Suzie

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I’ve loved make up for as long as I can remember. My mum and big sister weren’t heavily into makeup but my gran used to wear oil of ulay and a lipstick. The smell of her lipstick is engrained in my mind so whenever I smell something proper cosmetic-y, it takes me right back to lots of lovely happy memories.  As a teenager and in my early twenties, I really enjoyed experimenting with makeup to change how I looked. I once entered a makeup design competition with an exciting new eye look called “Sunset Eyes” – it was truly awful, but I was a teen in the nineties. Now, I wear makeup because I want to look healthier. I've had dark shadows under my eyes since I was born. All the time people tell me I look tired and it’s not uncommon to be asked if I’ve got a black eye. I also have hormonal spots (and scarring from them) and pigmentation so I don’t really leave the house without at least concealer to cover up the worst bits. Concealment issues aside, I still love makeup and all things beauty related, my “lotions and potions” as my granddad used to call them. Doing a deep cleanse and applying a lovely face mask genuinely makes me happy. 

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series? 

My little sister Anna, who has also been photographed, told me about it and I was fascinated. I looked at all the beautiful portraits that have already been done and wondered if I could look at myself objectively in the same way. I don’t know if I will be able to! It’s been interesting thinking about how and why I use make up. I caught myself lying to my three year old niece recently. She watched me apply some concealer to a pulsating spot on my chin and asked what I was doing. I said I was putting some medicine on my sore face. And now I wonder if that’s what I do every day?

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

In most situations, probably yes. I’m comfortable with my partner, family and close friends seeing me make up free. But I don’t go out without wearing it. If I went makeup free to work for example, I would expect to be asked if I was ill. 

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look? 

Self-confidence is definitely the biggest negative factor. I’ve got PCOS which affects my weight, skin and hair growth. A bad combo of those three things can have a real negative effect on how I feel about my appearance. Positive factors are definitely the people I love. My mum has always told me I’m beautiful. And it’s usually at an unexpected time when my partner tells me I’m beautiful, like one time  when I’d been crying from chopping onions, had soaking wet hair, no makeup and was wearing a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?  

Don’t be desperate to fall in love. If and when the time is right it will happen (and always wear high SPF sunscreen – you’re very pale). 

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life? 

When I started to look after myself properly - physically, emotionally, financially after a few years of not doing that. I began to enjoy my own company and going home to an empty flat made me happy rather than lonely. I realised I’d grown up and that I’d be more than ok, and that felt powerful. 

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?  

My nieces, Vanessa, Phoebe and Alice (niece number 4 is currently under construction). They’re little girls at the moment but with the love and support of their amazing parents and grandparents, they’re going to grow up to be brilliant young women, who will  hopefully love their Auntie as much as I love them!

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?  

I struggle with myself but I see beauty in others and give out compliments all the time – I told a woman at the gym her hair smelled nice the other day – that may have come across as creepy though!

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why? 

I used to volunteer with an art group for adults with learning disabilities and to raise funds for the group, we put together a fashion show with us - the service users, staff and volunteers - as the models.  We all worked so hard together to get a venue, create costumes and props, acquire raffle prizes, sell tickets, promote the event every way we could and get other lovely volunteers to do hair, makeup and photography. On the night of the show, we might as well have been in Hollywood receiving Oscars, that was how special it felt to us all. We raised lots of money but you can’t put a price on how we all felt as some people, who were usually very shy, strut down the catwalk to rapturous applause. It made my heart explode. 

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman? 

I think I feel less and less pressure on myself as I get a bit older and confident enough to speak up when something isn’t right. But there’s definitely pressure on women in general, I had a look on the periscope app recently and I was horrified to see the comments that a young woman was receiving when all she was doing was chatting about her day. It made me furious that faceless people think it’s ok to insult and be sexually aggressive to anyone they like. Worryingly, she was accepting of the comments and seemed to laugh them off. I felt really powerless.