Maybe it’s redundant for me to say this since I’m a woman—and especially since I work in fashion—but I’ve always had a thing for makeup.
It started the way it usually does, with curious little girls. I had a very well-groomed mother, and she had a fairly well-stocked cosmetic collection, and sometimes, when she was putting on her makeup, she would let me watch.
The first time you see a woman “painting her face,” it is a wonder. With a smudge of liner, eyes get larger and more velvety. Lips plump up under a smear of red or pink, or even a clear gloss, which gives them a kissable moistness. Splotches disappear under a pat of concealer, to be replaced with just the right amount of rosy blush. Curled lashes, set in place by a few strokes of mascara, refresh a dimming complexion. Kempt eyebrows are the surprising finish: expertly shaped and filled in, they center all your facial features and can even make you look younger.
And let’s not forget the magic of highlighting and contouring. Back in the early 2000s, when Jennifer Lopez’s golden glow and perfect bone structure were inescapable, I asked a friend of mine to teach me how to use bronzer. She swirled her brush in the glimmering residue, dragged it over my cheekbones, on either side of my nose, under my jaw, and across my hairline. Suddenly, my face had angles! Then she said, “Here’s a little secret.” She took a smaller brush, dipped it in some pale metallic powder, and dabbed it into the corners of my eyes. When I looked in the mirror I was astonished. That extra, seemingly insignificant step made my peepers look open, luminous, and certainly more glamorous—just like Jenny from the Block’s.
I was in my early teens when the J.Lo craze took off, and it was around that time that I started to experiment with cosmetics. My barkada would file into my room before a party, and I would do their makeup, more or less in the exact same way. (I really had no idea what I was doing at the time; I just knew the most out of all of us!) When it was finally my turn, I’d do something different—brown eyeliner instead of black, bronzer instead of blush, my mom’s nude lipstick instead of the popular pink lip gloss we all owned. It wasn’t rocket science, but it made me feel special.
In college, when I did know what I was doing, playing around with makeup was my favorite pastime. A group of us patched together a sort of amateur fashion crew to idle away our spare time on the weekends. One friend, Miko, acted as photographer; another, RG, handled lighting and “technical support” (which sadly involved lugging around our stuff when we shot outdoors). My friend Nadine and I took care of hair, makeup, and wardrobe. We tried different models—other friends—but most of the time we stuck to one particular pal with beautiful cat eyes, unusual bone structure, and a tendency to always text back, “Game!”
We tried all these far out concepts, bringing them to life with DIY props and recycled locations around our residential area. For a shoot inspired by Sweeney Todd, we gave our model dark, sunken eyes, purplish-black lipstick, and bedraggled locks ala Helena Bonham Carter. For a shoot based on Elizabeth, we smeared her face with pale, matte foundation, exaggerated her cheekbones, and erased her eyebrows to mimic Cate Blanchett’s severe royal look.
It’s been a while, of course, and looking back at the photos, some of the things we came up with were costumey-bordering-on-crazy. But I had heaps of fun—we all did—and every picture has a great memory attached to it.
Nowadays, having come to the realization that I prefer fashion over beauty, I don’t really do anyone’s makeup aside from my own. But that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm whenever I see a bold beauty look—especially in these recent weeks leading up to Halloween.
No costume yet? Perhaps with the right makeup, an actual costume won’t be necessary. Below are 10 beauty looks for this weekend’s festivities—I might just try one of them myself.
(Photo from The Black Swan courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)