The Founder of cult favourite, Meraki by Sumi, is a glam artist with mind-blowing skill and tubes-ful of confidence. Here, she lays bare on the truth (serum) of the matter.
I write about lipsticks and contour kits for a living, binge on make-up tutorials when I’m stressed (no lie!) and go crazy at the sight of a popping highlighter. As often as I get to enjoy the artistry behind a glam look with likeminded beauty-holics, I also hear about how deceiving and fake the world of make-up can be. ‘She doesn’t even look like herself’ and ‘This is why I have trust issues with girls!’ are just a few of the plethora of negative remarks I’ve personally encountered. And if my reply included the word ‘empower’, the counterattack usually came with double the force and more remarks about how us pro-make-up women make people look at all females in a superficial and shallow light. This vitriol always leaves me bewildered: What did make-up do to inherit such a negative connotation? Although there are many other (far more important) things that could be done in the name of empowerment, I think that, however low it ranks, make-up has its place under such an umbrella. In a society that so vigilantly monitors the conduct of women, make-up lets us take matters into our own hands—we, literally, get to own how we are seen.
For me, make-up has primarily been about self-expression and Summaiya, more affectionately known as, Sumi, agrees. “Make-up is all about taking charge of how you want to be viewed by the world. It’s about expressing yourself and showing who you are as a person.”
Make-up is akin to what you choose to wear for the day. Every morning you raid your closet and decide how you want to present yourself—be it a laidback jeans-and-tee combo, a powerhouse sari or a polished skirt, you dress to emulate how you desire to be perceived by the world. Similarly, wearing make-up doesn’t change who you are as a person or provide a mask to hide behind—like clothes, it’s another layer that helps you define your personal statement. “Your mood plays an important role in giving you strength and confidence,” explains Sumi. “Say, for example, you’re going through a break-up or you have an important interview. Perhaps the first thing you’d do is buy an amazing outfit and a great pair of shoes. Make-up works much the same way. Upon applying cosmetics, you know you look your best; and that, in turn, brightens up your mood and lends confidence!” Just like how wearing your sleek 6-inch stillies makes you feel like you can take on the world, Queen Bey style, make-up helps you put a spotlight on your best features.
Be it a black lippie, a deep blush or a classic cat-eye, to pick a make-up style is to define your personality, not create it anew.
Still, as much as make-up is about self-expression, the act of applying coverage can give ammunition to the camp that believes make-up serves to cover up your insecurities rather than overcome them. To this, Sumi speaks to her own battle scars, “I used to get bullied a lot back in school and make-up was my coping mechanism. I’d doll up to feel confident and the high that came with being made up drove me to a point where I’d never step out of the house without a full face of make-up. Some people might look at that as problematic and perhaps at the beginning it was, in that I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. But the truth of the matter is that very few of us are. By putting on a full face of make-up, I wasn’t hiding myself—I was looking unflinchingly at all my insecurities and processing them. All the hours I spent in front of the mirror made me more self-aware, which with time actually made me appreciate myself and be more comfortable being me, with or without make-up. The high I initially felt disappeared as I came out of my teenage years, and I was left with a feeling of calm fulfillment.”
Wearing makeup isn’t a requirement—it’s a choice. Whether it’s a fully contoured, smouldering look or rocking barely-there foundation, there’s a certain sense of power that comes with this self-perception, which can arguably be taken as the essence of confidence—making a no-holds-barred decision on what’s best for oneself. “Whether you decide to go completely barefaced or you opt for a look that enhances your natural features, no one has the right to judge you. Beauty and make-up is what you make it of it—it’s your choice, and that should be the most important consideration,” says Sumi.
Still, can make-up be an easy way to drown out our insecurities without addressing them? “No one is perfect and everyone struggles with low self-esteem, and while it can provide a boost, make-up isn’t the sole answer to these problems. You need to surround yourself with people who love you for you; that makes everything so much better.”
Even the best of us swim in waves of ceaseless insecurity, thanks to the constant comparisons we make to others; we really are our own worst critics. “The only way to ride these waves of scrutiny is by eliminating the ‘them’ from the equation and by isolating the ‘me, myself and I,’” comments Sumi. “Women should feel free to get creative with make-up as long as it makes them happy. If you feel comfortable with your look, nothing else really matters. No matter what you do, you can’t please everyone. At the end of the day, you’re left with only yourself, so just do what truly makes you happy!” Make-up doesn’t transform you into another person—it merely gives you a little push in the direction of owning yourself. And who doesn’t want a little bit more of that?!
This article was originally published as ‘Summaiya Zaheen: Is Make-up Empowering Or Is It Just Another Façade?’ in the August 2017 Confidence issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more stories of inspiring women, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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