Growing up, I was into typical girly things, like Barbies, and even dress up to a certain extent. I remember seeing my mom’s Fashion Fair powder and puff, Sunflowers perfume, and ruby red lipstick hidden behind the three-way mirror in our bathroom. She didn’t need much makeup; only a touch of powder was used, finished off with a full, red lip.

When I say “just a touch,” it’s because she didn’t need much. My mother’s skin was flawless. Like she’s literally one of the few women who could legitimately say, “I woke up like this.” Those red lips would leave a big imprint on my left cheek, every day before school. I’d rub it off of course, leaving a highlighted, red glow on my cheekbone. That’s as close to wearing makeup I would get until about age 18.

My face was acne prone and often greasy, and I wondered how my genes could be so cruel to me. There are many things to admire about my mother, from her strength to her intelligence, but her ease at beauty and confidence is something that I coveted during adolescence.

Skin Struggles

Since age eleven, I’ve struggled with my skin. Acne and hyper pigmentation have been the bane of my existence, still to this day. It royally sucks. If there’s anyone who should know everything there is to know about makeup, I’d be a good candidate.

Makeup can enhance, but it’s also pretty damn nifty at the art of concealment. And yet, somehow, I floated through my teens totally clueless. High school consisted of me wearing jeans, probably a plaid lumberjack shirt, and keeping my hair up. There were girls who wore make up, but for the most part, the girls at school just didn’t do that. The Hollywood showcase of what high school is like, and what the girls wear, just wasn’t my reality.

Failed Attempts

For prom, after taking great care to get my hair done, and paying in installments to have a custom gown, shoes and jewelry, I went into the bathroom to do my make up myself. Which in hindsight was pretty insane since I had no idea what to actually do.

I didn’t even own makeup at the time; I just raided my mom’s medicine cabinet. At any rate, I did a shit job. I wish I had a picture just to see how bad. It didn’t look bad to me, obviously, but then I saw my aunt Janice. She stopped me dead in my tracks and said, “Oh no. No, no, no.” Shocked and appalled at how I was going to step out of my house, she sat me down, opened her own purse in conjunction with my mother’s sparse makeup offerings, and went to town on me.

The Transformation

By the time she was finished, I swear to god I looked like some whole other person. A supermodel. I couldn’t believe who I was looking at in the mirror. For the first time ever, my skin had the appearance of being flawless. I couldn’t stop smiling at me, for me. And I wasn’t alone – at prom, I felt like a star. It felt as if people were seeing the me I always wanted to be – gorgeous and glamourous.

It was truly my Cinderella moment. Some didn’t recognize me and those who did, couldn’t believe it was me. Especially my counselor, Mrs. White-Walker. She just kept staring at me, mouth agape. This rolled over into graduation. It should have been awkward, but instead, it was pretty sweet. Make up had helped me evolve, and to become an ugly duckling, no more.

After all that was said and done…the only thing I learned about makeup at that point was that I didn’t know how to do it. This would span nearly two decades to today. I became a competent person at putting on makeup, knowing the basics. Using foundation and concealer, a little eye shadow, using lip liner. It took ten years, but I learned about enhancing my eyebrows and properly applying mascara. I got to a point where I felt I was proficient at putting on makeup to step out.

Or so I had thought.

I have a younger sister who…I guess through YouTube and Instagram, learned how to put on professional grade makeup. Unlike me she sought it out, looked at the latest trends and applications, and even has a subscription to a monthly beauty box. But me, I literally learned enough to get by, and even then, I wasn’t doing it the right way.

New Lessons

During quarantine, I decided to buy a higher end makeup (after buying from Walmart the last two years). I bought Il Makiage, and learned that foundation goes on first, wait five minutes, then add concealer. Though very counter intuitive to me, I learned that almost everything I thought I knew, was crap.

A huge hurdle with makeup is learning how to not leave smudges literally everywhere or on everyone. Having to use brown makeup makes it even more prominent when it smudges on something or worse, someone. I look good in white, and anything with a collar, for a long while, was out of the equation. Anything I wore would end up smudged in brown foundation.

I was on the game show Hollywood Game Night, and hugged Akbar Gbaja-Biamila after winning a round. He was wearing this crisp, brand spanking new white tee. And when I pulled back, I was mortified to see a huge brown smudge on the shoulder. It was my mistake for forgetting two of the BIGGEST things I learned many moons ago when it comes to make up:

Always put your hand under your chin when hugging someone, and Mehron Makeup Barrier Spray.

Mehron Makeup Barrier Spray is expensive, and blocks the makeup from rubbing off. It’s one of the few things that has ever worked for me. A friend at school told me about it – clowns use it to stop their makeup from getting everywhere. And I thought, if this can halt the cake makeup clowns wear, surely it can stop brown powder. Reflecting on my past history, before the age of YouTube and social media in general, before the clarity of cell phone pics over Polaroids and Kodak moments, makeup just didn’t have as integral of a role. When I moved to LA, I wanted to be better. Now that I’m older (and to be honest, heavier) it matters a bit more. It’s vanity, but I think that’s okay. When makeup is applied correctly, smoothing out the canvas of my face, the biggest thing that it’s helped me learn after all these years is that it makes me feel good.

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About Jill Robi

A Chicago native with a BA in fiction writing, Jill is a movie aficionado, self-proclaimed geek, avid comic-con attendee, panelist and moderator, and cosplayer. She's written essays and articles across various platforms, including Glamour, Huffington Post, Bustle, Stylecaster, and more. Though she favors pop-fic and chick lit, Jill also likes to write poetry, noir, and sci-fi/fantasy. She particularly loves exploring character studies. She writes first and foremost for her own entertainment. She hopes that by sharing her work with the world, she can also achieve the entertainment and enjoyment of others as well.

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