Sunday, December 27, 2009


I worked Christmas eve, got home at 4am, edited a video until 5am and woke up Christmas morning at 11:30am. After wrapping the presents I hadn't had time to wrap, I headed upstairs to join everyone. My phone ringer had been off but when I glanced at it, I saw 7 texts all wishing me "Merry Christmas" in various ways. One was from my bff in highschool and for some reason that prompted my mind to reminisce back to Christmas morning 1996, when I woke up to various pages (yes, pagers were the "in" thing back then) from that same bff informing me via pager code "1774 1770177 607 1773 8 6812 4 641215717785" - "My mom got me a car for christmas" (for those of you who may be too young to have lived through the pager code era lol

Growing up, my sister was always awake before me and hated having to wait for me to wake up to open our stockings which were always (for some reason) the highlight of Christmas. And of course, we always compared "You got that? Wait, I didn't get one in mine!" My parents have never been "well off" but as I get older, I realize how spoiled we were. Christmas for us always seemed to be about "What did I get?" and "She got more expensive presents than I did" Though my mom never liked nor wanted us to be that way. She always took us to donate toys to shelters, and to look at lights - trying to instill in us that Christmas should be about more than presents.

This year, I cooked breakfast for everyone which I've never done and emptied my stocking piece by piece in between cooking. I honestly didn't want anything this Christmas. I've been trying to purge my life of "things" since I moved back in June so there really wasn't a great desire for much. Which was weird. To have that realization - that growing up I'd been such a different person placing value on who got what.

In conversation with my mom and sister, (which led to a mini argument), and today with an old friend, I also realized how much my own insecurities have diminished with age. My mom makes comments from time to time how she needs to lose weight and how many calories an item has so she shouldn't be eating it. She is petite and tiny by most standards (I believe). She's just under 5'4 and if I had to estimate, 115 lbs. (We're nearly the same height - with me being maybe half an inch taller and I'm 129 lbs) And any time she makes comments, it makes me sad. But in her eyes, I suppose she's still holding onto her 27 year old self (she weighed 109 lbs when she was 9 months pregnant with me), plus she was raised in era when thin was "in".

My sister just moved back from Seattle and told me that when our mom (or anyone that she deems skinny) makes comments about how they need to lose weight, it in turn makes her feel bad about herself. Which I told her, is ridiculous because she's personalizing it, and allowing her ego to control her. That the statement they're making has nothing to do with her. In any case, Christmas morning my mom made some comment about not wanting to eat potatoes for breakfast because we were going to eat them for dinner too and that's too many calories and she's fat as it is. My sister then voiced what she had said to me earlier. I don't remember my mom's response but I told both of them that neither was overweight and how it made me sad that they don't appreciate themselves the way they are. My sister mentioned something about liking herself better "skinny", to which I responded "you've been conditioned to believe that." Which pissed her off tremendously but I believe that to be the truth.

"Fat" is one of the most incorrectly and overused word in my opinion but then again, I suppose it's subjective. I remember during my sophomore year of high-school, one of my guy friends got in trouble for not having his shirt tucked in. (I went to a Catholic school with a dress code) As he tucked it, I noticed what a tiny waist he had and told him. Which wasn't meant to be offensive, it was just an observation, but he lashed out and said "At least I'm not a fat cow like you." 13 years later and I still remember his exact words, which being an extremely self-conscious 15 year old, cut me deeply and made me re-evaluate my appearance.

From that day on, I taught myself to skip breakfast, eat a very minimal lunch and eat dinner with my family - though never finish my plate. If I over ate (on thanksgiving or if we had a "heavy meal") I'd say I had a stomachache and induce vomiting. I began a regime of 650 crunches (at least) a night and when laying on a bed reading, I wouldn't allow my back to touch the pillows so my stomach would be "crunched" the entire time. I had already taken dance classes since I was 4 and began pushing myself more, obsessively stretching at home doing back bends and holding bridges for minutes at a time inching my hands closer and closer to my feet to increase flexibility and muscle strength until eventually I could bend back onto my elbows and hold my ankles a la cirque de soleil. I was not raised Catholic (nor any other religious denomination) but when my school did some "Fast for 24 hours" thing for Lent or something else, I took a step farther and consumed only water and 3 rice cakes for 72 hours. Needless to say, everything I did was EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and UNHEALTHY. I did however lose weight (obviously), but it makes me so sad that I valued my appearance and other people's opinions of it so greatly.

Makeup for me was also always extremely important. It quite literally was my mask. Today I was thinking about the fact that I know it began as a love of art and color, but during my high-school years it somehow morphed into this seemingly very necessary mask. I remember a summer when I had to be about 7 or 8 years old. My family took a mini vacation with another family up to Calistoga and my friend had this awesome sunscreen that came in 5 different little pots of various neon colors. We LOVED painting our faces and bodies with the vibrant colors. It was wearable art! Super cool. During summer school before 8th grade, some mean boy told me my freckles (which are a lot more prominent during the summer) were ugly and made my face look dirty. That day, I came home, locked myself in the bathroom and raided my moms makeup, applying her thick concealer (which was wayyyy too dark for me) all over my face in an attempt to see what my face would look like without the "dirty freckles". I wasn't allowed to wear much makeup (only lipstick) until the middle of 9th grade but the day I was given the okay to do so, I caked the foundation on and didn't look back for years. Even at 22 I did a full face of makeup (dark, smokey eye using sketch eyeshadow) right before my ambulance ride from one hospital to the next which would be "home" for 3 weeks while I had my chemo. When I arrived, my nurse questioned whether my eyes were bruised (because the rest of my body was covered in them), and I had to tell her, no, it was makeup. As drugged as I was, I somehow managed to keep my brows on for the duration of my hospital stay. Even in that one picture in the entry below where I am clearly drugged out of my mind, mouth hanging open and everything, that black bag on my bed was my makeup bag. RIDICULOUS.

Today I did a wedding trial and my friend Jasmine again brought up our Miami trip in regards to my Dr. Doolittle quality. In talking about what kind of lashes we'd use, she, her soon to be sister in law and I somehow ended up in a conversation relating to using Latisse because she wasn't happy with her lashes, the wrinkles we'd acquired over the years, weight gain etc. In regards to the Miami trip I remembered how one of our friends was so self-conscious about the stretch marks on her calves that she refused to even wear a skirt, let alone a bikini despite how hot it was, how I always had everyone on "eyebrow check" during and after swimming to make sure my brows hadn't come off, and yet another one of us was so happy she had been depressed and lost all this weight. Everyone had/has all these ridiculous insecurities. Seriously, think about it. I know I don't walk down the street looking at people I don't know thinking "OMG look at the stretch marks on her calves" or "WOW, that girl is FAT." or "Her lashes need to be longer." or etc etc And I certainly don't do that in regards to people I know. I would hope, that other people don't either.

I don't know when my mind evolved to put an end to all the nonsensical thoughts and way of living, but I'm glad it did. In regards to my mom, I suppose I can only agree with how Aaliyah put it "Age ain't nothing but a number" Do I enjoy wearing makeup? Yes, at times. Would I like to lose weight? Sure, I'd like to lose maybe 5 pounds of fat. But at the end of the day, I can finally say that I'm mostly comfortable with my bare naked self. My perspective and values have evolved to the point that I can say "Really? It's not THAT big of a deal." And I can only hope that we as a society evolve to that point as well. Though unless we also evolve to a point where money isn't a necessity I don't see this happening on a grand scale.

Our insecurities are what fuel the beauty and "health?" industry. A lot of people don't join gyms in general because they want to be healthy - they tell themselves that, and subconsciously probably believe that as well, they also join because they want smaller waistlines, or larger muscles. See? Appearance based. Of course there are some who want stronger hearts, better circulation, stronger muscles to support bones or better lung capacity but, let's be honest. There are just as many as people who join the gym almost purely based on an attempt to somehow rectify their supposedly flawed appearance.

And most gyms even create their ads using wording "get in shape", "Shape you life/future", "get stronger", "the way we help you play", while all the instructors I've ever taken classes from at gyms have also been knowledgeable, committed to strength and an all over healthy lifestyle saying things during class like, "Feel the burn! Keep it up. Your body will feel so much better the stronger you get! You'll have more energy." Which is all true. But they'll also throw in things like "Just 20 more! You're almost there, closer and closer to that tighter tummy! You'll able to fit in those jeans you haven't worn in 5 years," feeding into the appearance based "need" to be at the gym - because as I said, they're feeding off our insecurities.

This ad clearly states that's it's important to get attention, stating, "Attention! Get some." "Don't like being stared at, stay home. Because apparently you should want to be stared at because you should want to or need to get attention. As if you're lacking without attention based on people staring at you. They even keep it somewhat playful with "When you moon old ladies, they'll give you a higher score!" but again feeding into the desire of an appearance based positive affirmation.

"Get in shape. (rather than round)" - again appearance based

I do believe that smaller gyms (in general) don't feed into that crap. It really is more fitness based and people tend to feel more comfortable.
-Yet this one still has the sex-based photos in the background:

This ad CLEARLY caters to the sexual undercurrent of some gyms because the "relationship" of personal trainers and client can I believe sometimes feed into peoples fantasies. For women I can say who doesn't like someone who motivates and inspires them? On top of that trainers tend to have more "in shape" bodies. And for men (also with women), there's lots of touching involved with less experienced clients to correct posture and such. With those photos underneath:

This Hollywood one (made for crunch fitness? read what the top tab says) is so far the best example of promoting that you NEED positive appearance based attention and You just have to look at it:

This is an interesting "article" on which asks "Does this type of ad further perpetuates an unattainable standard already foisted upon us by modern advertising?":

This Crunch ad tells us we need to be strong physically to deal with the world making fun of our insecurities. When in reality, we need to be strong mentally to deal with it. And I could be reading wayyy too into it but the "crush it" over and over again, sounds a lot like "crunch it".

So I very well could continue rambling on and on on this topic but I'll get to my whole point by saying this: I hope that we can eventually evolve into a society that isn't conditioned into placing so much value on physical appearance. As in my opinion, shouldn't be something we value so greatly. And I'm saying this as a makeup artist, somehow who absolutely LOVES makeup. But I think what shifted is that my old perspective of makeup was using various tools to create a mask to hide behind, and feeling the NEED to hide behind that mask, becoming dependant on that mask and uncomfortable without it hiding my "flaws" whereas now I see it truly as artform in that I make various creative decisions to create my own unique look - however I feel like expressing myself that day viewing it more as an accessory than a necessity, whether on my own or someone else's face.

Let's instead value mental and emotional health. Let's contribute to the health of society with positive energy and enforcing good self esteem from a young age. Let's focus on our goals, whatever we're passionate about and let's start doing what we want to. Stop buying into the crap the media puts out there telling you what to value. Physical health is important too. Because if you throw away the insecurities are able to be content with yourself and love yourself, life will probably be better as you'll see things in a different perspective no matter what your circumstances are. If you're living a truly content life you'll be more motivated to want to be physically healthy to live longer rather than you want to look a certain way so you'll be content with you appearance. Also, as I was trying to get at in the very beginning, let's stop valuing so many "things". "Things" or material items are not only visually chaotic but they're energy blockers. Energy needs to flow consistently to stay fresh, full of life, positive. It needs be able to evolve. If energy gets blocked, it can't move, becomes stagnant and therefore can't.

Just my opinionated observations.


  1. This is amazing. As a girl who has always struggled with weight, I feel this. I'm 5'2" and 250lbs--at 23. While I'm done being so overweight and taking measures to get healthy, I can't believe all of the subliminal anti-fat messages bombarding us daily. I think everyone has something beautiful about them, no matter how big or small they are. As you said, appearance doesn't matter, but health does. You really hit the nail on the head here, and I thank you for this post.

  2. This post reminds me of the book "The Beauty Myth." If you haven't read it already, I think you would really enjoy it.

    I'm at the same point as you in regards to being a make-up artist who sees make-up more as an art form now and not so much a way to save women from their ugliness. That's part of the reason that I'm leaning more toward SFX because it gets old feeding into clients' insecurities. When you try to make a woman more beautiful and natural, you inevitably hear about everything she wishes were different about herself. If you change them into a character they seem to be liberated from those thoughts for a moment.

  3. Seriously? Only two comments for this fabulous post? I'm so sorry. I know what it's like to pour my heart out in words and have almost no one respond.

    But really ... GREAT post. And good for you for being secure enough to be vulnerable. Not only with where you're at now, but sharing where you were at. Highly commendable. I beleve a lot of women hide behind something, whether it looks pretty or not. Too many of us are scared just to be US in our own skin. It really is so sad. I'm trying to do the best I can with ME, 'cause in the end I'm the only one I can change. Great thoughts, Risa. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Really? Only three comments on this post fabulous? Sorry. I know what it is to pay my heart the words and almost no one answers.
    But really ... Great post. Well for you to be safe enough to be vulnerable.