Racism, anti-Semitism, and Misogyny in the Makeup Community

The first high-end makeup product I ever purchased was the Kat von D tattoo liner. I had never heard a whisper of controversy about Kat von D at the time. Years later, I came to learn of von D’s alleged history of anti-Semitism and I was horrified that I’d ever given her a dime. In spite of these allegations, von D’s makeup brand flourished until she said she wasn’t planning on vaccinating her child. It was only then that she was bought out of her makeup company.

I’m certainly not saying that von D shouldn’t have been condemned for her anti-vaxx stance, nor am I saying that anti-Semitism is worse than anti-vaxxer propaganda; they’re both bad and there’s no reason to debate which is worse. My question is: why were people willing to give her a pass on her anti-Semitic views? Why wasn’t that information splattered across the tabloids like her anti-vaxxer stance was? Why did so few people stop purchasing her products after learning of her anti-Semitism?

Okay, maybe the lack of concrete evidence of her anti-Semitism is the reason people didn’t boycott her right away. I’d be willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, except we’re seeing the exact same dynamic play out with Jeffree Star. Jeffree has a well documented history of racism and misogyny, yet his brand is thriving. I see people everywhere going nuts for his palettes and lip glosses. Why are people so willing to give money to a man who joked about throwing battery acid on a black woman to lighten her skin tone? Why is that not enough for him to be cancelled?

Again, people could object to this and say that those comments happened years ago and everyone deserves a second chance. Do I think Jeffree deserves the benefit of the doubt? Not really, but let’s say he does, for argument’s sake. Now let’s talk about Laura Lee. Lee came under fire for her 2012 racist tweets. As a result, she lost thousands upon thousands of Youtube subscribers. She’s still on Youtube, but her channel hasn’t recovered.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel bad for Lee and I’m not defending her. Even in my “edgiest” teen years, I never dropped the n-word or made a joke out of racial stereotyping. I don’t think anyone is entitled to an online platform and I think Lee is seeing the just repercussions of her actions and her lack of accountability. That said, why did Lee take such a hit for her racist comments, while Star continues to rake in the cash from his loyal fanbase, despite his much longer history of racism?

Personally, I think a lot of it comes down to misogyny. Despite the fact that the makeup market is predominantly female, women are still held to a higher standard than men. We give men in the industry a pass for repulsive behavior while cancelling women who do the same thing (for the record, I think both men and women should be cancelled for racism, anti-semitism etc). Shane Dawson, a long time Youtuber but relatively new beauty guru, donned blackface and used the n-word in 2008, yet his collab with Jeffree Star sold out. Why was Laura Lee held to a higher standard than Shane Dawson for past racist comments? Why does Shane get to sweep his controversy under the rug (and cheekily name his collab “Controversy”) while Lee is left with a crumbling beauty channel?

If there’s one thing that Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson show, it’s that people are willing to look the other way and excuse reprehensible behavior for overpriced eye shadows and purple lip gloss. Hell, Kat von D demonstrated the same principle until her anti-vaxxer comments (probably because anti-vaxxing is much more sensationalized and talked about nowadays than boring old anti-Semitism and racism).

We shouldn’t be giving money and attention to anyone who expresses hateful bigotry, especially those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. There is no eyeshadow, no eyeliner, no lipstick that is worth condoning hateful words against marginalized groups. I don’t care how good the products are! Don’t give money or clout to bigots or those who tolerate them (looking at you, Kat von D’s co owners, who didn’t have a problem with all her bullshit until they started to lose money). It’s just not worth it. Part of standing in solidarity with marginalized groups is making sacrifices, and passing on an eyeshadow palette is a small price to pay for supporting groups that are systematically disempowered. People’s dignity will always be more important than makeup.

Independence, Body Ownership, and Makeup

My first boyfriend hated it when I wore makeup. Granted, this was 2011, when I wore such a horrific shade of foundation that my face glowed under the backlights at laser tag (yes, that actually happened), but my makeup made me feel good about myself. However, he didn’t like it, and he told me that if I cared about him, I wouldn’t wear it because I’d want him to be happy.

While that relationship ended in my teen years, I’ve seen startling shadows of similar attitudes from adults in my life. I have friends who don’t wear certain clothes because their boyfriends don’t like them. One of my friends has always wanted her hair short but won’t cut it because her boyfriend said that he’d dump her. I want to note that this isn’t the stereotypical “my boyfriend doesn’t want me to look sexy when he’s not around” machismo (that’s an issue for another day.) I’m talking specifically about the idea that we should make ourselves up to please our partners, not ourselves.

Of course, everyone has preferences. I hate my boyfriend’s mustache with a passion (no, you don’t look like Tom Selleck) and he doesn’t like thick eyeliner on me. Everyone can and should express their preferences in a healthy way, but the desires of your partner shouldn’t overshadow your desires for your own appearance. My boyfriend still rocks a mustache sometimes, and I still wear black eyeliner. We know each other’s preferences on the topic, and aside from some good-natured teasing, we don’t bring it up.

So where is the line between preference and control? Well, let’s start by marking out the extremes. One extreme is never expressing any preference at all, even when asked. The other extreme is not only expressing preferences, but demanding that those preferences be catered to. Neither of those options are good. So how do we navigate the middle ground?

There is rarely a reason to sit down and have a serious conversation with a partner about their aesthetic appearance (I’m talking style choices, not hygiene). My boyfriend and I tend to express our preferences through light joking or positive statements like “I prefer you with a beard.” However, once our opinion is expressed, we don’t bring it up again. Someone’s aesthetic choices are not negotiations. People get the final say over the appearance of their own bodies. You can hate your partner’s makeup or wardrobe or facial hair (I’m looking at you, Tom Selleck mustache), and you can even break up with them over it if it’s truly a dealbreaker, but you should not pressure or demand that someone change their appearance for your benefit. You certainly should not manipulate them into doing what you want with their bodies by threatening to end the relationship or to do something extreme to your own appearance.

I bring this up because its a phenomenon that has played out in my own relationships and in those of my friends. There’s an underlying societal narrative that women dress up and wear makeup for the benefit of the men in their lives. There’s another narrative that men are hopeless at all things fashion and need a woman to come in and decorate their houses and revamp their wardrobes. Neither of these things are true on a large scale, but they do lead to individuals making demands about their partner’s appearance.

I think the most important thing to remember is that your body is your own and you always get the final say in how you present yourself. There is never, NEVER a situation where your partner should tell you what you can wear or how you can present yourself. That’s control. You are not a doll to dress up according to their preferences. You’re a human being. You can, of course, choose to take your partner’s preferences into account, but that is your choice and it should be made without pressure. I’m so sick of hearing things like “I can’t wear ______ because my husband/wife/partner doesn’t like it!”

Of course, many of the statements of this nature are hyperbolic, so I want to return to the anecdote with which I began. I was 14 when my boyfriend told me I shouldn’t wear makeup because he didn’t like it. Regardless of how my poorly matched, drugstore foundation actually looked, I liked it but I stopped wearing it because I wanted to prove I cared about him. We were young teens and we were parroting this toxic paradigm already. When we ascribe our aesthetic choices (or any of our choices) to the parameters of our partners’ desires, we are communicating that we think it’s okay for our partners to dictate our lives. Even if that’s not literally what we mean, that’s what people hear, and it permeates through our society and impacts everyone, including kids who are just starting to figure out how to navigate relationships. We need to be mindful of our words, specifically concerning our choices about our bodily autonomy. Let’s own our choices about our bodies, and let’s be mindful to communicate that while we may take our partners’ desires into account, that we are the ones who decide how we present ourselves, and anything else is not a healthy dynamic.

Affordable Makeup for an Easy, Natural Look

When I started dabbling in makeup, I was too nervous to spend more than a few dollars on a product. I was always terrified I might buy something expensive and hate it (I didn’t yet know about Ulta’s bomb return policy, unfortunately.)

The good news is that you can get a full face of amazing makeup for drugstore prices– and when I say amazing, I mean AMAZING. The days of orange foundation and spider lashes are long gone. These products are in my every day, go-to collection and beat out some of my luxury makeup. I find all of them easy to work with as well, so they’re great for beginners!

I have dry skin and large pores, and the ELF hydrating face primer handles both those problems. It has a silicone texture that fills in my pores, but it also smooths out my dry patches so makeup doesn’t cling. The large bottle is $10 and I’ve been using mine for over a year and a half and haven’t yet needed to replace it. If your skin isn’t dry, ELF also has lots of other primers for all skin types!

If you’re looking for a full coverage foundation that glides effortlessly over dry patches and has a massive shade range, look no further. The BH Naturally Flawless Foundation is one of the most beautiful foundations I’ve ever put on my face. Don’t be put off by the “goopy” texture– it blends out quickly and easily and sinks into your skin. It’s full coverage but feels completely weightless. As a bonus, BH is constantly having sales, so you can often get it for a fraction of the (already low) price of $9.50!

If you’re looking for a more natural, light/medium coverage base, I prefer the Maybelline Dream Pure BB Cream. It lets my freckles shine through while evening out my skin tone and leaving a nice satin finish. The downside is that the shade range is pretty limited, but if they have a shade that works for you, it’s a solid BB cream for under $10!


https://www.elfcosmetics.com/hydrating-camo-concealer/84830.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8KaNnJXI6AIVkYFaBR0cxQ-sEAQYASABEgKcTPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Shade pictured: Light Peach

Once again, ELF is gracing this list. It might be my favorite affordable brand of all time. A hydrating, full coverage concealer with a wide shade range for only $6? Sign me the heck up. This concealer reminds me a lot of the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, except it’s a fraction of the price. I don’t set my concealer, and this one doesn’t crease or move around after it dries down, but it has a beautiful satin, skin-like finish. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I can’t talk about my favorite makeup products and not mention my two oldest and most well-loved complexion products. The Milani Rose Powder Blush in Tea Rose ($8.99) and the Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer ($15.99) are both beautifully pigmented. They give a light but buildable wash of color to the cheeks. Both are finely milled and blend out so easily. They’re absolutely worth the price. I got them at the same time about two years ago and use them almost every day. As you can see, I haven’t even hit pan yet on the blush!

Have I mentioned yet how much I love ELF? This Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette in Jewel Pop ($10) might be my favorite colorful drugstore palette. It comes with 10 matte shades, 9 of which are just so beautiful and amazingly pigmented (I’ll admit, the one all the way on the left is not the best). You can make a beautiful, unique eyeshadow look with just one palette. Do you see that blue? I still cannot believe that you can get that color at the drugstore.

If you like colorful, affordable palettes, I’d also recommend BH and Colourpop!

https://www.ulta.com/define-fill-brow-pencil?productId=pimprod2007574

As someone with cool-toned, brown brows, I always struggled with drugstore pencils. This Revolution PRO Define and Fill Brow Pencil in Ash Brown ($8) is the perfect match for my brows and is a dead-on dupe for the Anastasia Brow Wiz (for a third of the price!). It has a spoolie on one end and a micro-tip pencil on the other. It’s perfect for making thin hair-like strokes and filling in sparse spots.

This Maybelline Define-a-Lash Mascara ($9.25) is just so good. It lengthens your lashes without making them spidery or clumpy and adds a nice curl. It might not be the way to go if you want thick lashes, but it’s the best on the market for the natural look.

I have to be honest, these are basically the only two lip products I use. The Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid Lipstick In Nude Flush ($7.99) is the perfect “your lips but better” nude. When I’m looking for a little more of a natural look, I lightly dot it on my lips and rub it in. It makes a beautiful, natural, flushed lip that stays all day.

The ELF Lip Plumping Gloss in Mocha Twist ($6) is great if you love a glossy lip that lets your natural color shine through. It doesn’t get milky or settle into fine lines, nor is it too sticky and thick. A thin layer adds just that little tint of color and shine that makes your lips pop. It certainly tingles a bit, so steer clear if you don’t love plumping glosses.

I saved the best for last. The NYX Bright Idea Illuminating Stick in Chardonnay Shimmer ($7.99) is the best highlight I’ve ever tried. It layers flawlessly under foundation for a “lit from within” glow and on top of foundation for a bolder look. It has a gorgeous golden reflect without being glittery or chunky. It also doesn’t leave a dark cast on the skin and blends out seamlessly. If you only get one thing from this list, it should be this highlight. It’s that good.

These are my favorite affordable products for every day wear! What do you all think of these products? If you have any other recommendations, drop them in the comments below!

The Stigma of Makeup

“She’s too young for makeup.”

“You don’t need makeup, you’re beautiful.”

“I like a girl with natural beauty.”

I think every woman ever has heard some variation of these phrases. Hell, some of us have probably said them ourselves. The purpose of this blog isn’t to chastise people who share these common mentalities surrounding makeup. Instead, I want to reframe how we conceive of makeup and it’s purpose.

First off, I am going to primarily discuss makeup and its relationship to womanhood and femininity in this blog post. However, I by no means want to dismiss men and non-binary folks who also wear makeup. I see you!

Regarding women and makeup, there is a deeply entrenched societal narrative that women wear makeup for others. Like many other women, I have reacted to comments that imply as much by saying “I wear makeup for myself!” I do wear makeup for myself, but that’s not to say that I don’t care about what others think of me and my makeup. I think about it all the time. I’m an extremely self conscious person. Does that make me a bad feminist?

I think many of us do, to some degree, think of makeup as a means to cover our flaws. We wear concealer to hide our dark circles and foundation to cover acne scars. We talk about our lips being too thin, our faces being too round, or whatever else. If we think of makeup in these terms, it’s easy to fall into that mindset that makeup is inherently anti-feminist. After all, if I am expected to wear makeup to cover “flaws” that are, in reality, just parts of my natural face, I should push against that as a feminist. Men are not expected to wear makeup, so why should I?

I do want to digress for a moment and say that no one should be obligated to wear makeup, but in some fields, that is unfortunately not the case. I work in a fairly liberal field, but women who do not wear concealer on a daily basis are called out for not looking put together or seeming tired. The general consensus from older women in the field is that we need to wear makeup if we want to succeed, but it needs to be no-makeup makeup, lest we be viewed as shallow. This is a catch-22 that has been discussed time and again, so I won’t spend too much time on it.

Where does all this leave us? I think we need to reframe how we consider makeup, and part of that is reframing how we talk about makeup. This is so, so hard because it is deeply ingrained in us that interest in makeup is frivolous or superficial. Makeup has been recognized more and more as an art form in recent years, but that doesn’t stop people from labelling those of us with purple eyelids and red lips as “high-maintenance.” The whole “I’m not like other girls” meme didn’t come from nowhere. Let’s all remind ourselves that femininity is not a bad thing. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

That said, we should also remind ourselves of the impact of our language. There is a massive difference between saying “I wear concealer because I have to cover up my eye bags” and “I prefer the way I look with concealer on.” It’s a small shift in language, but the implications are important. The latter is an internal preference: I wear this because I like it. The former indicates external influence: I wear this because I have to cover up something unsightly. Let’s stop talking about makeup as something we need and start talking about it as something we enjoy and something that makes us feel good about ourselves. We cannot limit this to only the instances in which we hear an ignorant comment like “guys don’t like red lipstick.” We should try to do it all the time– with each other and with ourselves. Hopefully, over time, it will become a habit.

I want to close this piece by returning to the quote with which I opened: “She’s too young for makeup.” This sentiment encapsulates so much of what is wrong with our current notions of makeup. We don’t view makeup simply as pretty colors we put on our faces because we like the way they look. If we did, what would be so wrong about a child wanting to participate? We view makeup as a means to cover our flaws. By pushing younger people out of the makeup world, we are trying to protect them from all of the insecurities that we attach to putting on makeup. We say that kids are too young for makeup because we either don’t think they should have these insecurities or we view makeup as a means of making ourselves sexually attractive. I agree that kids shouldn’t be trying to be sexy, and I hope kids aren’t insecure. However, let’s all ask ourselves, why do we immediately associate makeup with these things? I think if we really think deeply about this and if we work to change our language around makeup, we can begin to undo the deeply entrenched social stigma of makeup.

Tati Westbrook, the coronavirus, and privilege

If you haven’t seen Tati Westbrook’s latest Youtube video, do yourself a favor and just… don’t. I cannot believe I sat through 19 minutes of a grown ass woman telling me that coronavirus is like a new birth because “corona” means crown and crowning is what babies do when they’re born. Yes, she actually said that. Please take my word for it and do not subject yourself to the nonsense. It’s painful.

Normally I don’t like to draw attention to pseudoscience— if I wrote a blogpost every time I saw a rich white lady say that essential oils would cure all my woes, I’d never be able to do anything else. However, Tati has an enormous following and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of her subscribers believe that she is some sort of authority on supplements and immunity because of her supplement line (hint: she’s not). She did, however, say that she would like to ramp up production of her immunity boosters in light of COVID-19, which is sketchy at best. If immunity boosters kept you safe from this nationwide pandemic, I think we’d have heard about it by now from an actual medical authority.

I’m not going to take the time to critique every aspect of Tati’s newest video. I am, however, going to critique the privilege behind the entire video. Tati is an upperclass white woman. Of course, this wouldn’t save her from the high mortality rate of COVID-19 and I should give her credit for social distancing in spite of the low chance that this pandemic will hurt her personally (the bar is low, nowadays.) However, odds are, she isn’t staring down economic ruin as a result of this pandemic. 

I’m sure you’re all already aware of the economic impact of COVID-19 in the USA. People are being laid off left and right, businesses are shutting down, and parents are suddenly responsible for homeschooling and extra childcare. That’s not to mention the terror that comes with actually contracting COVID-19; the mortality rate is intimidating, of course, but the potential financial impact on people with no health insurance will be devastating. The US healthcare system is abysmal under normal circumstances. During this pandemic, contracting COVID-19 and surviving could mean a lifetime of medical debt. THINGS ARE NOT OKAY.

On top of that, there is a documented history of women’s health concerns being downplayed by medical professionals. This is even more exaggerated for women of color. Tati is, of course, a woman, and thus she is not entirely immune, but given that she is quarantined in a wealthy area and she herself is a wealthy women, presumably with health insurance, those risks are probably lowered. 

I don’t expect Tati to acknowledge her immense amount of privilege, nor do I think she should need to every time she discusses the current pandemic. We are all feeling the effects in one way or another. However, Tati’s video is particularly tone-deaf. Maybe quarantining feels like a fresh start or a “new birth” for her because she will come out of this relatively unscathed unless she is particularly unlucky. For the vast majority of us, this is not the case. We could be evicted or fall into a debt so deep that we cannot get back out. Millions of people could die, many of them elderly or immunocompromised. 

I want to note that Tati’s discussion of her own anxiety about the pandemic is certainly valid. Her privilege does not disqualify her from feeling that anxiety and fear. If she had just left it to a basic, run-of-the-mill self-care video, I wouldn’t be writing this. In addition to that, if Tati feels personally comforted by thinking about purple or whatever, she is absolutely entitled to do that. However, it is painfully ignorant for someone to look down from her perch of privilege and lecture us on looking at a freaking pandemic in a more positive light. 

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