In My Chair: A Makeup Artist’s Perspective on Beauty by Eva DeVirgilis at TEDxRVAWomen – Transcript
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Eva DeVirgilis – Actress
“I’m sorry you have to touch my face. Look at this breakout; I look disgusting.”
“I’m sorry, but I am not a pretty woman.”
“No. Thank you, but no. I look like crap.”
“The doctor says that I have to lose weight. So, sorry. This is what you got to work with.”
“I look in the mirror, and all I see is a tired mom. And I see these wrinkles, and I feel old and ugly.”
And this is what I hear every single solitary day of my life. I am a makeup artist, and these are real words from real women.
I’m also an actress, but for my past 7 years of doing makeup, I have discovered, within the first 3 seconds of sitting in my chair, almost every single woman apologizes to me for the way she looks. Doesn’t matter how young, how old, what socioeconomic background she comes from, how traditionally beautiful she is, almost every single woman apologizes and does not feel that she measures up to this new standard of beauty.
And I’m sure that maybe some of you might be able to relate to this apology thing? I see some of you nodding.
Well, it just so happens that I was actually the makeup artist for TEDx last year, and the same thing happened when these incredibly innovative women sat in my chair. They apologized.
Now, I have discovered that there is a very small group of women who don’t apologize. And these are the movers, the shakers, they’re the powerhouses. They could be CEOs, or stay-at-home moms, but they don’t measure themselves by a mirror. Sure, they wear makeup, but they don’t apologize for it. They live in the moment, and they let themselves have that pleasure of living in the moment and in the now. And I am in awe of these women.
And there’s probably some of you very rare, precious, confident creatures in this audience. And to you ladies, I say go ahead and take a bathroom break! You can be back in like five and half minutes or something, because you don’t need this! You don’t need to hear what I have to say.
And the other women in this very small group are the women who are aware of their own mortality. And I’ll get back to them in a little bit.
So, a woman will make an appointment with me for a variety of different reasons. A lot of times, she just feels down about the way she looks, and her friend will tell her, “Oh, you have to go see Eva, she’s amazing. She’s great. She’ll teach you makeup tricks, it’s going to change your life.”
But I have to be honest. I think that makeup is the very least of what I do. But I’m not saying, denying, that makeup does not play a very real part in making a woman feel more attractive, and thus more confident, because we’re all aware of those biological cues of attraction between human beings, like symmetry, and color, and light. And when we see them in ourselves or somebody else, it pleases our primordial senses.
And I, as a makeup artist, am very adept with the skills and tools to very easily manipulate and enhance those bio-cues on the face. That’s my job.
But I’ll be honest with you. I think every single woman who sits in my chair is beautiful with or without makeup. She just has no idea. Which is why I like to think of myself as treading in the deep end of a shallow profession. Because I use makeup as my tool to help her believe it. Makeup is my therapy puppet to help a woman open up about how she’s feeling, and express to me what her concerns are, so I can address them.
And you know what? It works! Almost every time, I see a woman leap up out of my chair with this new skip in her step. I see her actually look in the mirror and actually smile at herself, even if it’s temporary. There is a very real transformation that happens in this chair.
“Oh no. What are you talking about? I am not a pretty woman. My mother-in-law says that I have a round face, and there is no way to make a round, fat face pretty.”
And I can’t believe what I hear, because all I see is a beautiful woman. And I say, “Matir, but look at your gorgeous, golden skin! Here, hold the mirror, watch what I’m doing. Look at these perfect almond eyes, these lips, my God, in my next life, I want these lips. Your smile just lit up this room!”
Now, you would think because this is my job, and I do this everyday, and I hear what women say, and I have this unique perspective, that I would be different.
But — here’s what happens when I sit in somebody’s makeup chair. “Oh, God. I’m sorry, I have a very tough face. I hate that I am actually dependent on eyeliner to even walk out my front door. Oh, oh no, don’t worry, my nose is like a Muppet’s fist. Just like ee, ee, erh. So, no worries trying to cover it up.”
I have said those exact words in somebody else’s makeup chair! I, too, do not feel that I measure up, or can hold up to this insane, new measure of beauty in this world, that’s like porn and fashion, and Photoshop, just like all mixed up in one.
Yeah. Good luck with that.
And it’s not going away. So what are we going to do? What am I going to do to feel and appreciate what I have? Which brings me back to that other small group of women that don’t apologize.
Oh — all right — ah
“It’s my birthday! I’m 96 years old, and I’m on borrowed time now, honey. But, I think I look pretty good.”
“Ah, this feels so good, I’m going to fall asleep. Yes, I have two little ones. Two and four year old. And I just had a double mastectomy, and six rounds of chemo. So, I’m just so happy to be pampering myself. And I have to say, I love my new wig!”
Is this what it’s going to take for me? Is this what it’s going to take for me to appreciate what I have? To be confronted with the prospect of illness or death? Is that what it’s going to take for us to appreciate what we have?
Well, I’m not going to take that. I don’t accept it. So, in desperate need for a solution to all of this, I thought, “What can I do?”
So, I thought, “Well, why don’t I do what other women do? They do it, and it works for them, even if it’s temporary. Why don’t I try it? Why don’t I sit in Eva’s chair?”
“What would Eva say to me if I apologized to Eva?”
I know. It sounds cheesy. I know. But it’s actually very scary. It’s the reason why I didn’t even want to finish this TED talk to begin with.
Because it’s what I know I need to do.
Eva, stop saying that about your eyes. You have your mother’s eyes, and you would never think for a second that this woman who gave you life and wisdom was not measuring up.
Okay, stop. Eva, stop saying that about your nose. You have your father’s and grandmama’s nose. Yes, your Italian genes are prominent, but so is your spirit because of it! And you can identify the notes of a lush, jammy Primitivo wine better than most because of it, probably.
So, I guess I’m deciding that if lining my eyes brings symmetry to my face and to my mind, then I guess I’ll do it. 2And if adding a touch of color to my lips allows me to bring joy and color to my speech — then why the heck not?
And if adding light reflection to my skin gives me the little boost of confidence for me to shed light on a seemingly superficial topic to a group of intellectuals, then I will do it! And that makes me feel beautiful.
And I will sit in my chair, and I will listen, and believe, that we are all beautiful. I will make that appointment.