by Rose Miyonga
It’s been over three years since I stopped wearing make-up regularly. I still wear it sometimes for the odd photo shoot, or, if the mood strikes me, I might brush a little glitter over my eyelids or slick on a bit of lipstick, but day-to-day, I don’t wear make-up.
Don’t get me wrong, I think make-up is awesome.
When it’s done by someone skilled, it is a true art. However, I apparently lack the motor skills needed to apply it properly, and my daily attempts at it often drove me to frustration and despair, and sometimes inflicted physical pain – I can’t be the only one who has poked their still-sleepy eye with a mascara brush in the morning.
I have been asked so many times why I have chosen to opt out as if not wearing make-up is something so unnatural. The answer is pretty simple: for the moment, I just prefer being bare-faced.
As a woman, and especially a woman of colour, my body is too often the battleground on which issues of gender and race are fought, and the use of makeup is a prime example. It is as though I am denied the freedom to let my personal choice be just that: personal. It is so often assumed that my decision not to wear make-up is a ‘stand’ that I am taking for my intersectional feminist agenda, but it is not.
Sure, I do reject the idea of policing of women’s bodies and telling them how they should or shouldn’t look. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where I was taught to question preconceived ideas of what it means to be a beautiful woman, and learned to look at my face in the mirror with love and acceptance. This, for me, right now, doesn’t involve make-up every day.
Recently, both Alicia Keys and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie made bold statements about make-up. I admire both women immensely, and I don’t think their ideas are contradictory, although Keys has chosen not to wear make-up and Adichie is the new face of a make-up brand. Both are rejecting the prescription of beauty standards and redefining beauty from themselves.
My not wearing make-up is not because I think it is frivolous or unimportant. Far from it! Make-up can be magical, empowering and transformative. I take pride in my appearance, and I don’t think it’s somehow un-feminist to do so. As Adichie puts it, “I think it’s time to really stop that ridiculous idea that somehow if you’re a serious woman you can’t and should not care about how you look.”
I choose not to wear make-up (or sometimes to do so) because I hope that I am part of the first generation of women of colour whose personal choices do not have to be held up to a political ideal, but can instead follow whims, moods and fancies without judgement or moralisation.