Rather, IMO, makeup has a familial relationship to beauty. Say, loving first cousins. Cousin Makeup, with her sweet self, always does her best to make Cousin Beauty look even better.
I thought I understood the difference between the two. True beauty was your core. Makeup was the tool for coaxing that beauty to the surface —and out to play. The milkshake that brings all the admirers to the yard.
But then, last year happened. 2013 was seemingly the worst, best year of my life. From my weight gain, to my father’s death, to my total lack of focus in life, there was nothing that could make me look in the mirror and like what I see. The best part of last year? In all honestly, it was realizing that when you feel that low, you really can only go up. But I digress.
Since my teen years, makeup had been my creative saving grace; it was the way I expressed a far bigger part of me (that and musical theater). In high school, I’d obsess the night before a “dress down Friday” over what makeup I’d wear. I remember my first attempt at falsies; everyone in school went crazy over them and wanted me to their own. I even remember the first time I wore silver glitter on my eyes and Giullia Rosanova couldn’t stop asking me how I did it. That was my thing; I was the beauty girl at school. I went to an all girl Catholic school, and the administration gave us one Friday a month to wear whatever we wanted. I looked forward to those days, but not so much because of the chance to rock a new outfit. Prepping and primping and laying out my arsenal the night before, I was giddy about what my friends would say in Latin class about the new shadow I was wearing.
Then, in college, I hit my free spirit peak, rocking black lipstick, hot pink gloss that “dark girls weren’t supposed to wear,” and my first big Diana Ross weave. I was high off of makeup—I just loved it. I felt innately beautiful, and enhancing my beauty was my thing.
But three years after my graduation, I would hit the lowest moment of my life. Suffering from grief, failed relationships and the fact that I had gained the post-graduate 30 lbs, I felt like there was nothing that could make me feel beautiful. That’s when I realized that getting back a better version of myself would take a real inner re-evaluation and that nothing, not even makeup, could replace the work I’d have to do to feel beautiful again.
I’m a beauty and style editor so technically I’m supposed to be excited about putting on my face and picking out my daily ensemble. But on this particular day, in what seemed to be my millionth effort to get ready for work, I tried to hide my misery behind “prettiness” created by a pouty pink lip and false lashes—and then I finally caved in.
As I looked at myself in my mirror, reality hit hard: I didn’t like what I saw and where I was in life. I wasn’t happy and I damn sure didn’t feel beautiful.
But I wanted to feel beautiful again, so badly. Makeup had been making me look pretty, but my feeling of true inner beauty had died. I had spent countless days making myself look good, but making myself feel good was a different notion.
Getting from where I was last May to where I am now has taking a lot of effort, therapy and solitude. But I can finally say that I actually feel beautiful again. I haven’t lost a pound, or gotten an extreme new look or met some new amazing guy. I just had to relearn that inner beauty comes from a foundation of confidence. And confidence comes from the core acceptance of who you are, where you are in life and owning the responsibility of creating the person you want to be. That leads to contentment, which leads to balance, which eventually leads to happiness. And happy people are the beautiful people.
It took a random lesson that I thought I understood: makeup is only skin deep, but beauty comes from within. There is no amount of foundation, mascara or lip-gloss that can transform a woman into feeling, at her core, confident (which is a reason why I feel makeovers really don’t work, if they don’t begin from within). For me, makeup is just an external tool that I use to express a facet of myself in a given moment. Women are multifaceted human beings. One day we may feel girly, the next edgy and the next like a rock star. But at our core, our confidence to express these aspects of ourselves comes from inner beauty and self-love.
Re-learning the distinction between makeup and beauty has been a very interesting journey. But I wouldn’t change anything about it. It took the lowest moment of my life to inspire me to come back to feeling my best.