One of the most important missions in relaunching the site was to focus on the stories of real women. I’ve long suspected that aspirational doesn’t have to unapproachable, and I’m very interested in our real, honest connect to the aspects of fashion, style, and beauty. It’s important to feature the thoughts and opinions of truly beautiful women, people who have a glow from the inside out, that certain something you can’t put your finger on but it draws you magnetically to them.
I’m happy to say that I have one right here in my office: my beloved intern, Adele Bernhard. She is a glowing spirit, an incredibly strong young woman with a heady mixture of true vulnerability mixed with powerful strength. I’m grateful she took me up on my invitation to write the first piece in this series, an honest account of her relationship to beauty, and how she’s determined her relationship with it. Here is Adele’s Beauty Confessional:
“I have what many 20-year-olds would consider a dream internship. I know a lot of young women my age would walk into an office filled with every kind of beauty product and start screaming with joy. I was essentially told to ‘go play.’ That’s super amazing. I get it.
For me, I had one initial thought: “I am SO going to get fired.”
I am the least likely candidate for this job. I was always taught I should always look “natural”, which I took as a grand edict that anything over and above basic hygiene was sort of off-limits. It’s due to very well-meaning parental advice. My peers started using makeup in middle school, and when I went home to ask my mother about it, she told me that you’re only a kid once, to savor that moment. It worked. I associated makeup with adult responsibilities and essentially a threat to my youthful happiness. I created a negative connotation right there, and it’s only been recently that it’s started to go away.
Looking back on it, I’m grateful for that advice to my twelve-year-old. But here I am, at 21, and I until recently only knew how to apply mascara and brown eyeliner so lightly you can’t tell I’m wearing makeup at all. I can honestly say I know how most women feel walking into Sephora or a giant drugstore with aisles and aisles of products: until recently, I had no idea what I need, how to use it, or even where to start.
Honestly? I still don’t.
I’ve always had sort of a funny experience when it comes to beauty and beauty products. Instead of trying to wear my mother’s lipstick as a toddler, I used to eat it. She let me play with her blush for a while before I started to eat that, too. Chanel makeup is not for snack time. I know that now.
Despite my hesitance around makeup, I grew up as the girly-girl of the family, always interested in clothes as opposed to my tomboy younger sister. I was in a rather insular bubble about my looks until I was about 14 years old, when I saw a photo of myself and realized my thighs were touching. I was always taught I was beautiful just as I was, so that type of reaction didn’t come from my upbringing. But my reaction was a sudden hyper-awareness of my body. I was immediately self-conscious and distrustful of all the people that had told me I was fine the way I was. I still struggle with it to this day. When someone comments on my looks, even if it’s positive, sometimes I think they’re lying.
But I have gotten better at saying I love myself. It comes from accepting and loving my insides first, and then I’ll look at myself in the mirror and think “You’re beautiful. You’re a beautiful human being.” I think that’s so much more lasting. I think it’s important to accept myself for who I am before focusing on how I look. As Kristin keeps saying, it’s about making sure that my insides match my outsides.
As part of this confession, I should admit another big, comical mistake in my former beauty routine. I’m also an athlete, and a relentless training schedule in sweaty gear created a long battle with body acne: the super deep, painful variety. I had to do something to resolve it, so I had a ‘genius’ idea: douse it with isopropyl rubbing alcohol. That’s right: rubbing alcohol. I used to pour bottles of it, the stuff people use to clean windows and disinfect open wounds, all over my back and body. I honestly thought I was onto a cheap, seemingly workable answer. I later discovered the acne was a reaction to wheat, and for many, many reasons rubbing alcohol was not the solution.
So, don’t do that.
I’m slowly coming to realize that, while I don’t want to depend on makeup or any other beauty product while I’m still trying to figure out who I am, playing with all those products is kind of fun. If I ‘m going out, I’ll put on mascara, eyeliner and some eyeshadow from NARS — enough so you can see I’m actually wearing makeup. There’s something beautiful about the routine of it all, the ritual of self-care. My favorite thing ever is moisturizing my face. I’ve found a Paula’s Choice moisturizer here at the office that’s so good I want to write them a letter. I put it on, and I feel ready to face my day.
I’ve also started getting regular manicures. I pick at my cuticles when I get anxious, and when I get my nails done and see my cuticles aren’t ripped, I won’t touch them.
It’s funny that someone who’s quite new to the concept of beauty would be writing an article on their relationship to beauty, but I think there are a lot of women of all ages who might relate to my story. My personal experience has shown me that it’s important to go inside yourself before looking for all those external beauty tools. It’s also important to avoid the scary messages from the outside. You are enough. You are beautiful. Get secure within yourself, then reach out. Discover. Like I was told, “Go play.”
Just please take my advice: stay away from the rubbing alcohol.
Photographed: October 4, 2016 in Central Park, New York City. All photos: Kristin Booker