“Don’t need makeup, to cover up. Being the way that you are is enough.” When my middle school self heard One Direction sing this line on their song entitled “What Makes You Beautiful,” my heart soared. At the time, I was in a very complicated relationship with makeup. I didn’t think I was ugly, but I did want to look like the celebrities that highlighted my Instagram feed more than I wanted to look like plain old me.
Additionally, I had always loved fashion and beauty, and I knew I was ready to upgrade from my cherry coke Lip Smacker that I always seemed to lose. I wanted to be more grown-up, and wearing makeup was how I was going to get there.
For some reason, however, this line made me question if trying to grow up too fast was even the right idea.
What if my parents didn’t let me out of the house? What if my friends thought I was a completely different person? What if people thought that I was trying too hard?
At the time, none of my friends wore makeup, and my family told me that putting products on my face at such a young age would have lasting consequences for my skin. Eventually, I began to believe them and forced myself to take a break from beating my face. I thought that doing so would make me more appealing to the people in my life that I was trying to impress.
I worked so hard to believe that the way I looked was enough, and makeup was something that hid the real me.
Yet once I got to high school, the spaces I was in allowed me the freedom to experiment with and enjoy the process of putting on makeup.
As a figure skater, I used makeup as a way to get into the character of the music I was performing to. I could become anyone I wanted to be: Jane Wilde from The Theory of Everything, Kim from Miss Saigon, and even Mia from La La Land. I could be a spanish princess or a dark spirit.
Makeup was a form of self expression that challenged me to take on an entirely different persona, and through it, I learned to physically emulate the best traits of the characters I played as I told their stories. The intellectual involvement that figure skating required motivated me to continue to embody the positive aspects of those characters in my everyday life.
In some way, makeup was a catalyst to my teenage self discovery, and it helped me start to become a combination of all the strong women I portrayed on the ice.
The high school speech and debate circuit was another space in which the use of makeup affected me in a positive manner. When I walked into classrooms in my business attire, I knew I wanted my face to look as professional as the power suit I donned.
I used makeup to highlight my natural features and make myself look elegant, poised, and ready for a courtroom battle. Essentially, makeup was my armor. With it on, I was able to see glimpses of the woman I wanted to become in ten or fifteen years. I felt strong, powerful and confident. It truly helped me feel like the best version of myself that I could be.
As a senior in college, I spend most of my days in sweatpants with a cup of coffee in hand. I don’t always wear makeup, but when I do, it’s not because I feel ugly or worthless. Instead, I wear makeup because I genuinely choose to.
Sometimes, I use it when I study so that I feel extra empowered to be the girl boss that I aspire to be. Other times, it’s because I feel like a pop of color on my face will amplify the cute outfit I have picked out for the day. But I never use it to impress anyone. I do not use it as something to hide behind so that people will like me more. It is an empowering tool that I use to enhance my natural beauty.
Whether I elect to follow Kylie Jenner’s 37-step makeup routine or go bare-faced for the day, I know that I am making the best decision for myself on that given day.
The way I choose to look is not a reflection of the way I perceive myself. I am enough, and the addition or exclusion of makeup will never change that.
Also published on Medium.