From Bullied Teen to Beauty Professional
How being bullied as a kid inspired one young woman to pick up a makeup brush and make a career for herself
I was a tiny little kid with big features and a decidedly different personality (yes, I was totally that misunderstood teen wearing all black), and I think the other kids sensed that I was vulnerable. I'd like to think that evolution was at work, and some animal instinct was telling them to pick off the small, wide-eyed, weak-looking girl, but I think they were actually just very mean, and very bored. After all, we lived in a tiny town in Oregon and there wasn't much to do. They'd call me things like "alien" (because of my huge eyes), "five-head" (as opposed to "forehead" -- clever, huh?), and throw food at me. I ate lunch by myself in the library every day. It was embarrassing to have no one to eat with, and I was as alone as a 15-year-old with zero friends and no one to talk to could be.
I started faking sick just so I wouldn't have to face kids at school. But home wasn't that great, either. While my mom was loving and supportive, my dad was the biggest bully of all. He put me down constantly, making me feel like I couldn't do anything right. I joined the basketball team to try to impress him, but all he would talk about was how the other kids were better than me. We don't talk anymore.
With no safe haven, I found solace on the Internet. I've always been interested in art -- I was always doodling and painting -- so makeup tutorials on YouTube caught my eye. I became obsessed with them. I noticed that lots of the vloggers were using this brand called M.A.C., and I begged my mom to take me to the M.A.C. boutique.
My mom finally consented. I remember walking into the store and feeling like I was entering this magical land where everyone could feel pretty. I got my makeup professionally done, and for the first time in my entire life, I felt really beautiful. The makeup artist who did my makeup, Megan, made me feel great about myself. That's when I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist.
My makeup became sort of like a cape. Wearing it, I felt like a superhero. Even though I learned tricks to make my "alien" eyes smaller, it didn't change the way people treated me. But when I had makeup on, I didn't care if they told me I was ugly. Even when they told me my makeup looked bad, I just shrugged it off. I stopped caring about what others thought.
I kept going back to the M.A.C. store where I first got my makeup done. I told them about the things people made fun of me for, and they would say, "Are you kidding me? You have the perfect eyes for this makeup look -- let me show you." They were the first friends I ever had.
Slowly, I started to feel better about myself. Whenever I was feeling low, I'd sit in my room and do my makeup until I felt like I was proud of the look I created. Makeup, for me, wasn't about covering up. Yes, I used it to change things about myself, but makeup makes me feel more like myself, if that makes sense. It was a way for me to express myself and it made me feel like I was good at something.
YouTube tutorials. When I first started filming them, I was afraid that people were going to pick on me. Call it post-traumatic school disorder, but I thought people would start tearing me apart from behind their computer screens. And they totally did. Michelle Phan retweeted one of my videos, so I got a ton of hits and comments. People told me that I was ugly, that I looked old or bad, that my hair and eyebrows were ugly. Reading them, I thought, I don't know if I can make another video. I can't handle this. When I started to get really upset about it, my boyfriend snapped me out of it. "Who cares what they think?" he said. "For every one person who doesn't like it, there are 30 who do."
Now, when I get a mean comment I just text a friend about it and we laugh. For the most part, they don't bother me, but if I don't speak up about it -- to a friend, or my mom or whomever -- it sits in my brain and makes me feel badly just like in high school. To keep myself from dwelling, I save the really good comments to remind myself of the people who look up to me. A lot of young girls tell me I've inspired them, or that they've been picked on and I made them feel better. It's the most amazing feeling.
Everything I've been through has inspired me. I want to make girls feel beautiful because it took me so long to feel that way. I always ask my clients, "Do you feel beautiful?" If they don't, I work until they do.
I look back on the people I went to school with and I can only thank them. Without them, I might never have picked up a makeup brush in the first place. A background of negativity has been the foundation for where I am now and where I want to go. I always told everyone I would be a makeup artist in Los Angeles, and everyone said I couldn't. That disbelief in my ability is where I've gotten my drive. I've had a few people from high school reach out for makeup tips, as if they didn't make my life hell for years. Knowing that they're thinking about me -- that they need something from me -- has been the best revenge.
Now, I go without makeup all the time. It's not a shield anymore. For a long time, makeup was a way for me to feel better on the outside, so I could feel better on the inside. These days I'm just happy giving that feeling to other people.
Right now I'm also in business school because I want to run my own company. I want to build a brand that empowers women -- something that would have helped my 15-year-old self. I'll never be one of the popular kids, but I'm okay with that. Even if I had a million YouTube followers, I'd still feel like an outsider. But I think my followers know that feeling, so we're outsiders together.
As told to Emily Woodruff