Circa 2007. I first discovered the bare basics of makeup when I picked up my very first kajal wand handed down to me by my mum. I was in 9th or 10th grade then and wearing it was truly new experience.
This was the first time I truly felt in touch with my femininity without painful bloodshed in my vagina or movement-restricting clothing.
Kajal was my initiation into the glorious world of makeup. It took me a while to go from accidental goth to desirable by Tollywood standards. But it was all worth it, as it always remained my trusted friend who’d give me an instant pick-me-up.
For a long time, this was the only form of pretty I would put on my face.
Only years later I slowly started graduating into the whole makeup groove — started with a colour changing lip balm to full-fledged lipstick and suddenly, bam! I’d poured my savings into foundation, highlighter, eyeliner, et. al.
While my products and tools kept going through a constant upgrade, there was one constant that always remained with makeup — the shaming that came with it.
Somehow, the notion of makeup being considered as ‘fake’ or ‘false advertising’ never really made its way out.
Way too many people believed they have the right to say “I don’t like too much makeup” to your perfectly-contoured face.
The worst part was that it was pretty much impossible to find middle ground. A full face of flawless makeup meant you’re a “slut”, “you’re fake”, “you’re trapping men with this false facade”, and so on. While no makeup at all invited questions of what disease I contracted and what the degree of acuteness was.
It was mostly cis-gendered men (and even women, weirdly) who’d somehow be ‘curious’ and the first ones to judge your “dented & painted” face or lack thereof with deathbed written all over it.
I somehow still maintained a thick skin and continued to love the art of makeup, because at the end of the day it made me feel good and no one could take that away from me.
It was something I did to make myself feel good, gave me something to bond with my girlfriends over, and I was genuinely intrigued and entertained by makeup videos and memes online.
This is when I realised why makeup gets so much unwarranted hate.
The ‘problem’ with makeup is the agency it affords women over their bodies. There are other things that do too, but nothing as drastically altering and as tailor-made to your needs as makeup.
Yes, shoes look great but the prettier they make you feel the more literal pain you go through. Clothes, jewellery, accessories, yes. To some extent. But unlike makeup you don’t really have the choice to personalise it to your mood, the occasion, the people you’re meeting, and so on.
With makeup, one can mould one’s face into someone they feel good as or someone they aspire to be. And in literally one of the most artistic ways it gives you ownership over your body.
Far too many believe that makeup is born out of some sort of deep-seated insecurity. However, it’s quite the opposite. Because only when one is secure with oneself can one get to enhancing what they already love.
And as much as that annoying colleague would like to believe, most people don’t wear makeup for anyone else, to ‘entice men’, or to attract attention. If you still believe this notion, remember this the next time someone’s red lipstick offends your supposed innocence.
Whether you love bright purple lips or are happy with no makeup at all, you have every right to do exactly what makes YOU feel good.
And the next time someone says “I don’t like too much makeup”. Just stare right in their face and say “then don’t put makeup” and sashay away.