“Caring about beauty, it is necessary to start with the heart and soul. Otherwise, no make-up will help.” – Coco Chanel
I don’t know what triggered it but my earliest relationship with make-up was realising that I did not feel comfortable applying it. I felt that I would look like a clown (must have been due to all the colours to be used) while at the same time I related the make-up to ‘war paint’. I can’t say for certain that there isn’t some associated trauma there. On the other hand, I did not have any judgement towards those who used make-up; it just wasn’t for me.
As I grew older, I realised that a woman was ‘better looking, better accepted, beautiful, and almost more human’ because she had make-up on. Then as I grew older, and I would get funny stares or be viewed as an endangered species for not applying make-up. The occasional application of tozali or kajal, white powder (Who can remember Sweet Sixteen powder? A pity it has vanished. This was the best powder ever produced. It worked the magic of foundation, concealer, and loose powder all in one) and Vaseline-lined lips were not that much appreciated. Anyway, I digress.
It seemed that, as women, we will always be judged by our looks, our hair, our style, our fashion sense (or not), body type, age group and so on. Society imposes standards on women, but if we look closely most times as to who ‘society’ is, by and large, it turns out to be we, yes, we women. With each generation the pressure gets worse. And so did the application of make-up. The history of make-up is checkered: a status-symbol at a point, dangerous to health, and even despised during the Victorian era. Eventually, make-up was to enhance beauty, but what we have these days is a total disfigurement of the original look of the female!
In 2023, the make-up industry is said to be a $571-billion industry; that is over 10 percent of the $5 trillion annual crude oil revenue! Can I make this any clearer? Girls as young as 13 are already under the pressure of projecting external beauty and want to mask their natural beauty. Their skin is barely surviving under the weight of nature and its outbreaks, but the girls are already being nudged in the direction that they need to apply something on their skin/faces to look better.
And so here was I unceremoniously taking a crash course in the politics of make-up. To be on TV, the entertainment field and be accepted, I had to conform to wearing make-up. I hated it. My relationship with make-up is all over the place. Honestly, I just wanted to go about with my oily skin/face, (ok maybe with some white powder applied), ChapStick-lined lips and no eyeliner. What was wrong with that? I think we have once again shifted our focus from what matters most to what masks and makes us judge based on the outward; most times we use this as the only measure. We need to do better. We are more than our looks, clothes, bodies, careers, etc. We are heart, soul, compassion, empathy, kindness, nurturing, helpers, but if we don’t feed these inside of us, cultivate them, focus on them, then we will feed on what does not make us beautiful in the true sense of beauty. Simple.
This is a call to women that, as the world grows more and more shallow, we need to up our authenticity. “Let it not be the outward adornment,” says the holy book.