Life as a Black Girl

A Brown Girl Trying to Find Makeup in a White World

By: Piper Lewis

People constantly ask me where I come from- they’re expecting some interesting answer, and are always disappointed and confused when I tell them that I grew up in Altadena, California. To the people asking me this question, my answer is never enough. They don’t understand that a brown girl with curly hair could possibly hail from Altadena.

I feel like an alien when people ask me where I come from, like I’m supposed to respond I’m from the planet My Dad’s Black and My Mom’s White and That’s Why I Look Like This. I know that these questions are coming from a place of curiosity and not judgment- I’m unique looking, and I think I’m beautiful. I love my skin tone and my hair, but loving the way my skin looks has been a long time coming considering there are very few makeup companies that recognize women of color.

I feel like it’s such a taboo to talk about makeup since talking about cosmetics makes you seem vain. Women are supposed to be beautiful, but not self centered enough to actually be interested in how they look. It almost seems like we’re expected to roll out of the bed in the morning looking like Kendall Jenner (that would be amazing, don’t get me wrong), but this is impossible…unless you’re Kendall Jenner.

But for women of color, it’s so much harder to talk about makeup and about feeling confident in yourself and about being beautiful when in this day and age we’re told that black beauty is only considered beautiful on white women. A perfect example of this was at the 2015 Grammy Awards when Zendaya was horribly spoken about (by white women) for wearing her hair in dreadlocks- then white celebrities are applauded for wearing their hair in dreads, because it’s “edgy”.

As a young mixed race woman, it’s very hard to find women to look up to when it comes to beauty, because biracial women aren’t really honored within the fashion and makeup industry. As I’ve grown up, the two biracial women that I look up to most when it comes to beauty and general badassery are Zendaya and Misty Copeland. They’re really lucky because they have makeup artists to do their makeup for events, and these wizards can concoct a perfect foundation shade for them. But I’m expected to either buy my foundation from Target (or Sephora if I get a gift card), and there aren’t any companies that fully honor how being a woman with a mixed racial background affects your skin.

I don’t think it’s a personal attack against women of color, I just think that these drugstore makeup companies don’t understand how being mixed race or a woman of color affects your skin. I’m pretty pale, but have strong olive and yellow undertones. During the winter, I get really white, and during the summer I tan like it’s the end of the world.

When I was a baby, people thought I was white and often stopped my father on the street to ask why he had a white child. To which he would respond that I was his daughter, and that people should mind their own business. Well, he didn’t say that exactly, I’m embellishing because that pisses me off.

I didn’t really experience any more of that ignorance until this past October, when I asked my parents for makeup from MAC for my seventeenth birthday. When my mom asked the woman helping her for my foundation shade, the MAC employee was baffled at the fact that a white woman would be buying a brown foundation. It just doesn’t make sense!

I feel like the lack of recognition of women of color in the makeup industry shows that while we have made great strides against racism, some institutions haven’t caught up with the times. I don’t think makeup companies are trying to exclude women of color or multiracial backgrounds, they just don’t realize that our undertones, skin tones, and skin types are affected by the fact that we come from different racial backgrounds. A foundation in the bottle can look like it matches me perfectly, but once I put it on and it oxidizes, it then looks like I’ve put my mom’s foundation on.

High end makeup companies have a much larger variety of shades, but because they use better ingredients, they are much more expensive. Personally, I think that investing in high end makeup if you’re mixed race is a good idea, but there are a lot of people who can’t afford to do this. Which brings up the issue of drugstore makeup products again.

The lack of makeup for women of color in drugstores not only creates a racial divide in the makeup world, it also creates a socioeconomic one. I’m really lucky because my parents are willing to pay for high end makeup as gifts, but there are mixed race women who aren’t in such a position.

Walking into a drugstore is a crappy feeling because I don’t feel like I exist. And this feeling of isolation is reaffirmed when I read a magazine. It sucks when you don’t see anyone that looks like you in the media. Magazines are a monthly update on what’s beautiful, and when you’re never in it, it’s an awful feeling.

I don’t think that anyone needs makeup in order to be beautiful. I know that I’m beautiful without makeup. I love it. I love creating different looks and characters through makeup. I love the different transformations that you can be a part of. It’s fun. I feel grown up when my cat eye looks perfect, or when my foundation is perfectly blended, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I also realize that I’m still within the bubble of childhood.

I know that not every young girl likes or wants to wear makeup- I totally understand that, and I am in no way saying that they should! But if you’re a young girl that wants to wear makeup and play around with it, it should be accessible to you, no matter what racial background you have. I want to start an affordable makeup company geared towards biracial women which honors various skin tones and undertones that come along with coming from two different racial backgrounds.

Being mixed race is such a beautiful thing. I love how I look, and I love being a combination of the two cultures my parents come from. I want the world to start realizing that women of color are just as relevant and just as beautiful as the European standard of beauty.

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29 Comments on "A Brown Girl Trying to Find Makeup in a White World"

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

this is a beautiful article, that so clearly states the struggles we go through.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

Highly doubt that no one can believe you’re from Altadena. You’re engaging in hyperbole, please stop.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

Please be positive. This piece is so well said and well written and no one should take away from that.

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Bella
1 year 11 months ago

News Flash: it happens all the time. Please don’t make negative comments.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

10/10. Such talent, eloquently expresses the struggle.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

I agree. Lovely article

Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Beautfully written, I am so proud to be your uncle, I think you are not only beautiful on the outside but amazingly beautiful within as well. Keep writing and spreading awareness to the millions that just don’t understand, this is how we all become one love. Love you forever! Uncle B.

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Piper Lewis
1 year 11 months ago

Thank you so much!! That really means a lot to me. I love you and miss you.
xx.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

As a white cisgender male, I find this offensive.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

Well considering this is a website for black teenage girls, your gonna have to deal with it. And why did you feel the need to add the cisgender part?

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

This article was incredible. I too feel like an alien at stores because I am an actual alien. Beep Boop Beep Beep

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

Wonderfully written Piper, keep it up!

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Hope Wright
1 year 11 months ago

Great article Piper ! Even though women of color ( Queen Latifah, Halle Berry ,etc) have major contracts with drugstore makeup brands, the variety of make up is not available in the actual stores. Maybe one or two shades. Even as an adult, I go without just because it is so hard to find the right shades every time. The model Iman has a make up brand that is for all women of color, however I can never find it locally , (it is supposed to be at Walgreens). Oh the dilemma! Good luck expressing your voice.

Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Piper, you never cease to amaze me. You are beautiful in every single way, and your writing reflects that. I’m so proud of you for voicing your opinion! Although I almost never wear makeup, when I want to, it is really hard to get. Just like you, my mom is white and we don’t have the same complexion, so I’m not about to try to use her foundation! I’m so glad that you embrace your mixed race, and understand that you are perfect just the way you are. Makeup and creating different appearances with it is what you love and… Read more »

Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Hey Pipe, this is important — and well-written! congratulations, and go out and found a makeup company that empowers women of any/all colors…you can do it!

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

This article is so well written, and I would love to read more of your work in future!

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Karen Zegras
1 year 11 months ago

Oh, Piper! So, so true. I think the beauty/fashion industry creates such an unrealistic expectation of perfection…
I have Caucasian skin with olive and yellow tones, Rosacea, and Melasma. Finding perfect makeup is nearly impossible. If Sephora created a custom shade of foundation for me it would be named “blushing splotchy zombie”.
You are a beautiful girl, inside and out! 😘

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Jillie Mantz
1 year 11 months ago

Sure, yes, you should start that company! But more importantly right now I think you should keep your voice and your messages out in the world. Write. And then write some more. You’ve got an easy, elegant, engaging style of writing and so let the world hear more of your thoughts. If the media can be saturated with images of the so-called femme fatale – then it can also be saturated by voices like yours.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

Truly some great food for thought…hopefully this makes people think and insights some change. Wonderfully written, I admire your openness and courage for sharing your personal story.

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Dorrie LaMarr
1 year 11 months ago

Fantastic! Piper’s article brings such awareness to important issues of identity, beauty, and acceptance. She eloquently offers her voice, and helps people understand what it is like to feel different. So looking forward to Piper’s future work!

Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Spot on. Thank you for writing this and bringing this issue to people’s attention. Well done, young woman. I look forward to reading more of your bylines.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

I know black and bi people too and so I can totally feel your pain. You go girlie! Write on and cure Altadena of racial prejudice.

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

Really great,well-written article!! Nice job, I loved it!

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Anonymous
1 year 11 months ago

Love your writing style and this article. Please write other things you have a way of writing that I feel connects with the reader and can really make a difference with so many different topics.

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Pat Rich
1 year 11 months ago

Such a powerful, well-crafted message, Piper. Some make-up company could use you as a consultant!

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Gayle Lewis
1 year 11 months ago

You are the beautiful product of two beautiful people. It makes me smile and proud that you know and embrace every aspect of your being. You encourage everyone to do the same, to know yourself and to love yourself.

Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Great article! Great talent! You are a beautiful person with courage.
You make us proud! Gramps

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[…] I’m Piper! About a month ago, I submitted an article pitch to the blog, MyBlackMatters.com- and it was accepted! I wrote about how I have struggled as […]

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Anonymous
1 year 10 months ago

Keep writing, you are a talent!!

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