What Foundation Taught Me About True Beauty
There was no question in her voice. She didn't say it as if she were stating a preference, but rather a fact, the same way she would have advised me on how best to apply blush or find a base that wouldn't dry out my skin. I was humiliated by her assumption that it was an unspoken understanding between us: that obviously, if given the choice, I would change this thing about the way I looked.
As a black woman with dark skin, it wasn't the first time I had been told—subtly and often not so subtly—that my complexion was a deficit I had to overcome to be beautiful. But the fact that the saleswoman, who was white, said it not out of malice, but seemingly with genuine concern, made me feel worse. I didn't think she was criticizing me; she was trying to help me. And I was terrified that she—an expert—knew something I didn't. I bought the foundation.
At home, I dipped the sponge in the compact and covered my face with the powder. I couldn't bring myself to look in the mirror as I applied it.
When I finally did look, I was horrified: I had to admit that I looked prettier than I'd ever remembered. I had to admit that my dark skin was unattractive, and that being lighter really did mean being more attractive.
I wept. Then I went to wash my face. But the makeup wouldn't come off. I scrubbed hard; still nothing. That's when I looked at the compact and realized I hadn't pulled off the protective paper. In fact, I hadn't been wearing any makeup at all.
After seven years and countless applications of the right shade of makeup, that moment has stayed with me. Whenever I question whether my complexion is beautiful (which is more often than I should, but less often than I might), I think back to that moment when I saw my face—my bare face—and thought it was so beautiful, it made me cry.