“Who does your brows?”
“I do them myself.”
“They look great. I need to find someone to do mine. Can you even see them?”
“Yes, ma’am. They look fine.”
This conversation I had several weeks ago with a nearly 60 year old woman during after school dismissal totally caught me off guard. I was used to being complimented in such a manner, but her declaration that she was unsatisfied with her facial features struck me. She was a beautifully aged woman, seemingly full of experience and wisdom. However, in that moment, I realized that having her brows perfectly arched would have completely satisfied her.
This conversation came back to mind as I watched episode 4 of ABC’s new dramatic series, How to Get Away With Murder. In the last 5 minutes of the episode, Viola Davis’s character, Annalise Keating, strips herself of everything that stereotypically makes her beautiful.
Her wig. Revealed. Short and natural. Kinky. Hair. Hers. Fingered it with care and concern. A sense of insecurity laced with forced confidence.
Then the makeup went away. Forcefully, she wiped and removed. Penciled in brows. Eyes shadowed and lined to cover the effects of her stressful life. Full lips painted to perfection. All. Removed. All. Revealed.
It could’ve been considered a historical event in African American television, or television period. Well that’s how I felt. It was such a dramatic and powerful statement to the masses. A statement that many may not have understood. Many may have questioned, “Why in the world would she do that?”
It’s the same statement Gugu Mbatha-Raw made as Noni Jean, a rising R&B artist, in the newly released film Beyond the Lights when she made her own transformation in the film.
As she took a pair of scissors to the thread that held her long, career-defining purple hair in place, I could feel the weight of all the emotions she had been holding hostage inside fall into the bathroom sink along with each track of hair. Prior to making such a move, she’d effortlessly flicked off her false nails, tired of them getting in her way.
Without the makeup. They. Are. Uniquely. Beautiful.
It takes a lot for a woman, especially a Black woman to allow the mask to be removed, figuratively and literally. When she walks through the door from a hard day’s labor, she flips off her heels, wiggles out of her skirt or slacks, effortlessly sheds her bra and frees her tresses from the binding ponytail holder or wig cap. As she prepares for bed, the makeup remover tells her truth. It wipes her eyes of unshed tears, reveals the lines of worry on her face, and give her lips freedom to speak life into what the world refuses to see.
Both of these women tell the world that I am tired of carrying these weights on my shoulders and hiding my true expression behind the powder, bronzer and blush that has become my false reality. See me for who I am. Strong yet Fragile. Apathetic yet Emotional. Fearless yet Afraid.
Removing our makeup, hair, nails or any other artificial accessory gives us an opportunity to show love to our true selves. Outsiders expect us to always be put together, flawless, unaffected by the woes of the world, especially if we are in the limelight. But to show them that we are not is taboo. The silence is being broken as women are beginning to make public statements – whether on the big screen or in real life – about who we really are and who we are striving to be. Public opinion not withstanding!
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