My Beauty Love Story
Khera Alexander | @beautyrevolver | www.beautyrevolver.ca
My beauty love story began at a young age. Growing up as the only black girl in my competitive dance class, I had an immediate understanding of the fact that I was different. Makeup suggestions from dance teachers for competitions never applied to me; it was up to my mom and me to do our research. We’d scour the department and drug stores for products in hopes of buying lipsticks, blushes, and eyeshadows that would be similar to my classmates. For foundation, we’d just try to find one that we could make work. Let’s be real: no one was checking for black girls in the foundation category in the ’90s.
Then, in my teens, the acne came - to this day, it’s never really left. I made it a personal mission of mine to learn as much as I could about skin and skincare, trying all kinds of creams, lotions, and potions. From wart cream to over-the-counter prescriptions, I tried everything I could to rid my skin of its acne and uneven texture. Nothing really worked, and if it did, it was only for a time: the acne and severe hyperpigmentation always came back. As a teen, I envied the girls with lighter skin tones who seemed to have perfect, smooth, even skin.
Internalizing much of what was out of my control that made me different, I felt bad about my complexion, my pimples, my “lack” of makeup options, and facial features. An ebony goddess, my mom tried and said everything she could to build me up, tell me how smart and beautiful I was, and that one day, I’d love everything about me that made me different. I remember one day on the drive home from school, I told her, “having skin like mine, I can’t wear the same makeup other girls wear.” She told me that was bullshit - thank God for her. She constantly shared her EBONY and ESSENCE magazines with me as an alternative to the other magazines I was subscribed to. I desperately needed the representation I was not getting elsewhere.
"Having Skin like mine, I can't wear the same makeup other girls wear"
Seeing the true range and possibility of black beauty, my interest grew even more - I spent all my babysitting and part-time job money on magazines, makeup, and skincare, trying out different looks, testing out different cleansers and moisturizers. Beauty became my place of refuge. I’d bookmark pages in the magazines, research the products I could afford, and buy as many products my low income could allow in one go every time I got paid. On my way home from the drug or department store, I’d almost burst at the seams thinking about all my new goodies: I couldn’t wait to get creative, play with products, research ingredients, and spend time with myself. The time I spent alone allowed me to learn so much about who I was, and who I wanted to become in the future.
I didn’t realize it then, but the years I spent being a magazine devotee and beauty lover would inform who I am today. My mom knew, but I think at the time, all I wanted was to find the magic mix of products to make my acne disappear and makeup pop like the rest of my schoolmates.
The course of my life thus far has taken me on several different paths, and I am grateful to my village for encouraging me to try all that I could, to learn myself as much as possible. The one thing that has remained constant, though, was my love for beauty.
I’ve gone in different directions, tested out different careers, and somehow, I always found myself being pulled back to beauty. It kept me centered, and it kept me whole. Making the time to do a facial, to create an everyday makeup look with products and colors that worked for me - those small victories made me feel good, even in my darkest, lowest times. Today, my understanding of beauty has grown and is much more holistic, with my beauty rituals now including meditations, a *natural* hair care routine (a story for another day), and sleep. The fact remains that all these years later, beauty is still my place of refuge.
It is an easy, cheap shot for someone to take by saying that beauty is frivolous or superficial. Those that love beauty knows better - beauty is wellness. Beauty is what can give us the courage to face challenges and overcome them, to carve time out of our busy schedules, and do something nice for ourselves. For me, beauty is also how I serve. Having been a makeup artist for 10 years now, I love doing my part to help a person feel empowered in their appearance. It’s meaningful to me because I remember how insecure and unsure of myself I was, and how much better I felt when I knew how to put my best face forward.
"Beauty is still my place of Refuge"
Beauty is that one friend who has always been in my life and never left. From my first red lipstick for dance at 4 years old to work as a makeup artist and beauty writer today, our relationship is solid. I can still hear my Dad’s voice ringing in my ears, saying that working in the beauty industry was not a legitimate career and that eventually, I’d figure it out. For a time, I actually believed him, but really, I had it figured out all along. By letting my childhood obsession inform my adult dreams, I was able to see that beauty and I have had a love story for the ages. She takes care of me, I take care of her, and I gotta say: we’re in this for the long-haul.