This is the first of an in-depth three-part series on how I used beauty to heal myself and why I started The Lipstick Therapist. I figure if I am going to give myself this title, I ought to be transparent and back it up with my own story. Enjoy!
I vaguely remember my first introduction to makeup. I can remember me as a toddler watching my mom applying her brown lipstick before she left for work and spritzing me with a bit of her Versus by Versace Perfume before we left for the day. I remember stumbling upon my maternal grandmother’s makeup bag, marveling at how soft her loose translucent powder felt in my hand , and marveling at my paternal grandmother’s vanity, all covered in lipstick tubes, perfume bottles, and that ever-present bottle of red nail polish. In all of these things, I saw early on how the women in my life used makeup, in one way or another, as a way to put their best face forward as they faced their respective responsibilities.
My own personal relationship with beauty started out to be quite volatile. I did not grow up thinking very highly of my looks. To be an overweight Black girl for just about all of my young life in a 1990s and 2000s culture where thin was in was a special kind of hell. I did not see myself among the imagery marketed as “beautiful,” not even in magazines such as Essence or Ebony where the models featured came in a variety of shades but only one dress size.
Then, by some miracle, I ended up taking dance during the 7th grade where my instructor Ms. Pimentel pushed me beyond my perceived physical limits and showed me that my body was capable of doing far more than I had ever imagined. She taught me far more than how to execute a proper plie on the barre or memorize choreography; her kindness and her faith in my ability caused me to have great faith in myself. I count Ms. Pimentel among the many angels in my life; through her I finally saw tat maybe, just maybe, I was beautiful.
This segued into my first introduction to makeup application, a time where I could finally wear it with my mom’s permission. She gave us a list of things we needed and took the time showing us how to apply stage makeup for our end-of-year performance. In my little mirror, I saw my face begin to transform. Granted, stage makeup is very dramatic, but that is exactly what I needed to see. I saw how drastically makeup could transform my face, the one that I had struggled to accept-or, was still struggling to accept.
My skin was so uncooperative. As puberty changed my body by giving me a waistline, it wreaked havoc on my skin. No matter what I used, the pimples continued to ravage my forehead, leaving behind scars due to my incessant picking and popping. On some days, I could deal with it. On others, I would hate to leave the house. My mom did her best to affirm me, but I couldn’t quite receive the message. It wasn’t until I read a certain book and watched a certain documentary a few years later that my self-perception began to truly change and I started seeing my own potential-and began developing my ability as a makeup artist.
More on that tomorrow.