Beauty and the Barn

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I was never a makeup person. I don’t have any photos of me with my mum’s lipstick smeared across my grinning face or stories of finally being tall enough to play with those magical pots of powders lined up on her dresser. Those powders didn’t exist—neither did the lipstick.

OK, I lie. Mum did have one tube of bright, coral-pink lipstick. She wore it at Christmas. It made her look like someone I didn’t know. I didn’t like it. While other mums were showing their daughters how to apply mascara without stabbing their eyeballs, mine was showing me how to nail together a sheep fence without crucifying myself. There was no space in the barn for makeup, just hay and grain. After all, the cows didn’t care what colour my fingernails were — just as long as I used them to scratch behind their ears.

After a (mercifully) brief phase at age 13, when I experimented with layers of white pressed powder and burgundy lip liner, my face remained relatively makeup-free for a decade. I thought the point of makeup was to cover up what was really there and create what wasn’t—I was always frustrated by the results because I hated not looking like myself.

A couple summers after graduating university I went to stay with my cousin in London, England. One evening, I was on my way out to meet an ex-boyfriend for drinks when she offered to do my makeup, to help amp up my “look what you let go” factor.

With a few expert clicks of a Touché Éclat, pats of correcting concealer, sweeps of eyebrow powder, two layers of LashBlast and a swipe of Lancôme lip gloss, my stage-makeup-trained cousin had transformed me into… me. Just with clearer-looking skin, shiner lips and brighter eyes. And that was the moment I became a makeup person.

I discovered that makeup was supposed to compliment not compete—it became my weapon of choice in the battle against absolutely no one, especially myself. In my current arsenal, I have 18 eyeshadows, nine eye pencils, four face powders, three foundations, four blushes, two bronzers, six lip glosses, three lip stains…and a whole pile of Facebook photo albums with them smeared expertly across my grinning face.

Award-winning lifestyle journalist writing about travel, fashion, beauty and home life.

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