Liberation by Eyeshadow

Friday the 13th marked a major milestone for me. I got a make-up lesson from a professional make-up artist, Treasure nyembezi. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but for me it was a huge step towards “reclaiming my muchness”.

Treasure and I

When I was young I hero worshipped my uncle, Malome Tshepo. I drank raw eggs, because he drank raw eggs. I went fishing, hunting and camping because he did. Whatever I could do to emulate or impress him, I did. For some reason Malome Tshepo had a thing against make-up and nail polish. He would disdainfully describe make-up as “wearing a disguise” and complained how some women went up in a puff of multi-coloured dust when you so much as sat next to them.

I grew up feeling that “decorating” yourself was wrong, even though I did not know why, so I avoided it. I would apply nail polish when I was away at boarding school. I’d feel guilty the way other kids do when sneaking a cigarette, but I never ever touched make-up. Luckily for me I had fared well in the genetic lottery and I can easily pull off going around bare faced, and so I did. However make-up is more than just a disguise. It can be, but you can also use it as a self-expression tool much like putting a flower in your hair on the first day of Spring or a pretty, flowing scarf around your neck when you are feeling feminine. It can be used to evoke your sexiness, sassiness, sultriness, confidence, etc. It is a wonderful magic wand that for a long time I had exiled myself from.

My uncle died a couple of years ago. By then I had long realised that not all the issues I carried were mine and had started detangling myself from inherited issues. So I would get my face done, but only for very special occasions, and even then I struggled to touch it up in public. I can do it now, but I haven’t quite shaken off the sense of disobedience. On a practical level my biggest problem was my utter lack of skills. Since I did not experiment with cosmetics in my teens and twenties, anything more complicated that applying eye-liner, mascara and lipstick was beyond me.

Some weeks ago I sheepishly asked a friend of mine, Lulu, who is always prettily made-up to give me lessons. What she did instead, bless her soul, was arrange for me to get lessons from a professional make-up artist. There was a catch. The session would be at the cosmetics counter of the Edgars Store at Melrose Arch (read in public) and I would have to tweet about it. Talk about having to face your issues head on!

I took my bare, and terrified face to the lesson, asked really “dump” questions the entire time in front of other people, I wrote notes and dutifully tweeted about it. At each step I could feel myself shake off my uncle’s ghost.  I loved my look so much that afterwards I went to paint the town Red, Bronze and Cinnamon. Yes, it turns out Cinnamon is a colour. Who knew?

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