Empowering Every Woman to be Beautiful

The Psychology of Makeup

When I was in high school, I dabbled in modeling – a few Essence magazine shots, some cheesy wig catalogs and a few commercial ads. But at 5’6, I wasn’t destined to be the next super anything. However, it was still very exciting (to me, at least).

One day right after English class, I asked a friend to look at a magazine shot I’d done. My English teacher stopped to peer over our shoulders. “What’s this?” she asked.

Proud of the work I’d done, I answered, “I model sometimes for magazines and stuff.”

The English teacher lifted one eyebrow and said, “Really? That surprises me. Most whites don’t find black features attractive.”

Then she sashayed off, leaving me and the other girl (also an African American) standing in the doorway, shocked.

I was 15. And I was attending a private, all-girl’s Catholic school. I’d been taught to be respectful to adults. Although I didn’t speak up at the time, the comment stayed with me for the remainder of my high school years causing a mixture of shame and anger.

I started wearing a full face of makeup shortly afterward – perhaps in an effort to cover up my “unattractive features.”

In my many years as a makeup artist, I’ve encountered more women than I can count, who have a point in their history where someone said something equally destructive (if not as blatantly racist) as the comment by my English teacher.

“You see the problem is my eyes…” said a beautiful Japanese woman who was hiring me to do her bridal makeup. “You have to fix them so they look bigger, so I look like I have a fold.” She pointed to my eyes, “Like yours.”

Then she demonstrated a bizarre makeup “technique” she did with a navy blue eye shadow that supposedly mimicked an eye fold.

“There’s nothing wrong with your eyes,” I said. “Your eyes are gorgeous, as a matter of fact.”

She threw her shiny black hair away from her face. “But I don’t have a fold.”

This “fold” conversation went on for about 15 minutes until she finally allowed me to do her makeup in a way that accentuated her eye shape instead of trying to change it.

Someone had told her that Western features were prettier. She’d spent 10 years using makeup to “fix” something that wasn’t broken.

A client who came to me for a one-on-one consultation clutched a tiny makeup bag. She dumped it's contents on the table in front of me. “Nothing looks good on me. I’m too pale.”

She had smooth ivory skin, dark brown hair and a pair of beautiful blue eyes.
I looked through her products. Some were too deeply pigmented, others just needed to be applied with a softer hand. She didn't even need foundation.

I recommended lip glosses instead of the dark, matte lipsticks she’d been using. I showed her which features to accentuate. When she held the mirror to her face she didn't say anything. I thought, Oh. She doesn’t like it.

When she finally spoke, she had tears in her eyes. “I didn’t know I could look this pretty.” She glanced up at me. “I have to get home and show my husband.”

She tossed my payment on the table and flew out the door. She didn’t have to tell me her story. I knew someone had made her feel unattractive. And she had been trying to use cosmetics to make it right.

The reason my makeup style is soft and subtle is because I honestly believe the role of cosmetics is to enhance a woman’s natural assets. I never align myself with the idea that makeup is meant to cover up what’s wrong. I hate to hear people say, “You’re pretty. You don’t need makeup.”

The implication is that makeup is for ugly women. Everyone looks better with a tiny bit of makeup if it’s done correctly.

But most times the issue isn’t the makeup. It’s the psychology behind it.

I'd love to hear from y'all some times. I know you're reading, but share your thoughts.

And Please come check out my new makeup site with the focus of healthy beauty...www.healthybeautyproject.com