Yomi Adegoke on the power of makeup

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My first makeup experience was at home. My grandma loved wearing a deep burgundy lip. She wore a lot of fur coats, a lot of gold earrings, a lot of lipstick and eye shadow – she was a fashion icon in her own right. I remember going to her house and seeing all these creams and perfumes and thinking that she was so glamorous. My mom had signature makeup of bright blue – almost lilac – eye shadow and red lips. She wore this jumpsuit throughout my childhood and most of my adult life. A lot of the Nigerian women I grew up around like to make an effort for parties or birthdays, and they are much less careful of the so-called “rules” of makeup as to what suits or doesn’t suit your skin tone. For my parents and aunts, they were just getting by – they were never going to not put on makeup because it wasn’t “working” for them.

I grew up in a predominantly female household – myself, two sisters and my mother. My dad was there, but it was definitely a female run house. Despite this, neither my sisters nor I grew up wearing makeup because the products just weren’t there.

One of my earliest memories of makeup was through magazines. I used to buy magazines like ‘Sabrina’s Secret’ and ‘Mizz’ which came with a free gloss or blush and each time I wondered if I could even use it. If it was something like toe separators or baby blue nail polish then I was in it, but if the free gift was butterfly clips or a frosty pink lip gloss then I knew that I couldn’t wear it. I wouldn’t even open it. I had this shelf where I put all the products that I couldn’t use.

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I saw Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child in clips on TV wearing these amazing ’90s pop princess looks, but I never made the connection that it was something I could do.

When I first started doing makeup, I was shocked at the lack of options. Before Sleek was introduced to Boots and Superdrug, it was sold in my local barbershop with maybe another brand that catered to black or dark skinned women, and everything else was off-brand fakes that were inexpensive and had no pigment. I remember thinking, “Oh, there really is nothing.” If I wanted to buy foundation, I couldn’t do it in the stores on my main street.

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You look at a local population like Croydon, which is so diverse, and Main Street still doesn’t provide makeup for the majority of the people who shop there. It just doesn’t make commercial sense. Representation at all levels is important. Everyone should have access to the same things, whether it’s clothes in a particular size or makeup in a particular shade. It’s such a basic thing.

When I talk to other black women, I realize that we were all using the same products because there were so few available. There was Maybelline Dream Matte foam in a shade we all had. I bought a pot for prom when I was 16 and had it until I left college at 21.

Representation at all levels is important. It’s such a basic thing.

The expectation for me as a young woman is to put on makeup – it’s a societal belief. It’s so easy to say that we should get rid of this idea that beauty is something women owe the world but in reality women are so loved for what they look like. It is certainly a problematic thing, which I think as a society that we have to question, because it is a form of inequality. I also love to dress up and look beautiful, but I think it’s important that it’s something that I feel free to do out of choice, and not as part of a beauty tax just for women.

I hate the idea of ​​makeup as a crutch and something that we need to do. One of the reasons I like to do my makeup without too much internal conflict is that I don’t need it. So many other things in my life are busy and complex and makeup doesn’t have to be that. Sometimes I want to look beautiful, sometimes I want to look cool, and sometimes I wear blue eyeshadow to match my blue suit.

For me, it’s about fun, creativity, fashion and style. This is where it starts and ends for me and I think that’s what we should be trying to push forward.

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If you had asked me 10 years ago if makeup could be nice, I would have answered “absolutely not” because it was completely characterized by scarcity, alienation, pinch of pennies – it was not. amusing. But now, knowing that there are makeup samples out there for all skin tones, it feels like it’s moved to a much more experimental and fun space. This is something that many black women have been deprived of in their childhood. Now it’s about the game rather than the difficulty.

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