My Image Journey—a Sweet Surrender
Part One in a three-part series by Mary Jane Mahan, author, actor, Authentic Beauty writer and big fat makeup chicken (maryjanebrain.com)
February 11, 2010 will stand as one of the most relief-filled, empowering Thursdays of my life, the day I surrendered my fears on the salon altar of Authentic Beauty (AB) and did my Image Journey with one of their skilled artists. After almost five years of meeting CEO and AB founder Alyson Hoag, I’d finally let trust rule instead of my neuroses about the “evils” of makeup. Glory be!
If you’re unfamiliar with the Image Journey, it’s a process Aly created so we women can author our true authentic look (versus the ever-changing trends and styles sold to us by the money-hungry cosmetic industry). This inner journey requires a smidge of homework and a ton of willingness so a gal can release old ideas and those tired, expired standbys in her makeup bag.
Although I am a published author, the notion of authoring my look was a different story, a terror tale gripping me with mortal fear. Why all the drama? Perhaps because I am also an actor and a speaker lagging way behind on the whole image management piece of my life. Crafting words, speeches and monologues leaves me invigorated. The thought of crafting my Image Journey vision board left me feeling weak and helpless—so much that I avoided it for two years despite being a volunteer writer for AB. How silly is that!
Maybe you can relate to my fears. Up until age 36, I found little reason to trust any aspect of the beauty industry. As a semi-tomboy blessed with healthy confidence, I knew intuitively that cosmetic counters preyed upon feminine self-esteem. No woman in a lab coat hawking purple eye shadow was going to tell me that my natural naked face was lacking a thing! To complicate matters, I’d been dating women for eight years and had gotten very lazy and stuck in a rut of “no makeup, no pressure”. Although I’m in awe of all my femme sisters and lipstick lesbians pals, I took no part in wearing paint on my face or heels on my feet (big fat chicken!).
My deep suspicion of the beauty industry was resoundingly confirmed at the 2009 AB screening of America the Beautiful. This documentary exposed the heinous practice of manipulating magazine images of women’s bodies and faces through Photoshop. How could I feel safe picking up an eye shadow brush let alone picking out pictures for my Image Journey board in such a hostile environment for my gender?
Aly changed all that! When I met her almost five years ago, she was starting a goddess club (and go figure, I was wearing a t-shirt that day emblazoned with the word Goddess). Aly’s gigantic smile, flowing Leo mane, and overflowing heart captured my interest yet it was her mission that captivated my soul: “I believe every woman is beautiful as they are.” Wow, talk about natural essence. Can you say ode de self-esteem revolution? I was enrolled immediately and began donating my skills for AB shortly after (my first step in building a foundation of trust with this thing called makeup).
I recall Aly’s furrowed brow that first chance encounter as she examined my wild brows. “If only I had my tweezers,” she muttered with deep concern. This was lost on me. Rebirthing my image was a far away concept like driving my car to the planet Jupiter. That protective shell began to break a year later when I found myself on a bus with Aly and forty other women headed to the New Orleans Superdome to comfort Hurricane Katrina survivors (re-read the blog post on AB’s collective experience at the V-to-the-Tenth). On that trip I began to wake up to the transformative power of a simple makeover under the right conditions. I got my period during the bus trip and I took it as a sign to let Aly “have” my brows when we returned.
That was a funny day in Richie Arpino’s salon. I decided to bring in my makeup bag. I had just begun acting classes and I knew I needed major help and quick! I hadn’t worn foundation since high school drama class and I was beginning to feel the pressure of so many years shunning my beauty image. I asked Aly if I could keep my brown eye shadow palate. She replied yes and corrected me that the color was plum. Whaaaa? Here I began to argue with the brow guru of Atlanta and veteran makeup professional of almost a quarter of a century on my rancid eye shadow.
“Um, no Aly, it’s brown,” I reply defensively. “Nope. It’s plum,” she shot back with the authority and patience of a mother. “That’s impossible. I’ve had that shade for ten years, it’s got to be brown,” I said desperately. I went into shock as Aly plunged her finger into the palate, rubbing the color on the top of her hand and holding it into the sunlight. “Babe, that’s purple.” Graciously, she skipped the lecture on ten-year-old makeup.
I don’t even know what color eye shadow I’m using? Geeze! Needless to say, we laid down another plank of trust that day as I left with a deliciously smooth and eaasy Pro Faces 3-in-1 foundation, newly shaped brows, and a brown eye shadow. I felt humbled yet empowered. That’s what AB is all about–empowering women.
I am so grateful to Aly’s unwavering commitment to turning this crazy beauty industry around. I find it stunning that even though I trust Aly with my life, it still took another two years to trust her salon with rebirthing my look through the Image Journey. In Part Two I’ll share my results (and more of my hilarious neuroses). In Part Three I’ll share why I’m now a passionate believer in this transformative process and why it took so long to get me in that salon chair.
Before I go, isn’t it time to book your Image Journey? If you’re not sure, take a quick peek in the mirror and ask yourself, do I love who I am and how I look right now? If the little voice in your head said no to either one of those questions, it’s time to call the Atlanta AB studio and make an appointment with one of their brilliant, friendly artists. It will be one of the best days of your life!