Makeup can mean whatever you want it to. Whether it boosts your confidence or fulfills your mission of looking like a total badass, I’m always fascinated by the reasons behind the way a person wields their tubes and compacts.
I rounded up some Rookie beauties to share their stories about what their bodacious looks mean to them. Read on, and maybe their wise words will get you stoked on doing your own beauty thing! —Chanel
I used to think my lips were too big (and too chapped) for bright lipstick. As a teenager, I envied the girls who posed in pictures with excellently painted lips in magazines and on LiveJournal, but I stuck with Vaseline and the occasional swipe of lip gloss out of fear. I didn’t get my first real tube of lipstick (M.A.C.’s Heroine, a dreamy purple) until I was well into college, when an editor handed it to me on my first day as an intern…as if I knew what to do with it.
It took me a while to try that tube of purple-y goodness. When I finally put it on one spring, I stepped out into the world feeling like everyone was staring at me. Of course they were—my lips were the first thing anyone noticed when I walked into my classrooms! As the day went on and the compliments rolled in, my self-conscious nerves turned into electrically confident vibes that definitely matched the bright purple on my lips. After that, my approach to lipstick changed. Soon enough, I found myself going to the local ULTA store and picking up random tubes of Maybelline, CoverGirl, and NYX lipsticks to add to my budding collection. If I had one red, I needed another, darker version—and the lip liners to match!
Growing up, I saw other women of color with an undying love of intensely pigmented makeup, like Missy Elliot in the music video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” and one of my aunts, who was always killin’ it in the corals department. But in the predominantly white community I grew up in, it was always the lighter girls always who wore the cool colors. I allowed myself to believe the lie that darker-skinned girls couldn’t pull off bright colors, and so I stuck with clear lip gloss for far too long.
That thought was momentarily reconfirmed last year when A$AP Rocky declared that women with dark skin shouldn’t wear a bold lip, especially a red one, in an interview. But of course, that ignorance pales against awesome things like the #DarkSkinRedLip Project, which features pictures of tons of gorgeous women of color wearing a huge spectrum of lipstick shades, and the obvious beauty of dark-skinned, colorful-makeup–wearing greats like Rihanna, who has a purple M.A.C. lipstick of her very own, and Lupita Nyong’o.
I love wearing bold lipstick for loss of reasons. The main one is how pretty it is, but there’s also a certain delight in exercising my right to do whatever the hell I want to with my face, despite mainstream (and often male) opinion. This one change in my makeup routine led to many others: I take better care of my skin now (no more chapped lips), and I experiment with other cosmetics like winged eyeliner and blush—two things I also thought I “couldn’t do” in high school.
When I’m wearing a bright lip color, I feel like I can conquer even the roughest of days.
My eyes are my favorite facial feature. They’re also the first sign of when I’m tired (which I am, all the time), so my makeup staple is kohl, or kajal, a North African eye liner (it also exists in many other cultures in various formulations). I frame my eyes in thick black lines to draw attention to them. The thickness of the line also conceals whatever puffiness I’ve got going on, and lining just above my top lashes makes mascara unnecessary. This, and some Vaseline for my lips, is usually all I need to head out into the day.
Makeup was always something I wore pretty regularly, but it wasn’t until I was 21 that I found the cosmetic that changed my life: red lipstick. I discovered the M.A.C. shade Ruby Woo via a fellow makeup fiend’s recommendation, and it was love at first sight. It brightened up my face and made it come ALIVE! When I wear it, I feel like a powerful, ultra-feminine force of nature that is NOT to be fucked with. (Studies have said that red is a power color and can bring you more success, which is even more reason to wear it!)
When I’m in a rush, just feeling plain lazy, or I forget to do my lips (it happens!), I don’t feel like myself, but rather like a lifeless zombie functioning on a Rie level of two. Maybe that’s why people have said I look completely different without my lipstick on! Red lipstick has become my magic potion, and applying it is a sort of mini-ritual for me now.
I’ve always been bizarre when it comes to makeup. My first lipstick was a shimmery blue shade, and I used to fill in my eyebrows with blue eyeliner. And that was in middle school! I don’t think I’ve changed very much—I’ve just gotten weirder, probably (hopefully!).
Right now, I don’t actually have a signature look outside of the finishes I’m going for. By finishes, I mean SHEEN: I’ve been obsessed with makeup that’s glossy, shimmery, or glittery. I’ve also been very interested in new ways to approach my eye space. It’s quite easy to do a cat-eye, which is a beautiful go-to look, but I want something MORE at the moment! I’ve been playing with how I distribute shadow on my eyelids and thinking about how the light hits the shape of my face. I’m using glitter on my eye bags and illuminator on my acne bumps and tightlining (lining between my lashes and on my waterline) my eyes with pastel eyeliners. I bring my eye shadow out of my eyelid space and blend it into my cheekbones. I’m going for an effect where my face is shrouded in a glowing haze and my eyelashes are hovering above my eyes, not attached to anything.
I’m very invested in examining makeup “rules”…and seeing how I can break them. When I’m told to contour my face to make my cheekbones sharper, I wanna contour “incorrectly” on purpose by using a stark color and not blending it in. You’re not supposed to see the work that goes into makeup, if it’s done “right,” according to cultural standards for “natural beauty.” But I revel in dragging that kind of labor into the light. It’s a celebratory acknowledgement of the idea that looking “pretty” in a societally conventional way is a decision—and a purposeful choice to do otherwise.
Makeup helps me mythologize myself. It helps me express whoever I want to be in a particular moment. Like, I can be traditionally femme if I want to, but I can also invent a whole new character—a new hero or villain of my own imagining. If I want to be a freshly born robot angel, I can make that happen with a lot of illuminator, weird contouring, and glitter. If I want to pretend I’m John Waters, I can draw a mustache on using his favorite Maybelline liner. Makeup makes it possible for me to become anything—and everything—I can dream of. ♦