We are three days into 2017, and this post is long over due! Now some of you might have read the title of this post, and thought to yourself “Now what in the hell does the movie Hidden Figures have to do with makeup or basketball? My answer is pretty simple, one word even. The word is exposure. Keep reading to smell what I’m cooking!
I went to high school in the suburbs of Chicago, and when it was confirmed that I was going to that suburban high school, I was not excited. I had gone to public schools in Chicago for most of my life, and I was afraid to attend school in a totally new environment. Luckily I had a mother who was very active in my life and made sure that I went to good public schools with magnet programs and teachers that cared about their students. I also had classmates that were mostly black, and came from middle class backgrounds like me. Now I was considered a little different because I was a dancer and occasionally traveled to perform in different states and in one instance outside of the country, but other than that and my natural hair (got my first “perm” in the eighth grade) everything was gravy. I wasn’t the smartest kid in my class, but I was one of the smartest, and we had several teachers, who also happened to be black, who pushed our little brains to their capacity. Long story short, I was privileged and I ain’t even know it! I had educated teachers who looked like me and cared about me, and at this point we all know that is not common in many urban cities especially as far as children of color are concerned.
Upon entering high school in the burbs, I had to take a placement exam so that I could be “placed” in the proper classes. I tested well, and it was recommended based on my results that I take a few honor classes, English and Science were two. While my test scores said one thing, my white female counselor sang a different tune. She argued that because I came from a city school that perhaps the level of education that I had was not up to par, and that I should take all basic level courses. Chile, she clearly did not know my mother! My mom came up to the school, demanded that I be placed in the classes I tested to be in, and that was that. I ended up taking honors English, and I cannot remember what happened with Science. Even though I knew that there was an attempt to deny me a certain level of education at this new suburban school, I still did not grasp all of the implications of what had occurred. Some time in grade school I had gotten the idea that because I was a girl, could dance my ass off, act, write poetry, and sing if forced, that math and science did not matter as much. I heard someone say that if you were good in reading and english that you often were not good at math and science, so thats what I chose to believe. Oh and I also learned that girls were mostly good at those first two subjects, and boys were good with the later. Anyways, I took highschool somewhat seriously, but I was lazy. Real lazy. I remember taking Chemistry my sophomore year and daydreamed pretty much every class. I never did my homework on time, I never really studied for pop quizzes, and I did just enough to get by. The one saving grace was that somehow I always managed to get A’s or B’s on the mid terms and finals. I remember my white male teacher always looking at me with a ton of dissappointment in his eyes, and I knew that it was because he wanted me to put forth more effort. He must have seen potential in me(which went way over my head), but he never articulated his frustrations in a way that I could understand. I was a teenager kind of going through the motions to get through high school, and graduate.
I was an artist! Everybody who knew me knew that while I kept to myself, and did not have a ton of friends, I could out dance/perform anybody, and I was cool with that. While my mom did not allow me to slack too much, she made it very clear to me that the choices and decisions that I was making as far as my academics were concerned were mine to make and that I would have to live with the consequences of those choices and decisions. She also made it very clear that I would be attending somebodies college immediately following high school graduation, so I knew I had to get it together, or I would have hell to pay! My mother did not play!
Fast forward to 2017 I am a full blown freelance make up artist living in the nations capitol, which also happens to be one of the most expensive cities to live in. Technology via social media has changed the whole entire landscape of what I do and many other creatives, and people are flocking to the creative fields and becoming make up artists faster than you can say highlight and contour! The most celebrated make up artists or “make up marketers” as I like to call them have millions of followers, and tons of brands clamoring to get their products in these social media gurus hands. Many women now rely on Youtube and Instagram tutorials to teach them how to be “self taught muas”, drugstore brands are now creating cosmetics that can compete with and in some cases surpass high end department store brands for a fraction of the cost making makeup way more accessible, and reality stars and celebrities have given make up artists who in the past lived behind the scenes and in the shadows the biggest spotlight the world as we know it has ever seen! With so many people and especially black women seeing make up artistry as this new golden hustle, we have started to flock to make up like flies flock to honey.
To be a make up artist in today’s world, you just need some money to purchase a “kit”, a strong selfie game, a decent camera, and access to social media. As a black women who may come from humble beginnings or be an “artist” in high school that could care less about math and science classes, this make up artistry game is our basketball otherwise known as our way out. The “golden hustle” is not why I started doing make up. It was just a natural progression from the other art forms I practiced, and while I think the physical part of make up artistry is cool, it is also hard and ridiculously competitive. The retail jobs that you used to be able to depend on to make a living in the past are drying up due to Department stores not being able to compete with the internet. With so many people seeing make up artistry as this new golden hustle there is more supply than there is demand. Enter the importance of the movie Hidden Figures.
About eight years ago I started teaching myself about ingredients in skincare and makeup. I became obsessed! I would read magazines like Allure and New Beauty because they would always have amazing articles about these new technological advances in skincare and ingredients, and would explain in lay mans terms why these “breakthrough’s” were a good thing. I would visit the Library of Congress and read medical journals about certain skin issues and case studies just because. Now I hoard Beauty Inc magazines which only come out quarterly because I have to know about the new beauty innovations, gadgets, and formula’s, as well as the changes to the retail landscape because of social media, millennials, the economy, etc…While I still rely on make up application to make my living, my interests are shifting and have been shifting for a long time. I have become extremely interested in what I know now as cosmetic chemistry, aesthetics, coding ( I feel like I could have created at least ten apps by now), and mechanical/ electrical engineering (I once took steps to create a device that would make make up artists jobs much easier but didn’t have the capital to follow through). I am also interested in business as it pertains to the beauty industry at large, and would love to consult. What has frustrated me for at least a year are the “what if’s”.
What if in grade school I was told that I could be great at reading, english, and math and science? What if it were made clear to me that even though I was an artist, there was still room for me to flourish in other areas of study? What if my high school chemistry teacher had taken the time out to express to me how great I was at chemistry even though I didn’t know it at the time? What if I were in high school or better yet grade school when the movie Hidden Figures came out? I didn’t know that there was such a thing as cosmetic chemistry until I was in my late twenties. It did not occur to me that I could go to school to become an engineer and make all the cool beauty gadgets my heart desired until I was thirty. Sadly, I know that many of my fellow black sisters do not equate science, technology, engineering, or math to beauty, and while Hidden Figures was about three black women who used S.T.E.M fields to send the first American to the moon and outer space, their story could have and will plant seeds in the minds of women all ages and races. In an extremely over populated industry, I hope that many of us start to embrace the subjects I know we were never encouraged to embrace and create products, and apps, and gadgets, and companies that can compete on a global scale! There is always more to do and learn, and for all the folks flocking to the new “golden hustle”, know that hidden behind make up artistry can be a window to something much bigger, more valuable, and more profitable i.e figures.