A year ago when I was working in a Sephora, a little boy and his mom walked up to me and asked if the boy could get shade matched in a foundation. When I was matching him, he was smiling the whole time. His mom told me that he had never seen a boy wearing makeup and he wanted to do the same.
Living in a heteronormative world where gender roles and sexuality are so heavily policed, I was never able to express my queer identity how I wanted to when I was younger. Now as an adult, I have this opportunity to show others that the world is changing and it’s okay to deviate from the norm.
I started wearing some makeup during my senior year of high school to cover up acne scarring that I was insecure about. Nearly four years later, I’ve changed my utilitarian relationship with makeup into an artistry.
In the beginning, I was nervous about wearing a full face of makeup because I was fearful that I’d face criticism from my family, people at school or people within my Indigenous community. As I gradually started wearing more makeup, I realized that people didn’t really mind what I was doing — and actually admired it. Of course, some people would give me the side-eye, but I grew to ignore them.
Now, the people I was scared of upsetting are asking me for advice on how to use and wear makeup. This was really validating to me as a gay person because I knew that the people closest to me were accepting of who I was.
From trying new color combinations to gluing down my eyebrows, I continuously try to do new things with makeup. With no formal teaching, I learned techniques through watching YouTube videos obsessively and practiced them every day.
By doing so, I was able to go from having the wrong foundation shade in high school to working in a Sephora teaching people what I knew within a few years.
I started posting some looks on Instagram, not knowing that it was going to grow to what it is now. I’ve used the platform I have to raise awareness on issues both within the Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities. These are also things I try to do working in journalism. Having a growing platform on Instagram has also facilitated relationships with other indigenous artists and brands.
The brand I have the closest relationship with, Ah-Shí Beauty, has inspired me to continuously give back to my community while fighting for representation.
When the owner, Ahsaki LaFrance-Chachere, opened a new store in my hometown of Gallup, New Mexico, she invited me to see the store before its opening and to test new products.
She told me her plans to expand her brand as far as she could, while continuously trying to decolonize the beauty industry by working with and showcasing Indigenous models, influencers and photographers. She also planned on manufacturing and shipping her products out of Gallup to create more jobs for the community.
Her plans were unheard of to me. It was so inspiring to see a young person actively trying to and successfully helping her community. I knew that I wanted to have a role in this change that would affect the beauty industry and eventually everything else.
The beauty industry has come a long way by creating more products for people of color and actively showcasing them. However, like much of the world forgets, Indigenous people are still here and deserve to have a seat at the table.
I used makeup to cover a few pimples in high school and now I use it as a creative outlet, while trying to change and force myself into an industry that doesn’t create spaces for people like me.