I love makeup. I think it’s safe to say that makeup is one of the things people spend the most money on without realizing it. I can go to Sephora or even Walmart with just the intention of gazing at the makeup section, and end up leaving with $30 less in my wallet and between one and five different makeup products.
I wasn’t always into makeup. In middle school, I remember how many of my friends and classmates would coat their face with makeup every day just to hide their insecurities and give themselves a confidence boost. In my mind, makeup was expensive, unnecessary, difficult to use and a coping mechanism for not having high self-worth. Because of these things I was never interested in makeup. I decided that only after I truly embraced who I was as a person and loved how I looked, with or without enhancements, would I regularly wear makeup.
My first real introduction to makeup was when I started getting into theatre in middle school. I was one of the leads in our school musical, “Camp Rock,” and I had to wear makeup so that my face would stand out on stage. My mother would always do my makeup before the rehearsals and shows because I didn’t own any or know how to put it on. I continued to do theatre in high school. I was soon at the age where I couldn’t just have my mom do my makeup for my shows anymore. Everyone in our theatre knew how to apply makeup themselves, using either their own makeup or the stage makeup owned by the school.
This is when problems started to arise for me as 1. I could not put on makeup myself 2. I did not own any makeup 3. I couldn’t use any of the school’s makeup because it didn’t fit my skin tone and 4. Everyone in my theatre department was white and didn’t know how to apply makeup on me. Due to all of these limitations, I was forced to teach myself how to put on makeup. I would sit in the corner of our makeup room at school, watching YouTube videos on how to apply eyeliner, what foundation was for, and what the different types of makeup brushes were for. I also reached out to my friends who wore makeup for advice.
After putting on makeup in theatre, I started to enjoy doing makeup in general. As a creative person, I always loved looking for different ways to express myself, whether that was through writing, music, acting, dance, etc. I saw makeup as a completely new way to express myself, so much more personal than any of the of the other forms. When you apply makeup, your face is the canvas and you have so many different options, choices and stylistic decisions you can make to decorate it yourself. And even cooler is the fact that since everyone’s face is unique, everyone has a different canvas to start out with that you need to learn to work with.
But my face, or canvas, soon started to make it harder for me find ways to express myself the way I wanted to. Originally, I would spend time watching Youtube videos to understand how to apply makeup and get ideas for different makeup looks. Most of the people that I watched in videos were white, but I didn’t see that as something that mattered that much. That was until I tried to follow the videos. Anytime I tried to do what I saw in the videos, I had trouble finding products to help me. I was never able to find foundations and concealers to perfectly fit my skin tone at my local drug stores. Whenever I applied eyeshadow, the colors wouldn’t appear on my eyelids because my skin was too dark. The bright lipsticks I would see women wear looked unnatural and unflattering on my dark skin. I became increasingly frustrated with the amount of trial and error I had with all the makeup products I bought and how much time I’d have to spend looking for makeup that worked for me. It made me start to realize how many makeup products weren’t made for me or other Black women, and I became frustrated that I had to work twice as hard to find products that were extremely simple for other lighter skinned individuals to find.
I soon started watching makeup tutorials from other Black YouTubers to help find makeup products that were more tailored to my skin tone. Though it did help, watching those videos could only do so much for me as it was so hard to find Black YouTubers who had the exact skin tone as me. So I still wasn’t able to see how different products would look on my skin tone without buying them first.
Though it was still frustrating, it was better than nothing and I continued to watch Black YouTubers’ makeup tutorial videos to learn which products to buy and how to apply makeup to my skin. Even though I couldn’t always use the videos to determine what to buy, and what not to buy, I was able to learn multiple tricks for women of darker skin to get makeup to look better on our complexion, such as using concealer on your eyelids to get eyeshadow to appear brighter and using lip liner to tone down too-bright lipsticks. I also took to following more Black makeup artists on Instagram, like @somuchsimone, @vurrsacee and @khloedosh. This gave me more inspiration to be bolder and more creative with my makeup, showing me how to use my dark skin tone to my advantage instead of something to work around.
I now feel more confident in wearing makeup as a Black woman and know more tricks and skills to make makeup produced for a white audience work for me. I’ve even taken to doing makeup for my friends of different skin tones to explore how applying makeup differs with different shades and types of skin, that I like to showcase on my Instagram, @looksbyefe. I used to feel discouraged as a Black makeup artist, but I now embrace being a Black makeup user and choose to see the hardships it poses as just challenges for me to overcome in my artistic journey.