Do Your Beauty Thing

Makeup that makes us feel INVINCIBLE.

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'm wearing Bite Beauty's High Pigment Pencil in Grapevine during one of my first weeks as a fellow at a beauty website, obviously setting the bar high for the office lipstick game.

I’m wearing Bite Beauty’s High Pigment Pencil in Grapevine during one of my first weeks as a fellow at a beauty website, where I obviously set the bar high in terms of the office lipstick game.

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.


Here I am, serving plain face with a minimal touch of kajal on my eyes—just enough to walk out the door with confidence.

Here I am, serving plain face with a minimal touch of kajal on my eyes.

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.


This is how red lipstick makes me a vintage lace-adorned goddess lounging on an extravagant couch.

This is how red lipstick makes me feel—like a lace-adorned goddess lounging on an extravagant couch.

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.


Me earlier this week, after watching a lot of The Magic School Bus and channeling my adoration for Ms. Frizzle into a beauty look based on the universe she explores.

Me earlier this week, after watching a lot of Magic School Bus and channeling my adoration for Ms. Frizzle into a beauty look based on the universe she explores.

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. ♦


  • Lunestra June 26th, 2014 3:40 PM

    Chanel-Great colour matching, purple actually goes really well with yellow!
    Nova-your eeeyyyees are amazing
    There should be like a collab Rookie fashion show because this is wonderful.

  • sadie lidji June 26th, 2014 4:05 PM

    marie your eyes are beautiful!!

  • cosmicjoke June 26th, 2014 4:48 PM

    I love this article. I’m 23 now and for most of middle and high school I was incredibly insecure about my appearance (especially my skin, which only cleared up once I went on accutane when I was around 16). Especially when I had a face covered in breakouts I was convinced that makeup would only make it worse, that it would be obvious that I was trying to hard to look pretty when I did not think that being pretty was even a remote possibility. Still, I read the beauty sections of teen magazines religiously, hoping that I could find a miracle product in those mostly ad-filled pages. I had more confidence in myself with time but it still took years for me to realize that makeup doesn’t have to have so much meaning assigned to it: it can bring out things that I like, hide things that I don’t, or just be fun. My sister, a veritable makeup WIZARD, cheered when she saw that I finally bought a makeup bag this past year. All of the women profiled here are so beautiful and great at expressing something that I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to learn!

  • flours June 26th, 2014 5:25 PM

    You all are so gorgeous! <3 Arabelle, your eyes are so fun! I love the bold lips, Marie and Chanel! And Nova, the minimal makeup look suits you so well-absolutely stunning. Definitely going to be incorporating these looks into my routine more often

  • umi June 26th, 2014 6:40 PM

    man, all of this is so good!! i really love makeup and the theory behind it. i just want to know everything about your process, basically. what made you do that in particular? etc etc etc

    my dad wont let me wear makeup bc it’s “the equivalent to wearing a mask” and is suggestive of things. he told me the supposed history of red lips. i respect his opinion, but man. i’m 15 yrs old, i should be able to put what i want on my face. if i was allowed to wear makeup i would be very shiny and emotionless and robot-y (a la arabelle herself), but i guess that will have to wait until i get out of this place.

  • sans.sheriff June 26th, 2014 9:46 PM

    red lipstick is so, so important, whenever I’m wearing it I just feel like a force of nature
    so many people think cosmetics are about deceiving people or getting attention, when in reality they are tools of self-expression — whether as rebellion against existing expectations or as a way to make yourself feel more confident

    ARABELLE: that picture is so cute! you look so happy in it

  • Arabelle June 26th, 2014 10:31 PM

    the history of lipstick IS pretty slutty (as in, relating to whores) but that was like, in the 1880′s or whatever? when everyone was victorian and repressed and to look anything but virginal baby white and relating to god meant you were going to hell? there’s lots of interesting writing about nietzschean perspectives on makeup as masks and how makeup is a subversive take on the public and private. makeup can totally be feminist and is not altogether beholden to ideas from like, literally, hundreds of years ago. culture changes, u got agency boo.

  • pizzaface June 27th, 2014 6:12 AM

    really awesome, i especially love arabelle’s look on makeup!

  • Soffy June 27th, 2014 6:39 AM

    Re: red lipstick. The thing that has stuck with me is when I found out that when women (some, most, not all etc) become aroused their lips and nipples turn darker, so red lipstick was used to copy that. I personally think that a good exercise is to look through magazines and ask yourself “why did they use this particular makeup here?”

    Because makeup = language = power. I especially like what has been said about how lipstick, especially in high-maintenance volour like red, bright purple etc, is a signifier of having the privilege of being able to maintain the colour/look. Makeup is so loaded! And I love that Rookie sheds light on this with articlese like this that examine what exactly can go into putting makeup on :)

  • mangointhesky June 27th, 2014 7:36 AM

    All of these look so good!- and Arabelle, I LOVE the glitter!

  • billemiche June 27th, 2014 10:20 AM

    arabelle, can you please direct me to that gorgeous glitter you’re wearing under your eyes? what is it and where can i find some?

  • pubertyblues June 27th, 2014 10:21 AM

    most kick ass article ever. inspired me to do whatever the hell i want with makeup!

  • Erin. June 27th, 2014 11:07 AM

    Arabelle, I want to thank you for helping me to change my views on makeup. I used to really hate makeup. It didn’t bother me than other people wore it, but I hated wearing it myself. I’ve had acne since I was ten (still have it at 23), and I was felt a lot of pressure to cover it all up and to try to be “pretty” – but I hated the idea of that. Wearing concealer has always made me very uncomfortable (and it irritates my skin to no end). But more than that, I saw no reason to conform to other people’s expectations. So I have never worn makeup. To some extent, this is a totally fine stance to take. If it”s all about self-expression, then not wearing makeup felt like the best way to go about it. Except, now, it feels more limiting. Prettiness and beauty, in the stereotypical sense of the words, still don’t concern me. But I do want to feel powerful and…magical.

    So I’m thanking you because of what you said in an article on the NY Times website. About makeup as a form of resistance. I had always (incorrectly) assumed that the main way of resisting societal expectations was to not wear makeup. Even though the interview was just a short paragraph, I was blown away by it. I’ve always avoided dealing with my appearance, but now I want to work on it in a pro-actively resistant way. Thank you so much for everything that you do!

    • Cactus Woman June 29th, 2014 5:02 PM

      You took the words right out of my mouth!

      The dream team of Arabelle and Tayler has been an enormous inspiration for me in the past few years. Like you, I had turned up my nose at all forms of makeup ever since i was little because I thought it was a silly, vain waste of time and energy, and besides, fuck societal expectations, right?

      It wasn’t until I started getting into personal style blogs and looking at the style of some of my favorite musicians that I began to realize that makeup can be even more of a rebellion than a clean face. I began to respect makeup artists and their role in the fashion world. And I learned that vanity can sometimes be a good thing. As I’ve gotten older and more involved with feminism, I’ve learned to look at makeup from a positive feminist perspective as well.

      Although I know I probably would have arrived at those realizations on my own at some point, I owe it to Supreme Babe Queens Arabelle and Tayler for getting me there now, when I’m young, in my prime, and ready to rock the world. ;)

      Thanks, guys. <3

  • Mimi7 June 27th, 2014 2:44 PM

    I love your Magic School Bus look Arabelle!

  • Berries June 28th, 2014 10:12 AM

    Arabelle – your makeup is perfection. I am ALL ABOUT bright colors and I remember the week when my hair looked the same color as yours on the picture, feeling like a mermaid <3

    Chanel – you’ve got such a friendly face, made me really happy to see it today… can I say that? Or is that slightly weird?

    I was raised in a family where makeup is worn by almost every woman, my grandmother is still confused sometimes when she sees me with a lot and sometimes with nothing. I am actually very happy that I was raised with it because I see it as a form of self-expression. Some people have such a negative attitude towards makeup and I don't understand. I have always thought of it as a hobby – I saw how much fun they had with it!

    I like makeup, although I want to be more experienced with it than I am. I have days when I go without any, and days when I wear mascara and lipstick, and sometimes my green mascara – I love how you can look in the mirror and think 'something is not quite normal but I am not sure what' and hope that other people feel that way as well. ;) Just gives a slightly out-of-place hint and I like that.

    My favorite type of make-up is def lipstick. Forever on the lookout for perfect ones. The best color for me thus far is a sort of brown/red color. I dig purple, pink, orange and red but it doesn't look that good on me.

    I am also highly in favor of men wearing make-up and nail polish, and always very happy when I see a guy wearing them. :)

  • itssabine June 28th, 2014 10:26 AM

    Love this article! For me, the one thing that always boosts my confidence is winged eyeliner. I feel like it transforms my face and I immediately feel like a femme fatale.
    This also brings me to how much I appreciate what Arabelle said. I always apply my eyeliner very thickly and recently got a lot of comments that it doesn’t look ‘natural’. I really couldn’t grasp how anyone could think making such a comment is helpful or even on point, because if I’m going to apply eyeliner in heavy amounts I think it’s pretty clear my goal isn’t to look ‘natural’ (whatever that is). The same goes for people not grasping why I bother to wear eyeshadow while not concealing my acne.
    Anyways, Arabelle, I really appreciate your contribution to this post and how you worded it so beautifully and intelligently (same for the comment above. how do you know so much about this stuff?!)

  • crapbag June 29th, 2014 4:49 AM

    I am interested in being unconventional in how I look but I still want people to find me attractive?? Like I want to surprise people by them finding me attractive, even if it isn’t what they’re used to? Like winning the game but while breaking the rules? I’m not extreme at all, only recently I’ve started to not wear makeup in public very occasionally (for the first time in about six years of NEVER under ANY circumstances not gone out without it) and I cut my hair short (everyone used to compliment about how long and pretty it was) because I didn’t want these things to be why people/guys liked me or found me attractive. I guess I wanted to prove to myself that I am still beautiful when I’m not conforming to societal views of beauty. I know it’s still shallow and what other people think doesn’t matter but I haven’t overcome that yet. Maybe it comes down to not wanting validation if it comes from my false(st) form? Like the quote by Georges Bataille, “I don’t want your love unless you know I am repulsive,and love me even as you know it.”
    Ramble ramble, I LOVE makeup and are helllla passionate about it but I hate the way I sometimes allow myself to give in and use it as a crutch for my insecurities.