In the second floor spare bedroom of the house where I grew up, I finagle my way onto the top of one of my mother’s fragile antique dressers, assuming a cross-legged, Indian style position in front of the mirror that hangs at eye level before me. With heaps of mid day sunlight careening through the room’s two square shaped windows, I brace myself for what’s bound to be a grisly sight, a reflection that rivals only that of Quasimodo’s.
I’m fifteen years old and I despise myself. But what’s more is that I can’t wrap my head around the present state of my physical appearance. Making a no holds barred dermatological assessment of my face, I ask aloud, rhetorically, and as if it’s the single most baffling phenomenon in the universe, “What the fuck? I have the skin of a ninety year old woman.”
As an involuntary member of the pale skin/dark hair club, there’s a reason why I’m categorized as a prime candidate for laser hair removal. Not only do I detect traces of a male mustache developing across my upper lip, but my friend, Lindsey, points out the fact that I have an obvious unibrow emerging, as well. Pale skin, freckles, pimples and female facial hair just aren’t features that equate to constructive and/or particularly healthy encounters with the mirror.
With my sweet sixteen party only a couple of weeks away, I walk around with a plastic Ziploc bag that contains a couple of newly acquired cosmetic purchases — items that the saleswoman at my local Clinique counter suggested that I pick up for the event. A makeup virgin, I have little to no faith that the products will do much of anything, except perhaps, exacerbate the pre-existing flaws that I’ve already come to equate with my personal identity.
That said, something finally prompts me to give them a try, and I commence my first ever concealer application sitting there on top of the antique dresser with the sunlight illuminating my face.
Upon smoothing out the initial coat, I’m surprised to discover that I like the way that I look; so, with a heavier and more confident hand, I continue to apply more. And then, I go to town with the blush and the bronzer, as well. Using only these four products (at fifteen, I wasn’t permitted to wear much in the way of eye makeup – the idea wasn’t to transform me into a Shah of Sunset just yet), I arrive at the conclusion that, despite my rhetorical question to God and the universe about why I, alone, was cursed with the physical appearance of a Disney monster, I might only require the assistance of a Tweezer and a bottle of foundation to look good.
At fifteen, I’m genuinely awestruck by the idea that I could be pretty. Because, gone are the days of feeling even remotely comfortable in my own skin; they’ve been replaced with a lingering, low hanging cloud of generalized inadequacy that’s coupled with excessive self-loathing and paralyzing social anxiety. But here in the mirror, with this makeup on, I feel like the best version of myself.
Since that day, I’ve cultivated a great passion for the beauty industry as a whole. Throughout the past thirteen years, I’ve gone through hundreds of hours of “How-To” videos on YouTube, worked with some of the most coveted professionals in the business, watched my mug appear on national television (during my time as a reporter), and then transitioned into the blogosphere, which is another public forum where…I…post photos of myself on the internet for the world at large to see.
Having a reliable beauty routine enables me to feel like the best version of myself; I’m not ashamed to say that. When I look good, I feel good. Almost instantly, I find myself becoming more confident and upbeat.
I even carry myself differently.
And, I’ve come to realize that, in varying degrees, the same is true of most women. Who doesn’t enjoy feeling like the best version of herself?
But here’s the thing: despite what I’ve learned about investing in my exterior shell, it is, in fact, just that – a shell. No amount of contouring or beach waving or spray tanning could ultimately teach me how to love myself. That’s a topic for another post. Still, a major part of the reason why I chose to start a blog is because I’ve seen, firsthand, the power that a couple of products – from a Clinique counter at a mall on Long Island, to boot – could have in changing the way that I walk through life.
And I want that for as many women as possible.