There was once a time when I didn’t look like me.
My father had raised me with these ideas of what was ladylike and proper—no make up, no nail polish, no skin, nothing really. My appearance was entirely based on representations of what he wanted that could not be further removed from how I felt.
I thirsted to look the way I felt. The idea obsessed me. I began daydreaming about clothes, ways I would wear my hair, curating an aesthetic as a young girl with some looks now permanent fixtures (see: my total mess of curly hair in direct opposition with the slick ponytails my father favoured).
As luck would have it, I switched parents when I was 13 and was encouraged to express my feelings every way I could.
I slowly and then suddenly adjusted my appearance. First dying my hair copper, wearing things that were too big and too tight, and glitter just everywhere. And then my first stop in a Canadian mall straight up changed my life. Suddenly I had black eyeliner, black nail polish, and an attitude bought from the $5 mystery bags of Ardene’s.
My parents were very chill about it. It was so okay if I wanted to wear eyeliner, all black, and cargo pants that could fit two people. The principal of my elementary school, however, entirely lacked chill. Apparently thick black eyeliner is quite the distraction to Grade 8 kids in rural Ontario but my parents told Mr. Baker he could suck it and eyeliner has been a distinct part of my look ever since.
I’m sure my eyes were not as perfectly rimmed at age 13 as they are now, 11 years later. Nor were they as spot-on even and flicked to kill when I was 16 and drawing geometric lines on my face to express what exactly, I don’t even remember. But my cheeks were bright pink, eyebrows as blue as my hair, and those geometric shapes were crucial to my current perfectly clean lines.
Every time I tried something new, I was creating a new representation of myself. I was so into the corny idea of my face being a canvas, helping me pinpoint an identity when I so heavily felt the weight of being mixed race and queer and oh-so-angsty.
Today’s makeup is a little different. I don’t wear it every day, though near enough. It allows me a measure of control over my life, over the way I represent myself to the world. It can hide when I’m sick, distract from the holes all of my clothes inevitably get, help me push aside the exhaustion of being overworked when I want to steadfastly move forward. This eyeliner now does everything from flirt to help me give cut eye so strong it would be unsurprising if it literally hurt you.
It’s not petty, it’s not “anti-feminist”, it’s not because I don’t love my face because tbh I am the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen with or without it.
Every ritualised minute I spend carefully doling swabs of colour onto my face is magic. I have perfected witchy glamour in strong brows and cutting cateye and red lips that make you thirst. It’s a transformative power unlike anything else, a magic I’ll carry with me until I’m old and wearing seafoam lipstick on my deathbed, taking dark eyeliner into the afterlife.
Shirt, Urban Outfitters
Skirt, Forever 21