Let's start at the beginning. I began using cosmetics, in earnest, at the age of 25. Until 25 years of age, skin care was a bar of Ivory soap and a cobalt blue jar of Noxzema. Aside from liquid black eyeliner, false eyelashes, shocking pink nail polish and henna, make-up was the unfortunate stuff my mother used. By the age of 25, however, an androgynous carriage had become awkward womanliness. This unsolicited ripening, the first in a series of signs that I was going to grow old, was something I believed I would be spared.
Emerging from the bliss of ignorance of other people’s perceptions, I was facing lifelong preoccupation with my appearance. I needed a teacher. Do I groom and enhance? Or should I manipulate, provoke? I entered the professional world of cosmetics for answers.
On the way to the Emerald City was Victoria Avenue (near St-Kevin), my yellow brick road. In a cosmetics shop below street level, I found a thin make-up guide written and illustrated by make-up artist Way Bandy. The guide had large, hand-drawn illustrations, very little text and large print, so I bought it. There was no singular, idealized expression of beauty. There were a number of composed styles, of little transparent attitudes that could be confected to charm, to enchant, to disarm; a wardrobe of clever little face designs to celebrate all of the women that were me, or that could be me. A cosmetics bag, it turns out, is not an inert plastic pouch, but a Pandora’s box of ambitious women and a time portal to the future, a future of my own making. I had just crossed through the looking glass into a world of contradictions, of half-truths, of cosmetic artifice.
Way Bandy had ingenious tips for the handling and application of cosmetics, specifically foundation. The extraordinary simplicity of Way’s tips rendered me an industry insider from the moment I read and understood them. His books, however brief, constitute a philosophy of beauty, of how to address imperfection. And in addressing imperfection, there is absolute perfection. Way Bandy’s genius is exalted artistic understatement. Way Bandy was The Wizard and his books were the point of transformation from a mute consumer to an industry insider and gatekeeper for the mysteries that lie within.
Almost 20 years after Way Bandy’s books, Kevin Aucoin’s books taught the advanced class. "Making Faces" is a cinematic frontal assault, an arsenal of alchemy. Kevin Aucoin and I became kindred when I read Way Bandy’s name among the credits in “Making Faces”.
It has been more than 40 years since I took my first position as a salesgirl in a privately-owned make-up boutique in the city of Town of Mount Royal, Quebec. My last assignment ended in the spring of 2008 as Beaute Analyste for Chanel Cosmetics with an American retailer in Palo Alto, California. In-between there was Paula Dorff, Laura Mercier and Biotherm. "Hardly Glamorous" will be my expose of the cosmetics industry in California.
Curious about those transformational make-up guides?