Hi, I'm a beauty writer, but I don't shave my body hair and never care to tweeze my eyebrows. Even in the worst of breakouts, I go about my day confidently without any foundation or concealer to hide my pimples. I don't have any interest in having someone show me how to do beauty. So I apply my lipstick and eyebrow gel in my own way (whether that be considered imperfect or not). I never strive for "aspirational." And I'm proud of that fact.
For certain feminine people, the focus and energy that goes into blending, applying, and plucking perfectly can be body positive and centering. But this way of existing doesn't work for everyone, including much of the queer community or lovers of alternative interpretations of beauty, like myself.
Personally, I appreciate the empowerment and fun my huge array of beauty products brings me. I obsess over new items and cool shades like any beauty lover might, but my stubborn personality guides me to use them in exactly the way that I want rather than what may be expected of me. I don't ever claim to get it completely "right" by industry or social standards. I'm confident in and comfortable with my interpretation of beauty, as it's a reflection of myself. And since I try to represent certain marginalized communities that are hellbent on queering the industry, making the alternative (and less conventionally attractive) more mainstream is of utmost importance. The way I choose to present and maintain my body is a reflection of my politics.
Of course, I didn't always feel this way. Growing up in a house and a culture that exerts very specific expectations on feminine people, I used to feel hugely insecure about how I looked. As I hit puberty, I quickly became distressed about the ways in which I wasn't being a proper "woman." I was encouraged to shave by friends and family alike when I first started growing body hair. I was also pressured to start waxing or tweezing my eyebrows, as folks told me I looked better and "more mature" with my stray hairs all cleared away. Body hair removal was never something that sounded appealing to me, though. Even after I had finally started shaving, and getting my eyebrows professionally waxed, I still knew that it was something I vehemently hated. Waxing my eyebrows was uncomfortable, and I didn't actually care much if I went with or without it. And shaving my legs felt like an awful chore, since I much preferred their fuzzy and untamed state. Still, I endured these routines because it was what was expected of me.
Although I avoided face makeup for years because my skin was much too sensitive, I was encouraged by friends to start wearing foundation nonetheless to hide my so-called flaws. When I finally tried it, I wasn't hugely impressed, especially after the eczema flare-up that resulted. I never returned to foundation (save for some mineral powders here and there), but still felt endlessly insecure walking around school with a face full of pimples as my friends reapplied their concealers throughout the day.
Being different from the other girls in my school felt unbelievably painful at times, and I looked forward to the day I would grow up and suddenly identify with all of these beauty rituals and feminine expectations. Plucking my brows and primping myself in the bathroom would feel natural then. Maybe I'd even acquire the desire and skills to look a certain conventional way. Heck, I'd probably master winged eyeliner.
Yet here I am at 21, and I feel the furthest that I ever have from understanding the need to groom and achieve perfection. Since coming out about my genderqueer identity, and getting to know myself and my gender as I've aged, I have an even deeper understanding of why fulfilling these expectations felt so painful to me.
Like gender, everyone has a different idea of what's beautiful and what feels good. Despite what cultural dogma dictates, there is no right or wrong way to do beauty or to be yourself. Just because I don't do beauty "your way" or "the right way" doesn't mean I don't have a right to it, or that I don't like beauty as a whole. Being surrounded by people existing outside of the gender binary, and who are seemingly uncaring of most societal expectations regarding their beauty routines, has helped me slowly relax into my natural state and my unique preferences. By letting go of gendered expectations surrounding cosmetics and how I "should" look, I've found a way to revel in my obsession with beauty products and my extensive lipstick collection, enjoying these things in the way that feels right to me.
Though there have been (and likely will continue to be) ups and down in my self-esteem, I now feel completely confident in the way that I present, in my tendency not to shave or maintain hair, and in my easily irritated skin. I've learned to take the imperfections in stride, knowing that everything has its flaws. I don't know how to apply foundation "correctly," and my makeup application is far from perfect, but I lovingly embrace these things. My beauty routine is a reflection of myself: Flawed, beautiful, and pretty damn queer.
There's a lot of beauty in the imperfect and in the DIY, and there's a lot of potential for personal growth once one accepts certain flaws about themselves. My goal as a voice in beauty, and a voice in this world at large, is to show others to be honest about their flaws, and be open about them as a form of politics and agency. I want others like me to know, especially people raised as girls, that you don't have to get it "right" to rock the hell out of bold brows or your favorite color of lipstick. Be proud of your selfies, love your acne-ridden skin, and embrace the shaky hand that delivers you your soaring wings of eyeliner. Beauty is what you make of it, regardless of trolls and the opinions of others. And if to you, beauty means blue lipstick and a unibrow, then rock on.
Images: Meg Zulch