Monday, May 18, 2015

Bruce Jenner's Transformation & The American Conscience

I was surprised at how raw the footage was from "About Bruce," even for the Kardashians. The TMI-style reality show is usually lighthearted and pieced together as a scripted antics comedy. This was seeing Jenner and the family completely unguarded.

I was too young to see Jenner win at the Olympics, but knew him from the Wheaties boxes and his legacy as an all-American athlete. He resonated in the collective conscience as a symbol of masculinity and wholesomeness. To know he'd been living with a big secret most of his life evokes sympathy and compassion.

What Jenner needs to do is understand that while his announcement is courageous and freeing, some in the family will be jarred by their understanding of him as a male figure and question their own lifetime memories. To them, it is a grieving process of saying goodbye to what they knew; to him, he will finally be arriving honestly in their lives.

When he told Khloe that his biggest concern was for his two youngest biological daughters, the comment had a palpable sting. Khloe was right to feel hurt, as he was the only father figure she had growing up. Biology doesn't designate someone more important than another. Jenner commented in the Diane Sawyer interview that it's ironic Khloe is taking this the hardest, since she's known for being "the most open-minded one." I don't think Khloe's issue is with transgender; the issue she bears is with men and deceit.

My first client as an MUA was the most masculine male you could imagine: His build and facial features bore that same handsome athleticism as Jenner's earlier years. We talked a little before I attempted to transform him into a woman. The only thing he could say was that he'd been born in the wrong body. I couldn't understand personally what the inner turmoil must feel like, but could liken it a little to being Asian and raised by white parents. I related to everything American, but when I glanced in the mirror or someone treated me differently, I was reminded what was physically apparent and how I felt were different.

In his early 30s, the client's body was betraying him more: Body hair and everything else indicative of male anatomy only seemed to be intensifying. "I don't think I have much time left," he told me. His time to be true to himself was running out simply because of testosterone and his own loose grip on self-acceptance.

I would be lying if I said I was completely comfortable putting feminine artifice on a man. What we see and what is the truth can shake us even if we think we're completely open-minded. As I worked on a man on no hormones, I realized the huge gap between what a man and a woman look like. Hirsute doesn't begin to describe it. It took well over an hour to try to conceal the beard stubble, even though he'd shaved as closely as possible. Trying to feminize sharp, angular features took so much elbow grease that I was in a full sweat by the time I finished.

Though I cursed the amount of work it took, it was an amazing lesson in understanding makeup and understanding how much our gender identity affects us. He put on a dress and his wig and a sigh of peace came over him.

I think Jenner's courage is remarkable, and I hope his influence as a celebrity encourages more people with gender identity issues to come out of hiding. As a side note, I would love to see him in makeup. He will make a beautiful woman.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Contour & Highlighting: Let's Explain What it Means

Ok, this concept has had a spike in popularity as meteoric as the Kardashians', but it's been used in makeup artistry for many decades. I'm not on Instagram, so I don't know how badly this concept is being abused as an attempt to take 10 pounds off the face or try to essentially redesign it.

It has inevitably spurred a backlash, as with any idea that's taken too far. You can blame the Youtubers that are looking like they're about to enter battle or go to a sports event where the team colors or brown and white.

The problem is the oversimplification of the concept: Some argue that it's revisionist, deceptive and even harmful to the psyche. The problem started when it was explained as simply as "put a dark color here, and put a light color here." Recede and highlight. If your mindset to doing it is to try to change your face, this is a harmful concept. Here's another take on it: Contour and highlighting simply enhances the bone structure that's already there. All of makeup is based on the concept of enhancing and tricking the eye. Makeup itself is challenged by some as a lack of self-acceptance.

So take it or leave it: You can view it as deceptive, or you can view it as a way to pull out the bones that already exist in the face. Personally, I love the architecture of bone structure.

When I first decided to design a contour and highlight product, it was before the commercial explosion. It was before Youtubers were posting tribal warrior tutorials. I was frankly frustrated that there wasn't a product out there designed for contour and highlighting. By that I mean it isn't as simple as applying a foundation two or three shades darker to areas you want to recede and two or three shades lighter to areas you want to highlight. The artistry behind it is more complex than that, and it takes a product that addresses and simplifies the process.