I didn’t start wearing makeup until I was 33 years old. I wasn’t allowed to wear it growing up. The only lesson my mother taught me about makeup is that it is hard to find colors to match my brown skin, and it will make me age faster. I remember sneaking to wear lipstick once when I was 12. I got it from my friend Sarah, who was white. It was a light pink color that matched her complexion. I thought I wiped it off with a Kleenex before I got home, but I didn’t do a good job. My mom yelled at me and told me to look at myself in the mirror. I was shocked to see that the pale pink color didn’t look as pretty on my complexion as it did on Sarah’s. In fact, I looked like a clown. It was a blow to my self-esteem even though my mom assured me that I didn’t need any makeup. She finally gave me permission to wear eyeliner when I was 16-years-old. By that time, makeup was overrated. I wore eyeliner and played around with lipstick, but it wore off so quickly that it was pointless. I focused instead on establishing my family and my career. My goals were way more important than my looks.
I’m a driven and determined individual, so I achieved most of the goals I set for myself at a young age. By the time I was 33, it was time for me to identify some new aspirations. I decided I wanted to learn how to do my makeup. I was timid at first; I didn’t know where to start. I knew wanted to make sure I avoided products with harsh and unhealthy chemicals. I also didn’t want to be one of those women who was critiqued for wearing too much makeup.
I only watched someone apply a full face of makeup more than a few times. Using the Internet, I started researching how to apply it and practiced on myself. It was so much fun. I experimented with eyeshadow first, using YouTube and Instagram reviews to find products and try different techniques.
“I can draw beauty, happiness and peace on my own face, even when I cannot bring it to those dealing with the hardships in life.”
I gained a new appreciation for makeup as an art. It’s more than smearing some color on your face: it takes skill. You have to have a vision that complements your facial features without turning you into a different person. As an older aspiring makeup artist, I know that eyesight is as important as your vision for your look— you literally have to be able to see what you’re doing. I’ve worn prescription eyeglasses since I was 6, so trying to put on makeup was a humbling experience for me.
If I don’t wear contacts, I have to get very close to my mirror, which is already magnified three times.
At first, I asked myself if I was too old to venture into the world of makeup, and I actually felt sad at the thought of not trying. I told myself, “If I really were a real artist, I would use my fingers to paint a picture on canvas even if I were blind. Why should my aging eyes stop me from learning and practicing a skill that gives me pleasure?”
At one point on my journey, I realized that applying eye shadow was giving me both an emotional and creative release. I felt a little more powerful and confident when my eyes sparkled. I found myself buying all kinds of colorful and glittery palettes. I stocked up on brushes for applying, blending, shimmering and lining. I fell absolutely head over heals in love with mascara. I started getting my eyebrows groomed.
Makeup allows me to escape reality while creating a new me. I can draw beauty, happiness and peace on my own face, even when I cannot bring it to those dealing with hardships in life. Looking good and feeling good helps me make the world a better place. I can play with my makeup and become art. I am art, and what a wonderful discovery that is to make later in life.
Leonica Erwin is a natural hair advocate and blogger. She writes about her hair journey at dalovelee1.com.