I love my make-up bag. My make-up bag. That passport which contains a bunch of crèmes, potions, polyfilla and over-the-counter drugs that diminish the muscles of an overbearing gender binary. They allow me to cross it. They are the hardware that allows me to finally live out my childhood fantasies, every one. It’s also a history book, connecting me to the radical queens, queers, butch dykes and trans folk who fought for me to be able to paint my face the way I want to paint it. In my make-up bag is a lifeline to an expression of my gender. In my make-up bag there are thousands of tricks for me to cover the scars of my teenage acne, or the slice on my nose from a homophobic attack that has never quite healed. I love the scars in some ways, but having the devices to cover them allows me to dictate their mark upon me. In my make-up bag there are missing pieces and extra bits – given, received and shared between my drag sisters and me like heirlooms, like gifts from Christmas crackers. We are reminded of each other whenever we use them. In my make-up bag there are hairs cut from the long hair of a drag king friend to make a beard, strewn, unwanted, but so integral to the history this kit holds. In my make-up bag there’s a kind of self-care that makes you omnipotent, even if just for a night. In my make-up bag there’s an ode to the women who gave me a femininity to explore, but not to parody (that’s just terrible, lazy drag). In my make-up bag there’s jewellery given to me by my friend who was so desperate for me to be kinder to myself that she found things to make me sparkle.
While people question whether the act of wearing make-up is anti-feminist (much like they question drag), make-up is, ultimately, about choice, about allowing yourself to choose how the world sees you.
Indeed, there are a lot of things in my make-up bag. And while it’s so easy to talk about colours, powders, primers, highlighters (yum! fave!) with a […] soullessness and irrelevance, make-up to me, to many of us, is not an extravagant stockpile of excessive frippery, but something that bestows power. In a world where that power is only taken from us, make-up is a tool that cheers us on as we draw our battle lines, giving so much power back to ourselves. It’s a secret language, misunderstood and disregarded by boring dudes who think make-up is ‘gay’, which allows us to communicate with each other both silently or with floods of Facebook messages about Kat Von D’s new matte lipstick. My make-up bag is not for anyone else. It’s very much for me, as yours is for you. While people question whether the act of wearing make-up is anti-feminist (much like they question drag), make-up is, ultimately, about choice, about allowing yourself to choose how the world sees you. The same can be said for not wearing any, especially if you’re expected to by society. Make-up gives us agency over our own image. Above all, my make-up bag is a kit that allows me to create an illusion that is closer to the truth than most people ever reach. People bandy about terms like ‘fake’, but choosing how you want to look is the definition of authentic. It’s time to go out. I apply a blister plaster and sausage the thigh-high boots on to my signature chubby thighs.