Makeup isn’t just skin deep
November 4, 2021
Ellie Dawson-Moore talks stage makeup
A live production takes more than just the actors and actresses. Senior Ellie Dawson-Moore, worked for the theater production last year as a makeup artist for the 2019 production Every(man), thoroughly enjoying it. Makeup is a crucial part of theater production. The lighting, among other factors such as the audience’s distance from the stage, affects how actors and actresses look. Dawson-Moore’s job helps the actors become more defined, creating a sharper and more defined character. “It makes the actors easier to see, like from the audience I think especially the further you are away. If you have blush to accentuate the cheeks and eyeliner to make the eyes pop out more, you can really like, see how defined the features are which makes the actors more visible from offstage,” Dawson-Moore said.
Makeup is also a way to deepen a character’s identity and deepen the artist’s own identity through the expression of a character’s personality. “I think, like, not just makeup, but costumes and things like that, like, all the things that tie together the extension of the character I think, really, really adds to the story, because it’s what you see before they even say anything, and then it tells you who the character is,” Dawson-Moore said.
Dawson-Moore’s choice to work backstage was a personal decision made out of her deep appreciation for fashion and makeup and a deep understanding of oneself. “…And I’ve always found makeup to be like a really fun form of self-expression and an extension of myself, but actually pursuing it in school theater was moreso out of convenience at the time, like when I first made the transition,” Dawson-Moore said.
Theater productions are a way for Dawson Moore to express herself and help within a theater community.
Makeup industry conceals scary truth about child labor
The multi-billion-dollar makeup industry is one of the most overlooked manufacturing systems in the world. Millions of Americans spend thousands of dollars a year on makeup, but the process of manufacturing is often overlooked. “Truthfully, I do not know as much as I should about harmful companies,” Senior Lulu Priede said.
One of the darkest secrets of the makeup industry is how mica, a cloud of shimmery dust that is used in cosmetics like eyeshadow, highlight, blush, and lip gloss, is produced through child labor.
According to Refinery29, about 22,000 child labor workers risk death from mica mines collapsing and make just a quarter a day. Many of these mines are illegal but yet they still fall into American consumers’ hands.
According to Refinery29, about 22,000 child labor workers risk death from mica mines collapsing and make just a quarter a day.
The makeup industry has many influencers who promote both cosmetic products and the industry itself. While promoting products oftentimes influencers don’t mention how prevalent child labor is in the industry.
Junior Addy Eby said, “I see animal-cruelty free and assume the company is ethical but now I wonder what the carbon footprint and labor issues are with the companies I use. I hope that the products I’m using are ethically sourced and not built on child labor. I’ve never heard about mica mining.”
Others have heard about child labor, and are upset about how little it is talked about.
“I have known about child labor in relation to makeup production for a long time, and it breaks my heart, especially when makeup influencers do not talk about it, while simultaneously profiting from child labor,” Pride said.
As the makeup industry lacks outspoken individuals the responsibility to educate oneself about the secrets of the makeup industry falls on the consumer.
Priede makes a habit of researching the brands she uses and their ethical standpoints: “I use makeup inconsistently and do not spend the majority of my money on it because it is not super important to me. However, I stay up to date on companies that I use and will stop all use if I hear or read something bad about them,” Pride said.
As consumers took time to educate others and boycott brands, major corporations took notice. “I think many companies are finally starting to acknowledge how harmful and messed up child labor is, which makes me hopeful,” Priede said.
Priede then brought up another point about how some of the ingredients in makeup contain chemicals that can harm your body. “I know that there are a lot of bad companies out there but I try to make a habit of researching the brands I use and make sure that they do not contain chemicals that should not be in makeup,” Priede said.
According to Green America, “89 percent of 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the CIR, the FDA, nor any other publicly accountable institution,” said the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG). “The absence of government oversight for this $35 billion industry leads to companies routinely marketing products with ingredients that are poorly studied, not studied at all, or worse, known to pose potentially serious health risks.”
Although it might seem like clean makeup brands are impossible to come across, simply going one extra step and doing research can really make a difference. According to Green America, some actions to move towards cleaner consumerism include using organic cosmetic brands, ethical mica, and other ingredients, and questioning labels such as ‘natural’ and ‘hypoallergenic.’
Cosmetic expression: both genderless and genderful
The concept of beauty is always in flux. It’s always being redefined and societal perceptions of beauty are always changing. There’s nothing about beauty that’s static- when one thinks they’ve grasped what it is, it always manages to race off like a roadrunner. The relationship between makeup and beauty is no exception- it’s ever evolving within the framework of standards and social rights movements.
“Obviously, anyone can wear makeup regardless of gender or sexuality, but I think makeup can also be a really wonderful tool to both express my gender and also liberate me from gender and the expectations it entails.” junior Quenby Wilson said.
Makeup has had a strange history with social justice. It’s long been seen as a necessity for women and an abomination for men. As a reaction to this, some branches of feminism view makeup as oppressive and a hindrance to women’s rights.
“There is still very much an idea that makeup is for ‘feminine’ people which isn’t true. Makeup is paint- it’s for anyone who it makes feel better,” Wilson said.
However, this has changed in the fourth and fifth waves of feminism, especially in relation to the sex-positive and body-positive movements. The new dogma goes that it is a woman’s choice to wear what she wants, including makeup, and present herself however she wants. Makeup does not have to be an instrument of the patriarchy, but instead a tool of empowerment.
Women are not the only ones wearing makeup, though. Makeup is inextricably linked to queerness and gender nonconformity, and has been for a long time. It would be remiss to say that non-women have only started wearing makeup in recent years, because this is far from new. LGBTQ people of all genders have been wearing makeup in the nooks and crannies of the world for as long as those nooks and crannies have been around. The ballroom culture of the late 1900s, where cross-dressing and gender nonconformity were accepted and even encouraged, fueled this.
“Makeup, especially recently, has been a super valuable tool in gender rights and has been used as an art medium for activism, especially involving trans and queer rights.” Wilson said. “By using makeup to subvert a lot of expectations put on AFAB [assigned female at birth], queer, or feminine people, it takes away that outdated idea that makeup is something created for the ‘male gaze’ and instead turns it into a tool for self expression.”
Even so, the use of makeup by non-women has become far more accepted with advances in LGBTQ rights. Obviously, not everyone is on board with this yet, and it seems that every time a male celebrity wears makeup a litany of mostly conservative podcasters get upset online. But in general, it’s more socially acceptable to wear makeup as a form of gender nonconformity than it has been in the past.