeup was for me. Without any guidance, I set out on a magical adventure filled with Wet-n-Wild makeup that riveled carpet dye on the harshness scale.

To say I was terrible at makeup, may be an understatement. I didn’t know where anything went, or how much to use, and forget the idea of a color pallet, as my colors were defined by what was in the .99 cent bin at the local drug store.

A short time later, I discovered the joys of heavy eye liner after a friend showed me how to melt my eyeliner with a lighter so it would apply smooth. I thought this was the best. Sure, I’d occasionally get made fun of because of my “raccoon” eyes but I didn’t care. I was empowered by the magic of makeup. I was, however, keenly aware of the heaviness of the makeup and that it was disagreeable to my skin. But as my mother taught me, beauty is pain.

Sometime in the nineties, I went on a trip with my father and my new stepmom to Texas to visit her family. At some point during that trip, I ended up at the Mall with my father. My father was not what I would call a casual shopper. He generally knew exactly what he was going to buy and how much he was going to pay. However, on this particular day, he was content with letting me lead and we ended up at a little makeup kiosk called “True Colors”.

The sales lady impressed me with the versatility of the makeup, as it wasn’t really makeup at all, but rather ground up minerals that were used to make makeup. When combined with water, coconut, or argon oil, you could use it for blush, foundation, lipstick, eye liner, the sky was the limit – I was sold! In typical teenager fashion, I echoed the sales lady’s pitch and told my father it would be the only makeup I’d ever need! My father then shelled out a considerable amount of money, at least compared to Wet-n-Wild, and bought me my first real makeup set.

Turns out the sales lady was correct; it was the only makeup that I’d ever need. It’s been over twenty years since that purchase, and it is still the makeup I regularly use. Not the brand, literally the same makeup my father bought for me. Since it contains nothing but minerals, there’s nothing to spoil. And because the pigment is so vibrant, only a very little amount is required to make an impact. I have other makeup that I occasionally use, but everything I’ve bought since has been held to the standard of the makeup my father bought for me.

Our daughter is almost three years old and has loved makeup since she could walk. She loves the idea of it anyways. As she watches me put on my makeup, I’m very mindful of how watching my own mother apply a mask of chemicals to shield her from the real world impacted my perception of beauty. I explain to my daughter the importance of moisture as I show her how to apply coconut and argon oil and remind her that power of makeup isn’t just to enhance beauty but to express ourselves.  

My beauty advice may be lost on our three-year-old, who often prefers to eat the coconut oil intended as a moisturizer, rather than put it on her face. Or perhaps she takes my words literally when I tell her beauty comes from the inside out. Either way, she is having her own experience. My role as her mother is to share what I know, admit what I don’t, provide for her what I can, all with love and compassion so she may grow up to be a secure woman who doesn’t require outside validation. Or at the very least, know that lipstick goes on lips and not eyebrows.

Although, I don’t think my father knew it at the time, his actions around the purchase of my first makeup kit helped shape my views on beauty. During the makeup purchase, he shared with me what he knew about makeup and admitted there was much he did not know. Then he helped guide the discussion with the sales lady at the makeup kiosk to glean the most amount of information possible about how to apply said makeup, and then he paid for the makeup and lovingly gave it to me without limitations so I could have my own experience.

My mother required makeup to feel good about herself and as armor to face the world. My aunt used it to tell a story as she transformed my brothers into KISS look a-likes. My younger self used it to evoke racoon energy. As of late, I use makeup to brighten my tired eyes or to show off my once crooked, but now straight teeth with bright colored lipstick. My journey with makeup has evolved over the years but one thing that is consistent is makeup should add to, not subtract, from my self-confidence. Beauty isn’t supposed to be painful. If something feels uncomfortable on your skin, it’s because your skin is telling you to take it off.

This morning, I looked at my makeup tray and thought lovingly of my father. I’m thankful for the shopping trip with him in a Texas mall all those years ago. That day pointed me in the right direction for defining my own beauty standards. I think of my father often when I put on makeup, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Today, I will remember that makeup is a tool of artistic expression, not to be confined to gender, age, or a specific purpose. I will encourage my children to have their own experiences with makeup and self-expression. And I will hold closely to my heart, with gratitude, that my father was able to guide me in a way my mother could not, which allowed me to see my true colors.

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