“Did you know? You have absolutely no pores.”
I mentioned this to a bride during her makeup trial, brushing a light amount of primer across the apples of her cheeks.
She immediately laughed and rolled her eyes before saying, “You’re too sweet.”
“I’m not,” I insisted, mixing her foundation on the back of my hand. “I just speak the truth! Your skin is incredible.”
“Yeah right,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “It’s so blotchy. Do you not see that redness all around my nostrils?"
I sat my brush down.
“You know who doesn’t have that? Babies. They’re it. Your skin’s incredible.”
“Hmm.” She looked downward and meditated on that for a moment as I began dabbing foundation on either side of her nose. “No one’s ever really told me that before.”
And as she said it, I watched my compliment truly begin to sink in. I could hear her tone soften as she mused on this new fact, accepted it as truth; her skin is beautiful. I could practically feel the small strength that concept provided.
Maybe someone told her once how to fight uneven pigmentation. Maybe someone offered tips on ways to make her eyes look bigger or her nose smaller or her lips fuller. Odds are, she was bombarded by “constructive” criticism countless times as an adolescent girl growing up in the South—but how many people reassured her that she lacked nothing?
Working as an Atlanta makeup artist (I’m the proud owner of Andrea Carter Artistry), these moments happen too often for me to keep count. Each one is fleetingly heartbreaking; a reminder of how we as women are essentially bred to fixate on flaws. My brides are unique and diverse, but there are two similarities they share; they are all beautiful and they all have reasons why a compliment isn’t true.
I constantly battle this concept at work—the assumption that only perfection can truly be called beautiful. I reassure clients that one hormonal breakout doesn’t destroy lovely skin and that disparately sized upper and lower lips (yep, had someone complain about that) don’t detract from the precious dip of a cupid’s bow mouth. I even enjoy ruffling false lashes to break up a perfect line as “perfect” always reads manufactured and false to me. It’s simple: perfect isn’t real, therefore perfect isn’t beautiful. Proving the truth in that statement is exactly why I love what I do.
I think I became a makeup artist for several reasons. First, I’ve always loved makeup. Fragrances, textures, and packaging were endlessly entertaining to explore. Before pre-school I remember memorizing the contours of lipsticks my mother had worn down from use; every woman has her signature shape by the end of a tube. I always apply mine slowly and methodically -- sensory funtime -- being sure to keep the same curve or slant that existed the moment I first uncapped it. My mom’s lipsticks were worn on each side and peaked in the middle, as though she always applied in a quick pucker and never had time to paint each lip individually. To this day, the memory of her cosmetics drawer is incredibly vivid to me.
Makeup itself aside, I loved the results. Mascara-coated lashes astounded me. And ask any client about my facial expressions during each step of the process—my grin definitely reminds me that I’ve never lost my fascination and delight with the transformation.
I’ve also always loved to pretend (I still love costume parties and Halloween with the enthusiasm of a six-year-old). Initially makeup was equated with dress-up; as I grew older, however, and insecurities wriggled their way into my consciousness, it became a way to hide. If I focused my unhappiness on the fact that my nose was too bulbous, contouring was a tangible solution that made me feel accomplished. It gave me a semblance of control during a difficult adolescence. And that’s when I began to form a philosophy that recognized the double-edged sword that exists between women and cosmetics.
In An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde said that “too much rouge...is always a sign of despair in a woman.” We broadcast our feelings about ourselves by the choices we make with makeup. From a woman who hides behind thick layers to a woman who resignedly wears nothing in the belief that she could never look pretty anyway, a woman's makeup can accentuate problems as clearly as it can accentuate beauty.
My life has plenty of other details I’d love to share; I’ve been married to my best friend for five years and we own two adorable mutts who bring us ridiculous amounts of joy. I’m a Journalism grad from the University of Georgia and the recipient of a Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, handed to me by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. I discovered I love remodeling after my husband and I renovated our current home from top to bottom. (We’re trying to put the house on the market as we are in pursuit of a home near Little Five Points in Atlanta. We’re also trying to figure out when kids will enter into our equation.) I’m a secular Buddhist who enjoys the impermanent side of great makeup—at the end of the day, your masterpiece is washed away. That keeps everything in perspective for me. I love cooking, crafting, and coffee, and I love HBO for providing me with awesome things to watch. But none of those things are the reason why I’m here.
I’m here to tell every client, every woman, who’s ever denied her own beauty that she. is. wrong. I’m here because the deck is still stacked pretty unfairly for the fairer sex, and I want to level the playing field with as much truth, mindfulness, and acceptance as I can possibly bring to beauty blogging. As we all navigate our immensely complicated relationships with our own appearances, my goal here is to be a voice that fosters strength and self-examination, internal as well as external. I want to always remind us that we are more than decorative objects—but at the same time, we have every right in the world to celebrate fripperies like a perfectly glossy lip or eyeliner that refuses to budge. And oh, I do want to celebrate.
Welcome! Now let’s get pretty. On OUR terms.