How Wearing Makeup Helped Me Find My Voice – TeenVogue.com

I was obsessed with music in high school. Music was my world: Wearing my headphones in my bedroom or on the bus, listening to women like Courtney Love, Shirley Manson, Fiona Apple, and Björk, I felt protected and understood. Their songs captured my feelings of not quite fitting in. But really, it was more than the music—it was their looks. The way they chose to present themselves. I recorded their videos on MTV and studied their aloof mannerisms, styling tricks (Docs with dresses, easy), and especially their hair and makeup. While the most popular girls in my school wore bronzer and a bit of lip gloss, the coolest women in the world were wearing space buns, metallic liner, and nail polish with names like Roach and Oil Slick (my favorite). Needless to say, I took all of my beauty cues from them. (And Urban Decay got the bulk of my allowance.) Beauty wasn’t about getting boys to like me. It was about not conforming and, yes, feeling cool. In my glitter liner, I was untouchable. My classmates thought I was bananas. Even vapid. (In 2017, I now realize I’d been “makeup shamed.”) But I’d like to think I was simply ahead of my time.

While the enthusiasm I had for blue lip gloss and spray-on glitter — and the people wearing it — was once seen as superficial or weird to some, today, it’s worthy of a festival. On a cold morning in Manhattan, hundreds of people lined up outside BeautyCon Festival NYC, wearing every makeup look in the book, from Pat McGrath-inspired eyes to super-fresh, Glossier-ad skin. (It was amazing.) As I pulled up in a taxi, I could see that people had camped out, concert-style, to be among the first to be let inside. Among the Coke cans and comforters, they did each other’s makeup on the sidewalks, balancing tiny makeup compacts on their knees. Some of the girls had freshly dyed unicorn hair for the event; others’ faded jobs told the whole story — they’d been DIY-ing since last summer. It was only about 11 a.m., but it was a total party on the pavement, all in the name of makeup. Looking at everyone waiting on line, I felt like I’d found my people.

What was more remarkable than the looks was the energy in the air: It was palpable. And it was contagious. A shaky mix of nerves and anticipation was vibrating off everyone waiting in line. It’s funny: I remembered having a pit in my stomach whenever I arrived at a concert—I didn’t want to miss a beat.

Neither did anyone at BeautyCon. Inside, you could hardly hear yourself think. Forget the BeautyCon DJ: Inside, there were 7,000 screaming attendees standing shoulder to shoulder—in what my friend called a “mascara mosh pit”— all there to meet the new rock stars, beauty YouTubers. (When I heard that my original beauty rock star, Courtney Love, attended Beautycon Festival L.A., it was music to my ears.) While these influencers can’t take the place of musicians, they’re hitting a similar nerve: Some of the best ones have the ability to tap into the cool, gorgeous magic that lies within. Watching hoards of fans rush the stage for Angel Merino @mac_daddy and Bethany Mota @bethanymota that day, it’s clear that they’re delivering something more than a decent makeup tutorial.

“Beauty is no longer about a concealer culture and covering up something that is wrong with you,” Moj Mahdara, the CEO of Beautycon Media, tells Teen Vogue. “It is an expression of power.”

The same lessons that music taught me are coming in loud and clear from the beauty world today: If you don’t feel like doing what everyone else is doing, that’s totally fine. Be brave enough to do your own thing, and that’s when you’ll start feeling powerful, and—from the looks of the crowd at BeautyCon—having fun.

Manicure by Elina Ogawa.

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