Mixed: My Journey with Makeup and Ethnic Expectations

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 By Ada Claire


Anyone who has spent any decent amount of time with me knows I literally never leave the house without makeup on. Makeup played a huge role in developing my self confidence as a teen as I struggled with my ethnic ambiguity, paler-than-it-should-be skin, one-step-below-afro hair, intense acne, and a lack of knowledge on how to tweeze eyebrows. As you have likely already ascertained, I am a racial mix of some ethnicities that look damn near nothing alike, the result of which is a set of physical features that lead to conversations along this line:

“Where are you from?”
“Well, I was born in the USA.”
“Oh…um…I mean where are your parents from?”
“They’re both US citizens too.”
“No, but like, where are your grandparents from?”

And on it goes.
I grew up hearing criticisms that I didn’t look like somebody of my racial background should, that somehow because I didn’t fit the physical expectation, my standing as someone of that race was de-legitimatized. My ethnic identity had always been such a huge part of me, so hearing that hurt each time and built up to a massive wall of insecurity. I tried to cover that feeling of inadequacy up with black liquid eyeliner, red lipstick, and cutting off my long braids (though that ties into a much bigger story for another time). I’ve held onto that method of safety blanketing well into my young adulthood. So, from me to everyone with ethnic expectations of how someone should look and a little step on my journey to personal acceptance, here’s a comparison for you from heavy makeup to nothing at all, and (because I love makeup regardless!) a softer in-between I’m aiming for these days.

There was a long period in my life when I couldn’t have been truthful in saying this. But today, I’m proud to say I’m happy with how I look in all of these photos. Especially the last one.