As a child I loved Halloween. It was a holiday were it was acceptable to embrace what I loved – dressing up (yes, I’m ignoring the whole folk lore and dark undertones of the holiday’s origin, but as a kid that’s what Halloween was about). One day of the year I could let me true self shine and proudly display my fondness for bright colours, glitter and makeup. Being an adolescent even changing your hair style was shamed as odd, so I hid my individuality and need to express myself as a way to protect my fragile self esteem from being taunted and hurt by others. I would put the colours on paper instead of myself (the power of art therapy). Halloween was a day I could dress up in my favourite colours and fabrics, wigs and polish, and the smile I wore was one of confidence and contentment. The freedom to express was a form of therapy, and still is one today.
Makeup made me happy as it was an outward artistic expression of creativity. Recently I had been watching a reality show on make-up artists (if there is a show based in any art I watch it) and was surprised how many of the artists had been bullied or felt inadequate, and had used makeup as a form of therapy to improve their self esteem and confidence. Ironically makeup in mainstream is considered to be more of a tool to hide from the world when you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, yet these artists were using the power of makeup to become comfortable with themselves. One saying my psychology professor said always sticks with me – “Makeup is healthy if it is used to enhance oneself, rather than to hide oneself. If a person can’t be seen in public without makeup then it is unhealthy as the person has become dependent on it and incomplete without it”. If we think of the use of makeup in society it truly does have a subtext of “making yourself better” or becoming a dependence or substitution for self esteem. We are taught to not leave the house without “putting on our face”, to “put our best face forward”, or you’ll be more attracted if you just “painted your face”. My personal favourite was “she’d be so pretty if she just wore makeup”. We are encouraged to hide behind a painted mask, conform with the norm, and suppress self expression of emotion. Makeup had the negative connotation to cover imperfections physically rather than to embrace them emotionally. No wonder the empowered female movement rejects makeup for what it represents (or use to represent)! And as we explore it more beyond the female gender roles, men whom love art and makeup face difficulties too, being bullied and taunted for their use of cosmetics. Makeup is stereotyped as a “female subject” but truly can be loved by all genders, ages, ethnicities, etc.
Makeup is meant to heighten your features, not hide your face. It is art on the face to celebrate our inherent beauty or be a walking canvas of our artistic talents. Think of it as a form of evoking our imagination and connecting to our inner child’s need to play.
Everyday is Halloween for kids because they are always dressing up and playing make believe. Children are encouraged to activate their imagination and artistically express their true selves (like going to school dressed as a princess, or superhero, or superhero princess). Young girls (or boys) look in awe at their parents at the magic of makeup, and are so eager to try it themselves because it is so bright and colourful. They will pretend to put on makeup and look in their play mirrors wide-eyed gleaming at themselves with just exuberant joy. It’s not the makeup that makes them beautiful, it’s their ability to evoke pure joy and see their beautiful. They could smear their face with purple lipstick (think about it, you’ve done it) and they think it is the most beautiful thing ever because the colour purple brings them joy. Rather than look at makeup with our own cynical eye as a necessity to be “presentable” to the world, look at it in the eyes and wonderment of a child. If you see yourself with unconditional love than you are beautiful, in the same amount, with and without the makeup. The makeup becomes an expression of what you love and how loved you feel. Either you can use makeup more to embrace and express your colourful individuality, or you can stop using an excess of makeup as mask to hide your true self. Both are movements in the positive direction towards unconditional love.
Happy Halloween everyone. Have fun, dress up, embrace your creativity and need to play imaginatively. Make time for make believe and believe in your make.