Almost two months ago, I came across a comment on a coworker’s article about Malia Obama’s hair change that begrudgingly hasn’t left my brain. It wasn’t even my article, but I find myself responding (in my head) about why the things we write actually have value.
I can acknowledge that what I write isn’t technically hard-hitting, investigative journalism, but it does have a purpose. And no, it’s not all about clicks or bulking up my bank account. In fact, when I first transitioned from working in fashion PR to writing about beauty, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. It seemed low grade, superficial—quite literally—and pointless (and I know fashion isn’t really anything different, it’s just what I was passionate about).
I would turn on the television to hear about the United States’ 188th mass shooting of 2018, a refugee crisis no one seems to care about and police brutality running rampant and think Is writing about beauty doing anything for our current state? Am I doing enough, if anything, to further growth and change?
But in the midst of my woes, a friend brought me back down to earth with a simple command: “Do the work where you are,” a mantra she originally heard on the black-female-run podcast Another Round. Meaning, everything doesn’t have to be grandiose—like spearheading a protest or working pro bono in immigrant law—but everything should count. Instead of fretting over how much you’re not doing, think about what you are. So, I thought about what I was doing—writing about how to master the middle part and Amandla Stenberg’s latest hairstyle, for example—and realized there is needed work I am doing.
Do the work where you are.
I can break it down into three categories: distraction, amplification and expression. Let’s discuss distraction first. As much as the aforementioned topics of gun violence, refugees and institutionalized racism need to be discussed in America right now (just a few of the many topics), they can be overwhelming and immobilizing all at once, 24/7. Sometimes you need to turn on Netflix and binge-watch Friends to clear your mind. Or you need to scroll through StyleCaster and find out how watermelon is good for your skin (seriously).
A break from abrasive news, constant contrasting opinions and everything else being flung in the media is necessary, and by writing beauty I can provide that for people—especially for marginalized groups, who are most directly impacted by the news and our political climate. I may not be leading a charge, but I am providing an outlet. And that’s reason number one I continue to write.
Number two is amplification. There are a lot of wrongs that need to be made right in the beauty industry, like an overwhelming preference for lighter skin, little or no minority representation and unrealistic ideals.
By highlighting changemakers, such as these photographers who are challenging what beauty looks like and groundbreaking blogger Jackie Aina, I’m amplifying the people who are changing what the industry looks like and does. When I write an article about the abysmal shade range in a brand’s foundation, the message of diverse makeup is pushed one step closer to the brand’s ears. Perceptions of beauty play a major role in society; it’s how people see and love themselves. And while the industry’s flaws won’t change overnight, calling them out will help push the needle in the right direction.
Perceptions of beauty play a major role in society; it’s how people see and love themselves.
Last, and what I feel is most important, is expression. Beauty was never a first love for me; I didn’t sneak into my mom’s makeup bag and play with her lipsticks, nor did I find myself through makeup. But some people do. My friend found her female identity through makeup, and it was ultimately makeup that let her show her true identity to the world (you can read more about her story here).
Even on a smaller, less personal scale, makeup is an outlet, or a form of personal expression for gobs of women (and men!). People adorn themselves in makeup because it makes them happy. Or it’s a way for them to get creative. Or they partake in a 10-step skin-care routine because it relieves stress. I might not be teaching classes on makeup application or providing everyone with free samples (although I wish I could), but articles about tips and tricks or budget-friendly products are important to people who indulge in beauty.
At the end of the day, I never swear off writing beauty; instead, I come back the following day and do it all over again. I’d be lying if I said it was the perfect profession for me and I’ve found my calling, but it’s also not a shallow, meaningless job either.