I am going to make everything around me beautiful - that will be my life. - Elsie de Wolfe
When I found the above quote earlier this year, it immediately resonated with me, describing in just a few words my mission to help women feel confident and beautiful in who they are and how they present themselves to the world.
The results of the 2016 presidential election, though, still feel less than beautiful, for me and for so many others. As a small business owner, it's probably not wise to write about my political beliefs, but my candid nature prevents me from being anything less than honest about who I am and continue to be - a proud Hillary supporter. But even more than that, I support love, equality, and respect for all people. Once those initial election results started coming in, the world suddenly started to lose its shine. And when it became clear after each passing hour that a person who doesn't support the same things I hold dear would be elected to lead this country, I began to turn inward like I always do, to try and make sense of what happened. As I broke down and cried in the early morning hours after the election was officially called, makeup was the last thing on my mind.
I have this same reaction anytime something tragic happens - mass shootings, natural disasters, images of injured or dead refugee children, and yes, even the death of beloved celebrities; you name it and 2016 has thrown it at us. And it just doesn't seem right to post selfies and pictures of makeup in the immediate aftermath of these events, even though these photos help me promote myself and my business.
Naturally, I begin to question where beauty fits in to a world that is often so ugly. Not necessarily just beauty as an ideal or an aesthetic, but the industry of beauty, where people like me collectively spend billions of dollars on powders and potions for the face and body. Then I really begin to spiral by asking myself if my love of both the aesthetics and the industry of beauty means that I'm shallow and complicit in a field of work that some might say is inconsequential and somehow part of the overall problem.
I was struggling with these questions again right after the election, and then I read an excellent piece of commentary just a few days later, written by Jinkx Monsoon, season 5 winner of RuPaul's Drag Race and this quote, in particular, stood out, 'While they have shades of white, we have color and imagination. While they live in a world that is “normal,” we live in a world of glitter, and wigs, and makeup, and fabulous costumes, and larger than life personalities.' (http://hiskind.com/2016/11/jinkx-monsoon-queer-community-must-take-opportunity-unify/)
And she's right. I'm lucky to have creative, talented, larger-than-life people in my life. And I'm sure it comes as no surprise when I declare my undying love for glitter, wigs, makeup, and fabulous costumes. I've adored these things, especially makeup and the ritual of applying it, since I was about five or six years old. For whatever reason, they are what bring me joy and comfort, not only because of the confidence they give me, but more so because of the sparkle, color, and beauty they add to the world. And I especially love drag, where beauty is subversive, transformative, and taken to an entirely different level as an art form and expression of queer identity.
It's taken me a long time to write this post, attempting to find the right words to express how I've been feeling without sounding sanctimonious or flippant. And to always recognize my place of privilege in the world. The fact that I can sit here in comfort and write about whether or not beauty as an industry is important when there are women and men in the world being tortured, raped, and murdered simply because of their gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation or that our country elected a man who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to sexually assault women shows what a messed up world we live in. It's a sobering thought, to say the least.
When all is said and done, I still don't have a good answer about what may or may not be appropriate timing as far as beauty and social media posting is concerned. I'm sure there are some people who might say beauty is frivolous and has no place in serious conversation at all, but I respectfully disagree. I believe beauty in all its manifestations is an art form and art gives meaning to life, makes the world a less depressing place to live, and at its most worthy, can be used as a form of protest against ugly beliefs and behavior.
In the meantime, the election results have spurred me into action, especially because I know this is only the beginning of the fight that's in store for the rights of women and the LGBT community over the next four years. I've had a few opportunities lately to use beauty for the good I think it can do in the world, but there's so much more to be done. It's no longer acceptable to stand on the sidelines and expect everything to work out okay. That kind of head-in-the-sand thinking is one of the reasons we're in this mess now. If anything, I think I'm writing down these thoughts as a reminder to myself more than anything. All the glitter and makeup in the world doesn't matter if, in the end, there's no one left to wear it.
Yours in beauty,
Lady Bon Vivant