Secrets for my Daughter
Thirty-five years in the beauty and creative industry has given me one extra special gift alongside the incredible experiences and wisdom that inevitably come with age. What I’m referring to is the gift of perspective. The perspective and wisdom that is achieved by listening to the very real problems and insecurities of literally every woman who has sat in my chair and trusted me to help her navigate the overwhelming and confusing world of beauty.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, what skin colour you were born with or what socioeconomic background you come from. Whether a makeup maven or novice, once you sit in ‘the chair’ there is a ‘letting go’ of sorts. The connection I make with my client is real as they become instantly vulnerable, sharing their wishes or concerns, often in a shameful whisper. This vulnerability is a commonality we all share through the human experience as it lives in the world of beauty.
I minored in psychology and am a proud self-proclaimed psychology nerd. The human condition fascinates me. My belief is that every woman has a unique relationship with beauty. Whether or not she’s the type who won’t leave the house without a full face of makeup; or mascara means big plans ahead. We all have a history that includes childhood memories of praise or teasing that can still sting from a triggered memory. There are opinions expressed and urged by family members, friends or perhaps from an entire culture. Like everything in life, there is a psychology, a reason behind why we do what we do, or don’t do. For better or worse, our relationship with beauty starts well before we start caring about makeup or skincare and the hope is to see this relationship grow and evolve as we do.
We ALL Have a Story
I grew up in the company of women. Women were all I knew for the first 10 years of my life. My grandmother and mother both of whom raised me were 39 and 21 years respectively when I was born. They were both very beautiful, unconventional in their thinking and beliefs, strong and independent. They were also as opposite in personalities and opinions as any two humans could possibly be. The one thing they had in common was that neither possessed filters or boundaries and their opinions, especially where I was concerned, were AMPLY expressed, fought over and even debated in my presence. As if my budding relationship to beauty wasn’t confusing enough.
Puberty kicked off my life-long battle as a ‘product junky’. By age 12 I was heading off to the corner drugstore with babysitting money burning a hole in my pocket and one goal in mind, makeup. My ‘awkward stage’ was an understatement. I had glasses, braces, pimples, a mess of curls cut too short that no one seemed to have any idea how to handle, I was ‘too’ tall, lanky, and still completely flat chested, my ‘beanpole’ stage dubbed by grandmother. Looking back, my real aspiration was to be as beautiful as my mother, and her mother. How often can a little girl hear how “pretty” her mother is or have her grandmother repeatedly mistaken for her mother.
“I believe all women are pretty without makeup, but with the right makeup can be pretty powerful”. From my Beauty Inspiration, Bobbi Brown
I love makeup and believe in its good and its seemingly magical powers which when used for the right reasons and in a healthy way, can be empowering and even healing. My career has been a blessing. I know the joy of using my talents and experience to make countless girls, women, and other wonderfully unique individuals feel their best and empowered, whatever that means to them. I am all for having fun with trends, self-expression, and experimentation, even I was a victim of Mac’s dark purplish grey ‘Stone’ lip liner with any light lipstick in the 90’s and conceded to take my daughter to have her hair dyed purple as a teen, but nothing could have prepared me for the current state of the beauty world and certain negative effects imposed on our young people, only 3 decades later.
Beauty and The Next Generation
I find myself filled with anger and dismay at the current state of the industry at how we are collectively failing our kids in the world of beauty. Many parents don’t know where to turn or what or who to believe. As a makeup artist, I make my living applying, teaching, and selling makeup and the pain I have witnessed in our young girls makes me want to retire my brushes so as not to play a part. Our children are having a tougher time navigating than we realize and many of them simply don’t like themselves. At all!
As the proud mother of a 22-year-old daughter, I get it! It’s exciting, even cute when our kids show an interest in skincare or make up. Our little ones are growing up… But where is the line in the sand? How do we as parents navigate such a massive arena where our young people are consuming their information on a platform many of us can’t keep up with or don’t truly even understand? “MOM… it’s ‘TIKTOK’ NOT ‘TickTock’!!
I told my daughter she was beautiful every day. And she really was (and is), inside and out. Having 2 older brothers to keep up with she was a ‘Tom-Boy’ most of her childhood (is that word cancelled yet?) That meant no pink, no dresses, no makeup. (OUCH!) She slouched from growing up taller than all the boys in her classes, she hated her beautiful dark eyes and hair because they weren’t blue and blonde like her mother and grandmothers. Her brothers were less than kind to her about her weight in moments of younger sibling rivalry. Thanks to her mother, she suffers from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which comes with all sorts of fun issues like acne, excess body hair and perspiration. And I, the makeup artist who taught and sold makeup was horrified to discover she was consuming her first makeup lessons off social media and perusing the aisles of Sephora with her girlfriends and WITHOUT ME?! It didn’t matter that she had her own personal teacher who told her she was beautiful every day. Her world made her feel otherwise. Her relationship to beauty had begun without my noticing.
Our kids have the world at their fingertips soaking it all in, the good and the bad. Their mental health is suffering collectively, teenage suicide is rampant in unspeakable numbers, and this continues as young impressionable minds are exposed to a myriad of marketing manipulations and the belief that those with the most followers must have it right. And sometimes they do. But how do we know? Who is protecting our kids and supporting us as parents?
I recently had a 13-year-old sit in my chair to have “a little bit of makeup” applied as a special treat for a very fancy party she had been invited to. Her mother thought it would make her feel good and at the same time, I could help her pick appropriate products and teach her the correct way to apply them. But things have shifted in a way I can no longer ignore. When I asked her where the party was being held and what she was going to wear this lovely 13-year-old child began detailing a makeup regimen that most grown women I know wouldn’t be interested in carrying out. She proceeded to instruct that she needed lots of concealer to ‘cover her (non-existent) bags’ and can I please do some contouring to thin out her (perfect sweet little) nose?
Excuse me, but as my daughter would say,
WT ACTUAL F?!?
Thirty years ago, when I went to do a 12-year-old for her Bat-Mitzvah portraits or a sweet 16 for her party, her biggest concern was literally that I do not do “too much” and her second was covering up the tiny pimple she may have had. The only thing these girls had to compare themselves to were magazines and movies but mostly each other, in real life and in real time. And the truth is from where I sat (or stand as it were) they seemed ok with it. Kids were allowed to be kids and they too went through some version of that onslaught of teenaged hormones and insecurities.
Everyone Has Insecurities. Everyone.
Throughout my career I have had many professional models sit in my makeup chair and as pretty and perfect as they may be, they still look like ‘the rest of us’. I promise you; you would walk by most professional models without a second glance. I often ask clients how many “magazine worthy, airbrushed, filtered, ‘perfectly perfect’ people they walk by in the streets that stop them dead in their tracks like the magazine covers seem to catch our eyes? I’ll bet if you think about it the answer is, not many.
We must lead by example and learn to stop judging ourselves based on media-defined ideals of airbrushed, contoured, filtered, trendy beauty and accept that we are all magnificently unique and all very human. With education and a focus on reality, our mothers, sisters, daughters, and girlfriends (he/him and they/them) will have more opportunity to thrive and embrace our true beauty in a way that makes us all feel much better about ourselves and our perceived “flaws”.
Managing Our Beauty Expectations
The short answer may simply be that you can’t always be there to manage but you can create or reinforce a non-judgmental, safe environment for communication. We don’t let our underage kids watch an R rated movie before we know they’re ready to; so maybe it’s time to broaden our awareness when it comes to what they are consuming online without our knowledge or guidance in the world of beauty as well. It can be as simple as changing your conversations.
First think about your own story:
Where and how did it begin?
Why do you do what you do and why does your child?
What are they focused on and where are they getting their information?
Teach them to question what they consume, even in the beauty world.
What are they watching that makes them believe that as a young teen they need a full face of makeup, or false lashes just to go to school?
This is happening.
Ask them to pick one thing they love about themselves and focus on that.
Work on ‘playing up” what they like before helping them hide or change what they don’t. People tend NOT to notice the bad as much when the good is that much better. Growing up drowning in beauty ads and social media madness can make it difficult for any of us to know what to say or where to turn.
Think about the life lessons surrounding YOUR #beautytruths, even if it’s a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of situation while we’re all busy trying to figure our own stuff out. Wisdom you want to impart on them despite, or maybe because of your own relationship to beauty. Lighten their load. You can never tell a child too often how beautiful they are both inside & out and in my experience, when you guide with an open dialogue and open heart and allow their budding relationship to beauty to be uniquely theirs, it tends to turn out pretty ok!
Experience and perspective have presented me their truths and the truth is, our relationships to beauty matter. Our childhood influences’ relationship to beauty matter. In order to choose wisely and remain true to ourselves we have to ask questions and understand what we are facing and like everything else in life, make wise choices and teach our kids to as well. How can we be happy with ourselves when we are constantly comparing ourselves and striving for the unattainable? Audrey Hepburn famously said, “Happy girls are prettiest”. In my opinion she was right. And isn’t that really all any of us truly want at the end of the day anyways?
Find what truly makes you happy and the pretty follows.
It’s that simple.
These are secrets for my daughter to take in and share with those she loves, beginning with herself. They are #BeautyTruths and dirty little secrets about beauty and its world that I hope are shared with your daughters, mothers, sisters, nieces, friends, and anyone at all who needs to be reminded that she (/her, he/him, or they/them) IS beautiful. On and Offline. With or without makeup. As is.
Find YOUR Beauty
Please leave a comment below! I would love to hear some of YOUR BeautyTruths and shared suggestions or solutions.
Please forward to anyone you know who might be experiencing these challenges as well.
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Beautifully written and beautiful insights. Thank you for bringing these thoughts into the world!!
Such a great article! And so beautifully written, you are quite the talent! And a GREAT make-up artist, too!
Thank you for making me think, again, about my own highly problematic relationship to standards I am still trying to exorcise as I approach my 60th birthday! And as my daughter begins the second year of her transition to the female identity that is her true self. I am literally tearing up as I write these words and think about the “beauty” path ahead of her. I hope I can be as thoughtful, and self-reflective, and supportive, and committed to her journey as you clearly are.
Thank you again. Best wishes to you, your family, colleagues, and community for health and safety.
Brilliant words by a brilliant, creative strong and very very wise woman!!
WOW I am so proud!
Pamela, your wonderful writing is insightful and inspiring. Well done! Thank you for making my day!