Contouring the Truth About Make Up

Apart from my very rude and prompt period, every other coming-of-age thing happened later than my peers. I got my first phone at the age of 16 (“you don’t need a phone - be home in 15 minutes or I’m calling the police”), epilated (not even shaved!) at the age of 15 and finally, finally, at the age of 17 on a ferry from Calais to Dover my mother showed mercy on me and bought me a Chanel pencil eyeliner.

I don’t come from a rich family so I realised the importance of makeup when my mother, who always loved tomboys and hated heels (a trait she would pass onto me), picked out the eyeliner with the double C’s. “Only the best goes on your face”. 'The best' being some Nazi side-chick’s brand, but I digress.

Why eyeliner? Shit, because I’m Middle Eastern. It’s our staple, right after kebab and the inability to understand the concept of pranks. I didn’t even buy any other makeup until two years later. Walking around like some brown Ashlee Simpson (pre nose job) – two huge outlined bug eyes and that was it. Just my eyes and my scene-as-fuck fringe. That eyeliner found mascara, mascara found blusher, the blusher found concealer, the concealer met foundation and it was happily ever after.

Makeup is a very personal thing to me, as I believe it is to many other women. Before I start my day, before I decide to leave the house, I will put on makeup. Sometimes it is a little, sometimes it is a lot. Before I figured out what suited me, it was a lot every day. Now it depends on who I am meeting, what mood I’m in, the function I’m going to and the outfit I’m wearing.

My face is my pride and joy. It is a healthy mix between both of my parents. I have my mother’s eye and face shape, my father’s dimples and nose, and was blessed with excellent skin from both of them. Like most immigrant children, I spent most of my adolescence wishing I was white. I grew older and realised that white girls just wanted my eyebrows, my lashes, my clear skin, my hair. This was when I quit playing.

You see, beautifying yourself is a very particular thing for women of colour. In a world where the ideal beauty does not look like us, we have to cope. Some of us cope by trying to look like that. Like her. Others cope by ignoring her even when she keeps being picked over them. But you better believe we cope, and makeup helps. Our melanin glows with bronzer, our eyes drown your weak excuses in their blackness, our lips become the dark red colour of our fury and my God…we flourish. We flourish and we intimidate. Our faces look like art, and the so-called 'ideal' blinks back at us with mediocrity.

It’s as simple as this. When I put on my mascara and eyeliner, I’m paying homage to my ancestors. Our women have been side-eyeing and scowling at inadequacy with heavily lined eyes for centuries and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Back then, they would use kohl and galena. Now, I use Dior. When I put on my makeup I am at peace. I am calm. I feel put together. It is my ritual that I have with myself and my ancestors alone in my room. No one can ever belittle that or tell me that I’m doing it because I’m insecure. No one.

And when I cry, as the tears stream down my face, I weep like many have wept before me. My cheeks become stained with ink; my eyes cry black salt water. These are the battle wounds of women that you get to see. The soft, heartbreaking silence as we look at ourselves in the bathroom mirror, before we wash our faces. Before we wake up the next day and somehow muster the energy to apply our armour on again. This is our ritual.

We are scolded for putting on too much makeup by men who congratulate the 'natural' look and try and exacerbate competition between woman. There is nothing to do but laugh at their petulance. Unfortunately, there is no makeup remover strong enough that can wipe away the cheap patriarchy that has caked itself into every pore of their being. They don't get that our makeup is not for them. It never will be, and it never really was. It's for something they will never have the honour of understanding.