As I sat down to write an email to a friend who asked for some makeup advice, I realized she wouldn’t want the monstrously long email I ended up composing. I decided to transform what started as a personal email into a public blog intended for friends who want to discuss all things makeup with me. As an unapologetic disclaimer: this is not the blog of a beauty guru or expert or vendor. I’m a student-enthusiast who documents her vanity with a pronounced interest in asserting the validity of generating everyday inspirations, curiosities and experiments with makeup and beauty. Vampid, for now just outlining the beauty basics and preferences of a single killer babe, aspires to articulate a makeup manifesto, one that convinces you that the beauty lifestyle is about much more than what might be snubbed and condemned as ever-encroaching vapid, vampic femininity.
Also, since I daylight as an English Literature graduate student, I have a lot of thoughts about thoughts and cynical readings of various aspects of culture and society. I may not, however, have great grammar, and I may not always produce the most polished writing, and FUCK YOU if you think that grammar and rhetoric are the primary concerns and interests of someone in my field (and thank you for noticing the spiteful glory of this run-on sentence). My academic interests include literary and cultural texts that come to bear on the ways we make sense of gender, race, sexuality and class historically and in the present. I’m also particularly interested in texts that offer critiques of imperialism, globalization and neoliberalism. Perhaps confusingly then I am very much not an intellectual and feminist killjoy when it comes to a lot of things in popular consumer culture including, if not especially, makeup. You can explore more of my thoughts about this seeming paradox in the Waxing theoretical . . . subsection of this lengthy post. Or you can just skip it because you already know smart, confident people wear and love makeup, like duh.
Moving on to what this blog is and is not:
This archive of beauty information is not meant to be innovative or showy—putting a new twist or adding a zany take to a popular topic that already saturates the Internet. There are a lot of blogs out there that do a good job with pictures, slide shows and videos, creating some really beautiful, well-edited stuff that I can’t compete with. I will, however, provide links to vendors and other blogs that provide more detailed and visual accounts of the products and techniques to which I allude. My intention for now is simply to share with you the makeup things I’ve found and like. I’ll be covering the basics and hoping to inspire and empower you to experiment with a beauty regimen that you make your own.
Additionally, since I’m a girl who likes to splurge but doesn’t have pockets that runneth deep, I can’t promise detailed reviews of all the new and coolest and hautest products. Yet, this blog will not be about “beauty on a budget” or “beauty on the go.” It will just be a blog about the beauty and beautiful things I happen to procure at unscheduled moments in my life. It is definitely a vanity project. With revelry.
This blog is also not about “beauty with a conscious.” Although, I will try to indicate when things are or are not vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.
Finally, this blog is especially not about lotus-eating, guilt or my antifeminist descent into the unhealthy corporate beauty-chemical-industrial complex. I would love to further write about and discuss the feminist and for-everyday-and-everyone aspects of makeup. In fact I hope to have a friend soon guest blog about this very topic. In some ways this blog is motivated by my need to find a way to deal with the rage I feel whenever people insist that they prefer people, especially women, who don’t wear makeup. The people who say such things are celebrating an absolute fiction about women who are “above” superficialities because they are smart, brave and beautiful—just the way they are! This narrative places just as many unfair and demanding expectations on women as the one about the harm inflicted on women’s self-esteem by the lofty beauty standards promulgated in the media with done up and airbrushed models. Statements valorizing the “natural” or “nude” look of non-makeup-wearing women, or women who simply don’t appear to be wearing makeup, assume, falsely, that to look natural and naturally beautiful requires no premeditation, intention, skill, time, editing, concealment, theatricality, artificiality or effort.
These sentiments supporting the pervasive preference for “natural beauty” have made some of my friends hesitant or embarrassed to wear and experiment with makeup. This blog is also particularly written with these friends in mind—the ones who have to endure, “You look so nice! What’s the special occasion?” when they occasionally decide to rock a bold red lip for no special reason. Please don’t humor the people in your life who want you to only present yourself to them in a way that is more comfortable and familiar for them.
Make Yourself Your Own Test Subject:
Since this is not expressly a technique or review blog, rather one that wants you to develop your own beauty habits, I want to stress the importance of getting out there and physically getting your hands on and in makeup. The best way to develop your tastes and preferences is to go shopping and try things out. To clarify, when I encourage you to shop, I don’t mean that you have to buy, continuously, a bunch of crap you don’t necessarily want or need. Instead, get to know products by looking at, smelling and applying samples on in a store. Sephora, Ulta or makeup counters in department and drug stores are places where you can test out an array of different products with or without buying anything. Sometimes these places even offer classes and complimentary makeovers and tutorials. Additionally, you can often reap a bunch of free samples and benefit from other promotions when you actively and physically go to a store to explore makeup.
Another good option to help you test and sample a variety of products is to sign up for a monthly beauty sampler from online retailers such as Birchbox or Vegan Cuts Beauty Box. While you pay for these boxes, they provide you with large- and sometimes full-size samples of the latest products.
Please contribute and comment:
If you are already a beauty addict or advanced makeup artist without hang-ups about how makeup and beauty inscribes you with shameful consumerist femininity, this blog may not be for you. However, I’d love for people with extensive experience and strong opinions to comment and contribute! I’ve emphasized this blog as one for friends, but, as a publically displayed writing project, strangers are of course welcome!
Waxing theoretical about the point of this blog, the point of it all (said like a true drama queen) . . .
Putting on my theory cap for a second in order to spout abstractions to explain my intellectual and personal interests in makeup: I believe that we are all constantly incited to perform and present ourselves to others in ways that correspond with the terms of individualization and socialization that are always being produced and reproduced in the societies we are born into. While we are forced to comply with the norms of this world, we also continually undermine those norms since it is only through our constant citation and reproduction of them in everyday life that they are given any power and authority. To that end, makeup is just another way of expressing how we make and unmake ourselves as social beings. Put differently, makeup is another way we expose and manage our vulnerabilities in the unavoidably intimate situations that come from living among others. In every way that we put ourselves together in preparation to interact with the rest of the world, including the costumes and masks we adorn to face family, friends, and colleagues in private and public life, we constantly and often unconsciously negotiate and try to control how we present ourselves to others to elicit certain relationships with them.
The bottom line is that we always rely on illusion and fabrication to compose a self. Makeup isn’t the only or even most striking example of the way we create illusions to make ourselves look a certain way under the gaze of others. Moreover, makeup can be just as well used to confound and distort misogynist, racist, homophobic, and other hateful discourses as it can be used to desperately showcase one’s need to be accepted by a society that continually degrades and humiliates the very people upon which it places unattainable standards of beauty. I choose to wear and experiment with makeup as a creative act that I find stimulating and inspiring. I also wear makeup for the way it makes me feel empowered and in charge of a certain narrative about my self and my life even if that isn’t always the truth.
Wearing makeup is certainly a selfish act in the sense that it is something through which I seek to find pleasure and profit. However, the pleasure and profit I receive from makeup need not come from satisfying the heteronormative male gaze that both demands that I perform my femaleness in certain limited ways for its pleasure and profit and that also condemns me for bending to its will. In fact, I shouldn’t have to defend why I wear makeup and how it can be a feminist act because doing so reinforces the predominant criticisms that makeup is indeed for the vain and superficial—that makeup enthusiasm can’t be intelligible without invoking or countering such pervasive assumptions and censure. But before we just agree that makeup can be part of a rich and enriching experience of life, let me emphasize once more: makeup is not just the shameful obsession of the pathetic, self-loathing victims of this misogynist capitalist world!