Friday, October 22, 2010


My daughter is an actor who is performing in ANNIE this month.  A day before the preview show, I found out that she would need stage make-up or pancake make-up.  In her previous roles on stage, her characters did not require make-up, so I was in a mad-dash to quickly find this stuff within 24 hours of her performance.  The ill-prepared panic sent me searching across the internet to find local boutiques who may sell theatre make-up.  No such luck.  And suddenly, MAC Cosmetics popped into my mind.  "They sell outlandish, poppy looking make-up that seems good enough for Lady Gaga, so of course they would have a pancake make-up...", I thought.  This calls for a trip to the mall!

For those of you that don't know, I hate malls.  The idea of taking my daughter with me to the mall makes me cringe; I just don't want her to be bombarded with the "gag"couture that comes with mall shopping.  She is bombarded enough already in so many ways.  I disdain the mall near me.  On more than one occasion, I have been the victim of racial prejudice.  It's also happened to other folks of color whom I know.  But, where else ya gonna find MAC products?  I sucked it up.  With baby girl in tow, we approached the counter to find a young man working his runway.  He didn't miss a step when I informed him that I was here for my daughter and not for me. As she took a seat, I looked around the store to see if anyone was eyeing this reversal of roles.  The funny thing is that the only people that gave me a strange look were two Black woman passing by.  I can only begin to imagine what was going through their minds! 

First, to all my sisters in the the cosmetic struggle, this sounds too familiar:  Your complexion happens to be in between the only two dark colors THEY sell--whoops!  I used to think that if you were lighter-skinned (like my daughter) it would be easier.  Wouldn't you know that when Mr. MAC applied the two colors to each side of her face, one side looked like death approaching with it's ashy-hue and the other side had a bright rosy allergic-reaction tinge.  "Hyper-pigmentation is common with darker skinned women," he said.  "What was that? Oh..."  I responded, my mind trailing off thinking about Ambi products that addressed such conditions.  My daughter heard the word hyperpigmentation.  Was this another racially coded word that I would need to address with her?  Mr. MAC asked which color I wanted.  I thought, "I want my child's color.  Can you do something about that? Don't you feel strange that a customer cannot get a color to match her child's skin.  Do you even care?"  What I did say was that I wanted neither and was ready to leave.  However, convenenice and expediency told me to change my mind.  I shelled out $29.50 for a bottle of ProLongevity Wear foundation that looked akin to someone's science experiment gone awry. 

I soon became the make-up artist, carefully applying strokes of liquid foundation to achieve some semblance of matching to my child's yellowish-reddish undertones.  In the end, she looked beautiful.  Albeit, over-baked, but still beautiful. Her oohs and ahhs reminded me of playing with my mother's cosmetics on her vanity table. Childhood can still be a time when one can be blissfully unaware of the intersection between racial politics and skin color.  My husband and I are raising our children to retain their innnocence while being aware of racism.  Although, I see it everywhere I go, I must admit that I wasn't on guard when I thought about shopping for cosmetics.  I usually get my kicks from a company which makes vegan mineral make-up for darker skinned women.  Read: valana minerals.  My child has learning the cosmetic dilemma  much earlier than I would have liked.  I'm savvy enough to know the failings of the cosmetic industry even when they try to become more socially-conscious. Read: MAC Cosmetics.

I wasn't frustrated by my trip to my favorite hot spot or even dour by the limited selection at the counter. To me, it's par for the course when you're living while Black.  When it comes to pancake(s), I'll just stick to my home-made brand.