Before I gush, please let me just say that it is every person’s choice whether to wear makeup, nor not, how much and how little. It’s about loving one’s self and not about adhering to certain beauty standards. With that said, let me tell you about why I have loved everything about makeup for as long as I can remember. I used to sit on the toilet of our 4th floor walk-up, and just stare at my mom while she would put makeup on in the bathroom. I would get lost in her artful way of applying everything in such a precise manner. She had the technique of a surgeon, and the style of a painter. I would obsess over her in that bathroom, watching her every move.
Years later, as the decades do what they do, Mom would like to remind me of how, after what felt like hours after watching her, I would throw myself on the floor crying about how I could never be as beautiful as she is. I don’t throw myself on the floor anymore, but darn it, my little kid self was right. Mom was gawwwgeous. And for some style context… this was the late 70s, early 80’s where makeup, hair and life really only needed to be one thing...LARGE. We’ve moved past all that, probably for good reason, but sometimes, I really wish I could hop in Doc’s DeLorean, and go back to the future, or at least to a time that felt like the future, when big things were happening. Women were on the move. Sally Ride took us to space… and with an epic hairstyle that seemed destined for zero-gravity.
Back here on Earth, when my devastatingly beautiful mother wasn’t around, I would go through all of her makeup as often as possible. I would gather her goodies and tap into all of that time I spent observing her in the mirror, trying at first to replicate her moves before quickly devolving into an experimental disaster. But how could you blame me? I could hardly see over the bathroom sink...only catching glimpses of myself in the mirror when I would jump. Of all the YouTube tutorials out there, I highly doubt you’ll find the jumping over the sink applicator method covered, but hey who knows. After growing a little, I soon graduated to sitting on the edge of the sink, pretending to be Alexis from “Dynasty” using an English accent like Joan Collins to narrate each blush application as if I was Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel.
"My Mother & her Muse, Alexis Colby"
My romanticism for makeup was likely born out of prohibition. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup when the other girls were. My mother was a Balkan immigrant and although she saw herself as worldly and liberated, it took her forever, sort of never, to adapt to raising a kid in America. Nonetheless, when I was around 12 I had a part- time babysitting job that gave me extra cash, and guess how I spent my earnings? By hoofing it to the Rite Aid and Mandees, walking distance from our apartment building. I would buy as much makeup as I could afford on my humble wages, and do what every kid with a secret does, hide it under my bed. I would nervously rummage around through my stash and take what I thought I needed for the day. I’d then get to school early so I could sneak into the girl’s bathroom and apply away. My favorite look from that time was ULTRA black eyeliner with black eye shadow, black mascara blush and a hot pink lip liner with only vaseline on the inner lips so the strong lip-liner was extra obvious. And a humble brag for the record, I have never in my life worn lipstick or gloss without a lip-liner... even before the Kardashians made it a trend.
I was spared the indignity of having to wash my makeup off after classes, because my mom was usually still at work by the time I got home from school. I would quickly but meticulously wash my face so she couldn’t tell I spent my days looking like a rock star, or at least trying to. All was going well until “BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHT” where a kids worlds’ can often dramatically collide, as mine did one terrible evening. My mom first met with my homeroom teacher who told her right off the bat, “Francis is such a pretty girl, I really don’t think she needs all that make-up she wears.” uggghhhh KILL ME!!!! My immigrant mother was stunned but played it off like a champ. When she came home, she went right for my handbag and ripped out any and all makeup, throwing it in the garbage before extending her hunt to my bed. How did she know about the under-the-bed thing? My mom might have been a fish out of water at times having been born in another country, but she was no dummy. Making sure I couldn’t recover my confiscated makeup stash, she took the extraordinary step of taking the garbage with her to work, throwing the bag straight into the trunk of her car. She was that badass.
As for my look? Well I thought I rocked it, at least relative to the time, ok? We’re talking late 80’s now, big hair, hair metal, glam bands with boys who wore makeup. It was all about the three M’s...MTV, magazines and Madonna. As they say now, it was everything. I wish I had some photos to share from this time. (To my dear friends, please share if you have any in the comments below).
Eventually, my mom relented, allowing me SOME makeup. Giving me that inch, I would take a mile, pushing the boundaries of what’s considered an acceptable amount of makeup, if you’re not in the clown profession, and ordered to wash much of it off before leaving home. I would go on to learn that less can be more, but I still absolutely LOVE makeup. It makes me feel good in every way... emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually and sexually. During the pandemic lockdowns, I still put makeup on every single day even with little place to go except in front of my computer screen for video conferences or my laundry room. Some might consider my affinity for makeup to be superficial, and that’s fine, but despite what the haters may say, I wear makeup for me, and not others. Sure I want to look good for others, but to me, looking good is about feeling good, and they go hand-in-hand. Some days, it's just a little tinted moisturizer, lip-liner and bronzer. Oh, bronzer, can I just say it? – I LOVE BRONZER!!!
I’m from Jersey (GTL) where wearing bronzer is like wearing underwear. I will also admit, I tend to get a bit carried away with the Bronzer because its tanning effect makes me feel like I’ve been on vacation. Other days, some light shadow, mascara, eye liner, BRONZER and as I mentioned ALWAYS lip-liner. I fill in my entire lip with lip-liner even before I sip a cup of morning joe. But of all my post high school makeup looks, my absolute favorite is a heavy, smokey eye with a neutral lip, BRONZER and from time to time RED HOT LIPS too. Because, like magic, RED HOT LIPS CHANGE EVERYTHING.
I am not devoted to one particular brand although I do have a few http://www.tartecosmetics.com/, http://www.narscosmetics.com/, https://www.loreal.com/. Besides these faves, I actually love trying new brands and new products because ultimately, I just love beautiful things, After all, it is called the beauty business. My 7th grade look (before that teacher outed me!) and my mother continue to be an inspiration for the overall feeling I get when wearing makeup. A sense of nostalgia that a few swipes of a brush can bring, can be quite MAGICAL!