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The well-known makeup artist shares her story of overcoming a difficult childhood and discovering real beauty.
How did I know I was meant to be a makeup artist?
Well, sometimes the course of your life can be clarified in an instant, a single transcendent moment when you discover how your God-given gifts can make a difference for someone else. A light goes on, something clicks inside. Your path is clear.
That’s what happened to me at the Westminster Mall in southern California when I was 18.
I was working at Merle Norman Cosmetics, doing makeovers, showing women how they could look their best. A flattering shade of foundation, a little eyeliner, a different blush, a bit of reassurance, and they could see themselves with new eyes.
Of course, I was supposed to sell Merle Norman products too, but I ended up more interested in the women themselves.
Women of all different ages and backgrounds would walk in and take a seat at my counter. “How can I help you today?” I’d ask.
I could see their finest features—what made each of them beautiful in her own unique way—and I thought they’d want tips on how to play up that natural beauty.
But most of the time they’d gaze into the mirror and fixate on what they thought was wrong with their looks. “My eyes are too close together” or “I can’t stand my freckles” or “My lips aren’t full enough.”
I could tell how vulnerable these women felt sitting there scrutinizing their features, and I wanted to help. I wanted to tell them, I know how you feel. You see, for most of my childhood and teenage years, I thought I was awkward beyond hope.
I wrongly thought that my face was too pudgy, too big and too wide—my nose, my mouth, my cheeks, and don’t even get me started on my forehead. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw every one of my flaws magnified.
It didn’t help that everybody in the beachside town where I grew up was a surfer…or looked like one. As a 10-year-old, I wanted nothing more than to join the junior lifeguards, but when I heard I’d have to put on a bathing suit and parade in front of the other kids, I quit before training even started.
Why? Because I’d been called “thunder thighs” one too many times.
The cruelty and teasing didn’t stop there. Once in art class in junior high we did a project where we cut out construction paper silhouettes of ourselves and posted them on the wall. “It’s easy to tell which one is Carmindy,” one classmate announced. “She’s the one with the double chin.”
In high school, I became convinced a trip to a luxe beauty salon would fix what was wrong with me. I saved up my babysitting money for months. I walked into the salon and sat down at a stylist’s station, feeling like a princess. Then the stylist pulled back my hair, peered at my face and clucked his tongue. “You should always wear bangs, dear,” he said. “Anything to cover up that forehead.”
Cover up. That’s what the women who came to my counter at the mall wanted me to do. Hide their so-called faults. Remake them into someone who didn’t look a thing like their natural selves. “That’s not always the best approach,” I gently tried to tell them.
I’d done it myself back in high school with disastrous results. I slathered on foundation to mask my freckles. Overdid bronzer in an attempt to contour that wide face of mine. Piled on layers and layers of eye shadow and mascara to draw attention away from my huge forehead.
My mother, an artist and a former model, could see I needed a new perspective. She took me to John Robert Powers School of Modeling, where I learned the principles of good makeup. I found out that less was often more and that tons of eye makeup made me look like a raccoon, not a movie star.
But there was something far more important that I got from my mom, something essential to who I am and what I believe. And that’s the idea that beauty comes not from how you look but how you feel about yourself.