Sophia Kaufman: Contouring, Thoughts and Prayers

Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 5:31pm

Sailor J

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Sailor J

“I don’t know if you’re supposed to put your contour on before the rest of your makeup, or after the rest of your makeup. But it doesn’t matter. Because men are stupid. As long as you look like a newborn baby, they are willing to mate with you,” YouTube guru Sailor J announces, in a video entitled “Contouring 101.”

“Makeup is for women who want husbands,” she continues. “Contouring is for women who want to leech the souls of their dead lovers and collect the inheritance of their ex-boyfriends who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.”

“Beautiful women don’t have foreheads ... if you have too big of a brain, it means you have ugly things, like opinions, and thoughts of your own,” she says, while dabbing a contouring stick around her nose. Incidentally, she speaks in an exaggerated British accent the entire time, and her makeup looks are incredible, but that is beside my point.

“Contouring 101” isn’t new; it went viral a few months ago (and admittedly, I did bully all of my friends into watching it several times). Sailor J is currently in the military, as well as an aspiring writer; her comedic timing is impeccable and her satirical take-downs are flawless. This particular video is colored by an awareness of what many women know: Guys often have no idea what a “natural look” of makeup actually looks like or takes to achieve. It’s also a subtle tongue-in-cheek call-out of the whole “take her swimming on the first date” joke.

Beyond that subtle framework, I love that she’s giving wildly funny feminist satire while doing her makeup, but she is completely uninterested in defending her choice to spend money on makeup, or make videos about it, or enjoy using it. Whether or not makeup — producing it, packaging it in a “self-love” / “self-care” vein, selling it, applying it or wearing it — can be a feminist act feels almost irrelevant now, at least in terms of practical priorities. There are just more important things to worry about right now.

Sailor J does some makeup looks and videos — “Harry Potter” houses, astrological signs and drunk book reviews — that subtly convey her political commentary. In others, her point is much more straightforward, such as “How to Do Thanksgiving Makeup That Has Nothing to Do with the 566 Federally Recognized Tribes,” in which she addresses cultural appropriation with a blend of sensitivity, grace and humor that is often difficult to accomplish even for experienced TV anchors and writers.

The reason I haven’t been able to stop about thinking Sailor J recently (aside from her hilarious Twitter presence) is one of her most recent videos: “T & P Makeup Look.” In other words, “Thoughts and Prayers.” In it, she uses makeup as a satirical vehicle with which to address the government’s response to the Parkland shooting.

“Thoughts and Prayers Makeup look … it isn’t a new line, it’s been out for a while, you’ve probably seen a lot of rich indifferent people in Congress tweeting about it very often, usually after a national tragedy like the Parkland shooting … We have highlighters right here, contour kits, mascara, eyeliner, blush,” she says, pointing in turn to empty patches of her carpet on which the makeup products are said to be.

“The foundation is called, ‘If you’re white, it’s a mental illness, and if you’re brown you’re a terrorist … if you can’t see it, it’s probably because you’re not strong enough in the spirit.” she then proceeds to take a brush, dab it on her face, and say, peering straight into the camera, “Wow, I can really see the change, happening right here.”

“This mascara is called bulletproof black. It’s supposed to match the vests that we’ll have to start putting on our children if we want them to make it past the sixth f—king grade.”

“Next we’re gonna do a highlighter … it’s called ‘money’ because that’s all our country cares about.”

“Blush. I’m gonna go with, ‘the blood of our children,’ because it’s what we’re bathing in these days.”

Her eyes glint as she delivers the last line of the bit: “Just embrace the line, because nothing stops a bullet like thoughts and prayers.” It’s a very “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” moment.

Sailor J often uses makeup as a vehicle to make other points, but her points have nothing to do with whether makeup itself is a feminist action or product, which is refreshing. Her commentary is witty, blunt and unflinchingly honest.  Recently, she tweeted about her upcoming profile that will run in The New York Times in April. She wants SNL to hire her as a writer, and they should; she would be incredible. Her voice stands out against the cacophony of social justice voices ping-ponging off each other on the Internet.