After her time in the military and seven year prison sentence for leaking classified documents, Chelsea Manning is now free to explore her identity as a transgender woman — and all the fashion and beauty choices that come with the journey. In a new essay for Yahoo Beauty, Manning talks about how lipstick in particular has helped her grow into the woman she is, and how the product reflects the life that she wants to live.
After reading how makeup has affected her personal journey, you might just switch out that neutral shade for something a bit more bold.
In her Yahoo Beauty essay, Manning writes about how her time in the military played into her self-discovery and how she uses makeup as a tool to self-expression now. According to Manning, she has been experimenting with makeup since her release from prison to help find her sense of self. And she's found a way to express who she is and what she stands for through lipstick.
"Now that I’m out and free, I love experimenting with makeup," she writes. "I use it to project different moods and emphasize what I’m trying to say in a particular moment. Most days I put on a liquid foundation, some powder for highlights, eyeliner, a mascara base, and mascara, with either a lipstick or gloss for the day."
"I’m wearing a lot of bold lipsticks, because I’m trying to make bold statements," she continues. "I’m here and I’m free and I can do whatever I want."
Navigating the beauty world can be intimidating for anyone, but even more so for transgender women. Trans women face increased levels of violence and discrimination for expressing their gender, and often fall into a socio-economic background that puts makeup as a luxury. Add into the mix that all the eyes have and continue to be on Manning, and there's even more pressure on presentation.
But Manning says she has chosen to make an unapologetic statement through makeup — just like she does in her life. The activist been seen protesting at the White House after President Trump's banned transgender people from serving openly in the military. And she uses her makeup choices to be as bold.
"For the Instagram picture, I put on my dark lipstick, and I choose my lipstick colors carefully," she writes. "I’m not just saying, 'I like this edgy color.' This is an expression of my humanity. And beauty, to me, is self-expression."
Manning also got real about struggling to perfect her beauty routine, which is relatable for anyone who has toiled over tutorials and products to learn the latest trends.
"I’m...fine-tuning my style, perfecting my makeup skills," she says. "I suck at eyeshadow, and that’s why I haven’t worn it, but I’m watching YouTube videos and practicing."
Manning ends the intimate essay by asserting how comfortable she is with the woman she has grown to be post-incarceration. It's a moving end to the deeply personal essay about her journey.
"Everything I’ve gone through has just strengthened my sense of self and my sense of who I am. I can’t pretend to be anyone else," Manning writes. "I don’t have a public persona. The person you see is the person I am."
Just with a different lipstick every day every day.