On Beauty with Mint
Mint is a working cosmetologist, hair stylist, and makeup artist. Full disclosure: Mint and I first met through a beauty collective we had both been founding members of, called BeautyFam.
There is no shortage of skilled makeup artists showcasing their looks online now, but something about Mint’s work has consistently left me in awe. Their looks are bold and dreamy; delicately crafted and precise.
One of the many aspects of beauty culture that irritates me is the heavy emphasis on the superiority of expensive products. When someone in our BeautyFam group chat would ask Mint what eyeshadow they used to achieve a certain look, they would never fail to respond with something amazing yet completely unhelpful, like, “Oh that’s actually some old lipstick I had lying around!”. While many makeup artists would find themselves floundering in the absence of their magical $75 primer, Mint can whisk beauty out of thin air.
Mint was gracious enough to speak to me about their background, creative process, and their own very nuanced relationship with beauty.
A: When did you first begin experimenting with makeup, and why?
M: I was probably eight or nine. My mom is a singer, and when she would go to sing at clubs/church/events, she always wore gold eyeshadow and black lip liner with gold lipstick and I thought it was SO iconic..... and so I would go in her makeup when she wasn’t home and copy that exact look. I’d top it off by adding a beauty mark under my right eye.... my own lil twist.
A: Was there a singular event that prompted you to start using it?
M: More than me being obsessed with my mom and thinking she’s so beautiful, I spent a lot of time on YouTube in high school and middle school, and there was this dark skin British Youtuber. I wish I could remember her name, I still try to find her every once and a while. But she basically FUELED me wanting to have my own channel, and to be able to help other Black girls.
A: So your interest in cosmetics began with your mother. Would you say your relationship to beauty is similar?
M: Like what I find beautiful on a person? Yes, until a certain point. My mom and dad were really good about telling me I’m beautiful and exposing me to so much Black beauty in art and TV and everything; I was only allowed to have Latina and Black dolls. But even though my parents "did everything right" in regards to making sure I know my skin is beautiful and the features I came with are beautiful on me and everyone who has them, it’s still a struggle. Especially once I started middle school and got into a program that let me travel from the inner city to suburban schools, that honestly changed my whole outlook on myself.
A: Could you elaborate on that?
M: In elementary, it was fine because kids that age don’t really care about shit. But as soon as I got to middle school from like the first day of school, literally I was just torn apart by the older kids, white and Black. All the white girls were super skinny and had all the clothes I couldn’t afford. They clearly looked down on me, no one would sit with me at lunch or talk to me. A lot of the friends I made in high school told me that I was scary… And then all the kids I came from the city with flamed me on my clothes, my hair, my skin, like I couldn’t escape ridicule and isolation anywhere. That’s when I started to hate myself. From that first day of middle school on, my self-esteem and confidence plummeted daily. It didn’t help that I always smelled like Jamaican curry and spices because of how my mom cooked. Other things also deteriorated my self worth, from molestation to a new step mom, a little brother… so much was happening to me at such a young age. I was overwhelmed and I never told anyone about it. I resorted to burning things, I would sit in my room or the bathroom tub and burn shit (super duper emo). I didn’t know how to deal with anything, still don’t to be honest.
A: What do you tend to draw inspiration from in your looks?
M: I don’t even know, to be honest. Whenever I do my makeup, I’m like okay, this color could look good with this... and when I’m all done I’ll relate it back to something it could look like. But honestly I live a very impulsive and unstable life, and that spills into everything I do. But if I have to say what I draw inspiration from for my looks, I just have to simply say my mood.
A: So you draw more from your life and experiences. How has makeup been a creative outlet for you?
M: Any time I try to be like, ‘Okay this is my color scheme, this is my inspiration I’m gonna match it to’, it never turns out how I want. I just go by my feeling and however it turns out is what it is. I have my go-to everyday makeup, but when it comes to being creative, it has to be free flow. I’m not good at copying looks, I’m not good at matching to what’s already existing— I feel anxious and pressured. I gotta just do what I like… Makeup and hair is my release. Once I started doing my own makeup in high school, I always got compliments on it. I wouldn’t go to school without a full face of makeup my whole sophomore year. It went from creative, to me feeling I had to do it. I go through phases like that, where hair and makeup is fun to me, and then it becomes obligatory.
A: So those feelings of obligation in regards to beauty, why do you think you felt those things then? And when you feel obligated to do a full face of makeup in the morning now, do you think your perspective has changed since high school?
M: I still feel those things now unfortunately. I’ve always dealt with terrible self-image issues. This is probably like, problematic, but I make myself feel better through makeup and I’m not ashamed nor do I think that’s a bad thing. It allows me to feel comfortable, I destress when I do my makeup.
Lots of things make me feel this, way but honestly I am my worst enemy despite people’s compliments and sentiments towards me. I just don’t... see it. I’m working on it though. I definitely don’t feel the need to do a full face every morning, I’ve gotten lazy and I have to catch the bus to a far-out suburb almost in a different county where I work.
So I’m up at the ass crack of dawn, but I’ve found ways to enhance what I already have when I feel like it. I never feel obligated to do it anymore, I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anybody honestly. I think that’s what made me stop doing my makeup everyday. Because anytime I didn’t, people commented on it and I got irritated. So yeah, my perspective has changed since HS in a sense that I do care less what people think when they look at me. I try not to think about it, and live how I wanna live. So if I’m too tired to put on makeup, I’m too tired and that’s nobody’s business but mine.
A: Does that have any connection to when you're doing makeup on others, or do you feel that's a totally separate thing?
M: Definitely a separate thing. When I do others’ makeup or hair, I can always find a way to make their negative views positive. And I’m like, damn why cant I do this to myself! But like I said, I’m my own worst enemy. I see so much beauty in my friends, my mom, my family, and the people around me.
A: How does the idea of beauty play a role in your makeup looks?
M: It’s complicated... like it does with me, but not with other people, if that makes sense. I see the beauty in everyone, but it gets hard to do that for yourself. But I'm getting better at it. To be honest I’m very aware of how people look, and if I think they're beautiful or not. And like I said before, I find the beauty in everyone. I can always see something, find something.
Being a cosmetologist, my attitude towards beauty is a positive one. I make people happy about a certain aspect of their appearance for a living, you can see an attitude and mood change when you know someone really loves the work you’ve done. And I love that about hair and makeup.
If this hair color or this eyeshadow look makes someone happy, there’s nothing wrong with that. If no hair color or not wearing makeup makes someone happy, there’s nothing wrong with that either. What makes you feel beautiful is what I’m about, as long as you’re happy. Some people don’t get that, but I do.