My Image Journey—A Sweet Surrender
Part 3 of a three-part series by Mary Jane Mahan, author, actor, Authentic Beauty writer and reformed makeup chicken (maryjanebrain.com)
As long as there’s no peach or pink I can do this…
I put the finishing touches on my vision board and raced out the door, skipping like a school girl to my car. For once, I felt jazzed about makeup. Not surprising really, as I was headed to the salon in Atlanta (the country?) completely devoted to empowering women about their look inside and out. Thank you, Alyson Hoag.
Because of Authentic Beauty (AB), gals finally have a decent chance to climb out of the emotional sink hole called relationship with cosmetics. Not every woman is tied up in a knot over her eyeshade, however too many of us obsess, stress, feel confused, or blindly follow industry trends. Then there are the Amazon-freaks like me who (used to) swear makeup is an anti-feminist plot to keep a good woman down. We could converse about this last point until the cows applied lipstick and came home, however I’m her to witness that completely avoiding being feminine is its own brand of crazy chicken talk.
How’d I do a 180 concerning my attitude? Simple, I quit bellyaching and did my Image Journey homework. As previously shared on the AB blog, completing my board was a twenty-four month journey and a transformational miracle. I had earned my prancing rights.
Zoom-zoom down the highway. The sun was shining bright, downtown connector traffic was light, and I was feeling alright. I called a friend to have a bona fide girly conversation. “I feel like I’m getting married today,” I gushed. “I guess I am, to myself.” As long as there’s no pink or peach in this deal, I thought silently. Don’t push me too far off that girly ledge, please.
Nerves were present yet excitement prevailed as I mustered confidence and did my best strut into the AB salon. “World peace has arrived, cause Mary Jane is here to do her Image Journey,” I shouted dramatically, one-arm pumping my vision board in the air. Aly laughed and took a mother’s moment away from her gentleman brow client to oooh at my homework. A hint of smugness perched the CEO’s lips, and well deserved—she knows the power of this process.
As a professional makeup artist for over twenty years with kids of her own, Aly had heard it all. That’s why she created AB’s signature service in the first place, so we could free ourselves from self-induced pain reflected back in the mirror. The Image Journey is just that, a journey back to inner knowing and self-authority concerning our real beauty and look. Watch out, Revlon, there’s a revolution brewing strongly on Roswell Road.
Shana King drew me into her salon chair. Her warm smile and confident presence put me at instant ease. Shana is a sought-after professional makeup artist and founder of the luxurious adesign brush line (get them at AB). She’s also a young, hip mom overflowing with wisdom, beauty, and grace. Plenty of humor too—all excellent attributes for dealing with the horrors of makeup bag relics like mine.
I coughed over my ratty products and free Clinique bag I’d gotten from who knows where. Shana was unfazed. “I’ll be gentle, and I’m definitely throwing out this foam applicator. I see an Este Lauder compact circa 1980…this goes in the brush hall of shame with the rest of them. That you can’t even open, and it’s silver.”
Shana became a medical examiner as she aimed for the trash can: “Hmmm, I haven’t seen packaging like this since the 80s.” Chunk went the blush. Chunk went the brush. “I chew gum bigger than this,” she dead-panned, fishing out the top of a tiny eyebrow comb not fit for a pre-teen. Clink it went. About 95 percent of my stuff went bye-bye. I was secretly relieved…until we got to my eyeliners. Then it got personal.
“What’s wrong with silver,” I joked nervously. It had worked for me in college (yeah sure, like Sun-In had in high school). The nearby Aly gave the offending pencil a withering glance, denouncing “See that coating?” Um, that means bad. Next up: purple power. Shana visibly grimaced as she chunked three pollutant-filled plum eyeliners that had melted into the lids. I felt a burn deep inside.
See, eyeliner had been my feminine lifeline. Over the last two decades, it was the only product I’d let grace my face with any regularity. Throw on a hint of it before leaving for my government, waitressing, or graduate school job and I felt like I had done my part for womanhood. In truth, it was a psychic security blanket that I applied with as much maturity as a maiden. You couldn’t even see it on my eyes!
Reflecting back, that had been the funny-strange theme of my past: lay low in life and avoid the responsibility of being seen. Is that why I didn’t know I was wearing grey mascara? “Yeah, that’s probably why it was on a 2-for-1 sale,” Shana concluded at the end of my expired mascara lecture. Shocked, I muttered back over the lively salon din, “Oh, so that’s why it never seemed to go on heavy or dark enough.”
Shana’s closing comment about my atrocious makeup bag: “It’s funnier than those little dogs that wear shirts.”
Moving on, we started with my former nemesis, foundation. The brush founder gave me a facial orgasm with her pointed foundation Kabuki brush. So soft, compact, and cute with its own mini-me carrying case! Shana’s words about her tool filled me with confidence, so easy you can’t mess it up, just dip and apply. She had my Pro Faces 3-in-1 concealer on my face evenly in lightning speed, faster than I could spit out, “Please write down blended on my cheat sheet!” Unreal. Yep, I’ll be taking one of those.
Next she taught the tomboy the smoky eye. This technique paired with “disheveled done right” dominated my Image Journey, confidence I longed to copy. Flying over and under my lids with dexterity and a variety of brushes, Shana smudged and blended up to a stunning finish. Was that me in the mirror? I watched in awe, forgetting that I’d be doing this solo sooner rather than later. “You do know there’s more homework for your follow-up visit, right?” Gulp. Glad I had my digital recorder.
It was exhilarating, actually. Until Shana broke out the pink and a low moan escaped from me. The artist took charge and waved a professional had to my vision board. “But there’s one, two, three, four pictures…wait, there’s another one, FIVE images of women with these peachy-pink lips on your board.” Peach? I wanted to hurl. There must be a mistake, no way did I put pink in my Image Journey. I like brown!
“See, you are attracted to this,” Shana said firmly yet kindly. Not ready to give up, I protested, panicked, and pathetically cried for Chai brown. “This doesn’t feel like Decatur to me, and besides, I looked hard for brown lips in the magazines and I couldn’t find any,” I wailed.
Shana stepped powerfully into the open door of opportunity: “Maybe that’s because Chai brown is boring.” Ouch. The truth hurt and the images didn’t lie. Do I even understand what pink is or why I’m turning it into a monster? I don’t even know what color mascara I’m wearing. Perhaps there’s something to release here? I felt woozy from getting my period that morning, a sure sign of birth. Breathe, Mary Jane.
Intuitively, Shana softened the pink lip pencil edge by sharing her big wakeup moment, the one where she finally surrendered and accepted her new life and look as a mom. Saturday nights a distant memory, twenty minutes for beauty now five, a handful of products and colors that work easily and quickly, first time in her life she’d felt comfortable in her own skin and with who she was. The professional cosmetics artist glowed with gratitude that now it was all about makeup that suits my life, not someone else’s. Her soft voice filled my heart where the pain was seeping out. I floated down a birth canal.
“I want my life.” Shana’s convictional words rang through me as my own. I sat straight up in the salon chair. Isn’t this why I was here? The new me was an author, actor, and speaker, a life I adored. This new life was full of feminine grace promise, great strength behind the softness. Wasn’t that the magic of the sensual Olympic gold skaters? I was embarking on a grand trip with broad horizons—time to let Chai brown Decatur go gently into the goodnight.
Vibrant laughter in the studio stirred me from my reverie. I surrendered my lips to Shana’s pink. I wanna play too! “Life is too short,” Shana was saying, interrupting herself to choose a lipstick. “How cool it is to have this little being who is surviving because of me. My heart melts when she looks up at me.” The briefest moment of pre-Mommydom reflection flashed in her eyes before Shana anchored in her mantra: Life’s too short not to enjoy it.
“Okay, I give in, let them be pink” I chortled. It completes the look. Shana proceeded to pick my eye gook as I picked up my shattered comfort zone and threw it in the trash. “Are you having fun,” Aly sung to the client next to me. Yes I am, girl. Time for the big finale…
Shana whirled the chair around revealing a very sleek and sexy woman. Ka-Pow! I gasped at how great the makeup looked and began to stutter. “I, I, I, I’m not sure about this” crumbling at the thought of reproducing this beautiful look. It felt so heavy too. No worries, you’re just not used to it, and Shana was going to write everything down. I had a month to practice before my complimentary follow-up session. Stares of admiration amped up the pressure I felt.
Aren’t children a riot? I moped in self-conscious adjustment mode for a bit. In a last-ditch defiance attempt, I shouted out of nowhere to the brow guru of Atlanta “don’t put pencil on my eyebrows and don’t make them skinny!” A loud GASP shuddered through the entire AB salon. Aly bit her tongue in irritation at the anti-authentic-that-would-never-happen-here crazy speak. I cringed, wished the earth would swallow me, and quickly put my brat into permanent time-out. Sorry, Goddess, must have been a Sun-In flashback. Time to woman-up!
We both cracked up as Shana started filling a bag with my Image Journey treasures. “It’s not pink!” Aly proclaimed. “It’s not a tumor,” I laughed back. Little did the makeup pioneer realize that I’d soon be accidentally using my new adesign blush brush to apply my all-over eye shadow. I thought something didn’t seem right…ah well, the work of the AB artists is never done.
“This is a must, this is a must, this you can get away without,” Shana instructed as she handed me my cheat sheet and products. What else do I want? Hmmm, I’d like to walk out of here with a lipstick. “Here, this one.” Nudity. Oh yeah, I like that! As I turned to leave the salon, grace brought me back. I took Shana by the hand and squeezed it declaring my thanks and new truth. “Life’s to short not to wear pink.”
Turns out my journey had just begun.