With the anniversary of my birthday just passed, I have been bombarded with concerns about age, beauty, skincare. I am baffled by the preoccupation or rather the inquisitiveness surrounding age. And I pondered on the ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ axiom for it seems more so “how-old-are you” questions which qualify the inquiry into one’s look. It’s not simply you-look-well-platitudes, rather the desire to ascertain your age seems to be the overarching unsolved mystery.
Uncannily enough, that brings me to the art of makeup, an age-old practice which garnered prominence more so in the last century, as a mark of appeal, an element of adornment and/or as a devisable craft to create illusions.
Yes, makeup used efficaciously can enhance your look and become your style, of sorts. Subtle applications can give the illusion of greater beauty and have become staples in women’s daily regimens. Makeup can be worn to style attitude of the wearer or may be used to exaggerate a look. No more is it seen as “war paint” by its detractors. Everybody indulges in a little makeup, a little ‘cosmeticising’.
From time immemorial, there were elements of makeup use discovered by anthropologists either for religious ritual, ceremonial adornment and in the more recent past for simply beautifying. Makeup shifted focus over the last few decades from being used for subliminal messaging to lure suitors to boldly identify trends—ghetto-fabulous, punk-rock, hip-hop, ultra-glam.
Be it exaggerated use or indirect highlights, it has always been used to attract attention. Further, there are cultural indicators which influence its messaging and style. The reality is that illusion crafting is part of its modus operandi. We create ways of portrayal with our makeup use, through quotidian practice. Makeup can assist in animating our personality projection and impact on our self-perception on others.
In many ways, it still remains a ritual done with intentional outcomes. It’s all about adding character to our live performance. I see it as part of the costuming of our life. The degree of use reveals the nature of the wearer, be you exhibitionistic, as at Carnival time or simply to accentuate features to embolden your look. All in all, makeup has become part of our everyday lives. I say this without reservation, for not only do women wear makeup and it is not only for the stage. In fact, the ‘life is a stage’ epithet holds true, for as we perform our daily functions we costume ourselves through fashion and cosmetic application to suit our roles, deliberately or not. The more appropriate we style ourselves is directly proportional to our desired results, so in fact, life imitates art, on occasion, for we borrow from the tenets of the stage to inform the quality of our day-to-day performance and hence influence the complexion of our reception.
Makeup application has assumed such variations in its application and its complexity so much so that it ranges from implicit adscititious features to extrinsic Carnivalesque in-your-face design that underscores adventurous individualism. It’s now become a way of life! It’s more than artistry it is a personal expression, be it inconspicuous or barefaced. As the Aretha Franklin classic lyrics epitomise, “the moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup”, it is part and parcel of who we are!
ALL MAKEUP DONE IN PHOTOS—RICHARD YOUNG