Makeup is a worldwide industry, raking in a cool $60 billion annually. A dedicated part of most women’s morning routines, it’s one of the longest enduring forms of everyday art. And despite that we crown it’s industry professionals as ‘artists’, we define makeup only as vanity. (The difference between true beauty and vanity is an important one, discussed in depth here.)
But even as it’s worth lies only in vanity, we live by the stigma that without it, a woman is lesser. Like war paint, that she needs it to tackle the world. That if she abandons it one day, she must be ‘feeling sick’. That she needs it to do the simplest of tasks; to go to the grocery store. To meet for coffee. To see the person she loves.
If what we pay attention to matters, and ultimately becomes our definition of ourselves, then how we take care of ourselves and how we present ourselves matters too. In an interview with Vogue magazine, french makeup artist Violette stated that French women don’t use contouring techniques to hide flaws:
“We never contour. For French women, contouring is very scary, because it changes the sculpture of the face…
It’s much more about adding highlights. They catch the light on the cheeks, and on the Cupid’s bow of lips so you don’t really need contouring.”
In other words, the French chic would never create fake shadows in order to shape and enhance. Instead, she creates light in the areas she wants to accentuate. With illuminators and light reflecting products, she brings attention, a spotlight really, to what she want you to see, the elements of her face that she is particularly proud. The difference is that while American women focus on hiding what they don’t like, French women instead accentuate and praise what they do like.
This distinction is a vital one, if we subscribe to Sue Monk Kidd’s belief; it means that if you are paying attention to that which you are ashamed of or unhappy with, you become it. Our concern about it takes over our sense of self, and becomes all we think about and act because of, acting out of our insecurity, fear and feelings of inadequacy. If instead we pay attention to that which we love and are proud of, we in turn become it, and act out of our confidence and happiness and joy. I’d like to think that this, actually, is the definition of that French girl chic quality we all want. In doing so, we’d have to recognize that the chicest of women is those willing to fully embody themselves, praise themselves, and love themselves in a spotlight, not a shadow.
Now we come full circle: we can implement all this wisdom into our every day lives with one simple makeup trick. It takes no special brushes, no pricey illuminators, no expert techniques. It takes only the practice of acting with love.
If our simplest, everyday tasks, such as applying our makeup, become an act of praise for ourselves, they will be transformative. If we can do something as small as apply our makeup as an act of devotion to our personal beauty, an act of gratitude for our heritage, an act of love for our lives, and with the knowledge that we deserve to feel beautiful, to shine in our best light mentally and physically, then silly old makeup actually becomes a tool for everyday prayer.
Don’t believe it? Think about this: where do we normally find the most profound and heavenly senses of peace? In nature. Nature is praised as our greatest gateway to divinity. And where do we find the inspirations for all those hues on our color palette? The rich sky blues of eye shadows, the deep forest green of the fall manicure, the soft and gentle peony pinks that graces our lips. We adorn ourselves with elements of nature so as to remind us that the beauty of the universe resides within us and our every action, just as it does in nature. That all the beautiful poems a summer blossom speaks to us should be mimicked in every word we speak from our rosy pink lips. That in the shadows that enhance the gold of our irises is the same as the night sky that makes the gold stars appear even brighter.
We are not simply hiding our flaws every morning; we are accessing the divinity of our true selves. We are seeing the profound beauty that only we possess, individual to each of us, and showcasing it for everyone to enjoy.
The point of this is not to argue that makeup is essential to look beautiful. On the contrary. Many find the same feelings of joy and gratitude by the absence of makeup, and the purity of intention is just the same. The point is to see that in every moment of every day, in our every little action, there is a chance to find peace, to realize the love all around us, and to live with great, life-altering, heart opening joy. You just have to pay attention to see it.