I woke up this morning before the birds, and the world was silent. Not even the leaves on the trees rustled, for the air was damp and heavy, and it lingered like a mug of hot, sticky gumbo upon the rooftops of New Orleans. After raising my head from its pillow through the puddinged atmosphere, I looked through the mirror into a pair of red eyes itching to stay open. I counted my zits, felt the bloat of my lower stomach from a late night shift caffeinated by carbonated beverages and assessed the purpled remnants of a four-day old hickey on my lower neck. I was looking good.

Marie Shelton's Eyes With Makeup

Marie Shelton’s Eyes With Makeup

We all have these kinds of mornings. Our bodies go through bouts with hormones, stress, lousy diets and, yes, the unassuming mouth of someone looking to re-enact a high school make-out, but not all of us have a modelling gig in less than an hour. I did, and I felt disgusting.

I don’t know how I got into modelling. Imagine the stress of having to look perfect on your potential wedding day– now imagine that at least 4 times a month. This is the life I lead, and I can safely say it would not be fulfilling in the least bit without Midori.

Midori Tajiri-Byrd is a New Orleans-based make-up artist. In a city of constant costumes, mandatory masks and perpetually painted faces, Midori is in high demand. She also happens to be the best of the best at what she does. That helps.

Upon arriving at the studio, I became very self-conscious. 5am does not bode well for a bloated tummy… or dark circles. The imperfections were mounting, and upon seeing Midori, whom I have worked with multiple times before, I simply couldn’t hold it in anymore,

“Okay, here’s the deal. I’ve got a couple of really bad zits, a super classy hickey on the right side of my neck and I’m bloated. I’m really sorry. That’s just the way it is.”

Before I could say anything more, she laughed, sat me down and said, “You’re beautiful. Close your eyes and let me work my magic.”

The following half hour was a flurry of brushes and powders, liners and dabs. Midori took to my face like painter to her canvas. She highlighted everything about me that made me, well, me, and she covered up that which made me feel, well, less like me. Away went the zits, the dark circles and the purple hickey– in went simple lines to accent my huge eyes, shadows to streamline my furry eyebrows and contours to shape my broad face– and when I looked into the mirror, I felt more like myself than I had felt all morning. I felt beautiful. I felt… powerful.

Wearing makeup is not a matter of attractiveness. Wearing makeup is a matter of feeling like the best me I can be. If a pesky zit is making me feel less confident, then, yes, I am going to cover it the hell up.

Following the #IWokeUpLikeThis and #NoFilter campaigns, there has actually been an overwhelming amount of negative reverb throughout the young women community. If Beyoncé appears to wake up perfect and without blemishes, then how dare I wake up with zits and dark circles! How dare I not be ‘perfect’! Additionally, many women may claim makeup to be some sort of male oppression– that we must look a certain way (with the unquestionable help of makeup) to be pretty and attract a male counterpart.

I’m sorry, but I wear makeup to make me feel better. Boys, I don’t care what you think. If you want to wear makeup too, by all means, do so! If you feel empowered by contouring your six-pack, I’m all for it.

The best way I can break it down for you is like this: applying makeup is like tuning a guitar. It is one thing to have a guitar with six perfectly functioning strings. It’s another thing to have a guitar with six perfectly functioning strings in tune. According to natural factors (the climate being one) strings go out of tune, but if nature has caused one string to go a little flat or sharp, then, yes, I am going to tighten or loosen that string to make the overall guitar sound the best it can be. It makes my guitar sound better to others, yes, but it also builds my confidence as a musician knowing that I am producing the best sound I can possibly produce.

So, do not fear the makeup brush, my friends. Let it make you more you, and be empowered.

P.S. Thanks Midori.