I love makeup. I love it. I love my three dollar NYX lipstick and I love my 16 dollar (overpriced, I know!!) MAC lip liner. I love shading and blending and creating. I just really love makeup. I wasn’t always a makeup fan though. Sure, I wore a teensy bit of eyeliner and sure, I’d throw on some pink blush if I was really feeling it, but I was anti-makeup. When asked why I’d repeat some bullshit I heard guys or the media say, things like, “What is she hiding?????!!” or “Makeup makes you fake!!!” or “Only natural is beautiful!!” I was completely brainwashed. I’d internalized some serious sexism and I truly thought that by saying these things I was being pro-woman. (At the time, I thought that this was a feminist stance, and a lot of feminists still do endorse these beliefs)
Fast forward to my freshman year of college. My makeup collection was growing and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. (Was I conforming to a sexist beauty standard?! Was I catering to the male gaze?! Oh nooooooo) At the same time, I had enrolled in my first Women’s Studies course, “Women, Culture, and Difference.” Man was I excited. I walked into the classroom ready to have all of my beliefs confirmed. And, for the most part, they were. I remember a lot from this course (was it because my teacher had the nicest English accent I’ve ever heard? Maybe). I remember learning about harsh beauty standards, diet culture, the male gaze, intersectionality, racism, classism, ableism etc. I remember learning about how the makeup and diet and fashion industries thrive off of our insecurities. But the thing that has stuck with me the longest was a reading about the devaluation of women’s artwork and the devaluation of the art forms which women choose and are forced into because of gendered norms. In the reading the author elaborates upon how, historically, women’s crafts, their embroidery, their knitting,their clothes making, have not been recognized as legitimate art forms. They’ve been dismissed and ignored. Have you ever seen embroidery? I’m amazed by it. I simply can’t do it. I wish I could knit too, maybe I’d finally be able to make a hat that fits my over-sized head. The point being, women have been creating for centuries, but their art work is devalued and invisible, and when chosen to be seen by society, is deemed a “craft” or a byproduct of domesticity (because yeah, every mom I’ve ever met has the free time in their schedule to knit and create cool shit. [that was sarcasm, most mom’s I’ve met barely have enough free time to breathe]). While watching a MAC employee apply makeup to a woman’s face in my local mall, I realized that makeup was an art form, just like embroidery or knitting, that was devalued because of the gender of the artists.
While taking WST 103 I fell into the black hole that is YouTube. Sure, I’d visited the site before to watch viral clips or music videos, but I never took the time to check out the content creators on the site. One night, while trying to find an instructional video on how to do winged eyeliner, I literally stumbled into the YouTube beauty community. I was absolutely floored. How cool was this?! Women teaching other women how to apply makeup. And it wasn’t for men, it was for themselves. And man was it fucking sick. Contouring and metallic liners and pastel lips. There was blending and shading and a shit ton of different types of products and brushes. Women making themselves cartoon characters, and aliens, and movie characters with just drugstore makeup and women teaching other women for fun. The YouTube beauty community doesn’t exist because men want it too, it exists because women want it to. And it exists because makeup is an artform which women have reclaimed.
There is no way you can watch one of these makeup tutorial videos and say, “These people aren’t talented.” Because they are. There’s a technicality, an art form, behind makeup application. And sure, makeup started as a product marketed to women, a product which created then exploited female’s insecurities for profit, and it still is, but this is changing. Just like Kathleen Hanna’s reclamation of the word “slut” in the 1990s, the young women of today are reclaiming makeup. And they’re not doing it slowly, they’re doing it en masse. Makeup is a traditionally female product, and because of this, makeup application is a traditionally female art form, which is why it’s devalued and written-off. Which is why makeup artists, people who possess so much freaking talent, are frowned upon and almost completely ignored by artistic institutions and industries.
But, women reclaiming and redefining an industry and an art form which was created to exploit and destroy them, is the first step in showing everyone that women aren’t here to look good for men. Women hold the power. Women don’t wear neon eyeliners and apply extreme contours for men. Women don’t buy and apply fifty dollar foundations because “Oh man a guy is totally gonna notice this Makeup Forever HD Liquid foundation and appreciate it!!!!!!!!!!” I’ve never seen a man stop and compliment a woman on her fucking sick pastel lip color (but I have seen women laughed at for it). Women are becoming artists. Women are nailing it on all fronts of self expression. Women are creators, who use themselves as their canvases, who use the same products which were created to exploit them to empower them.
I understand that a lot of women still wear makeup because they think it’s what’s expected of them. I totally get that some women wear makeup because their self-confidence is so torn up that they feel they have to in order to be “pretty.” I totally know that the makeup industry still preys on gender and race based insecurities. The makeup industry hasn’t completely transformed, but this, this first step, this reclamation of makeup and the establishment of makeup as an art form, this gives me hope. Makeup is fucking awesome and fuck anyone who tells you it’s not a legitimate art form. Let me see anyone who says that try to tell me a perfect highlight/contour is not a piece of art. Let me see them apologize to all of the women and the young girls who are finding themselves through the art form that is makeup. Because girls are beautiful, with or without makeup. Girls are powerful, with or without a blush brush in their hand. Girls are creators. Girls are everything, and fuck anyone who says otherwise.
Ingrid Nilsen’s coming out video is a big deal for female YouTubers, especially for YouTubers within the beauty community. Gay men’s “Coming Out” videos are popular, and large male YouTube personalities often make them (think troye sivann, joey graceffa, connor franta) but super famous female YouTubers, especially females in the beauty community? I’ve never really seen one on this scale. Being in the beauty community on YouTube, females have expectations thrust upon them. They’re expected to be super feminine and super heterosexual because people honestly believe the two are related. They’re so obviously not and I’m so proud of Ingrid for coming out when she did and how she did. It takes a lot to do so, especially on a public platform in a community that unsuspectingly imposes gender and sexuality codes upon you. So YOU GO INGRID!!! You just inspired so many young people.
Ingrid coming out is so important to me because for the longest time, I didn’t think I could be gay because I was girly and liked makeup and fashion. I always told people I was ‘too busy to date’ whenever I was asked if I had a boyfriend. But seeing this amazing woman, who I’ve considered a role model for the past two and a half years, finally come out and be the person she was meant to be hit me so hard. I started outright sobbing when I watched her video, because it described everything I had been feeling and shoving aside and it helped me so much to come to terms with being a femme lesbian. We need people like Ingrid in the world, and especially on Youtube in the beauty community. Young queer girls need to know that you can be feminine and girly and still be hella gay. I am so happy to have witnessed this fantastic moment in lgbt history and so very thankful to Ingrid for changing my life.