I wrote about my complicated relationship with makeup and the importance of being ugly over at Nrrd Alert.
Read it. Love it.
Recently I’ve been utterly unable to stop thinking about Arabelle Sicardi’s project called “Most Important Ugly”, a series of portraits of queer and trans* young people in odd and monstrous make-up. Here’s her summary of the project:
“This project discusses anxiety and queer marginalization, revealing the monsters that are hidden inside of us when we are taught what we are is not enough, or is too much, or that it shouldn’t exist at all. It is a presentation of the resistance of marginalized people and how makeup can bring out the best in you: it’s just that the best is not always what is expected, or the most beautiful, or the most kind. Most Important Ugly tells the story of Monster Culture and the everyday heroes that it breeds.”
In my favorites of her photos, the subjects look so fierce and vulnerable at the same time.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with wearing makeup for the first time in my life, and it’s been an adventure. I’ve found that makeup feels right when it makes me feel like an oddity - an alien or a monster or a witch (grey lipstick is key). I like creating a look that makes people stare at me because it’s clear that I intentionally put it together to looking fucking strange.
Which is exactly what the Most Important Ugly project captures - it puts the monstrosity that we each internalize as gender outlaws or disabled people or people of color on the outside and makes the roller coaster of loving ourselves and our communities that much more tangible.
So in the spirit of all this, I’d like to leave you with some music videos that embrace our most important ugly. And of course, give you lots and lots of face.
Exhibit A: Sia - Buttons
This video could not be more relevant. I particularly love it within the context of Sia’s decision since her latest album to stop appearing publicly at all - she recently appeared on the cover of Billboard with a paper bag over her head and published an anti-fame manifesto. The cover for her latest album is literally an empty wig. I love Sia because she finds so many ways to embody the discomfort of being a woman in the public eye by making herself ugly or invisible as she sees fit.
Exhibit B: Grace Jones - I’ve Seen That Face Before
First of all, can we talk about that lipstick? Good god.
I’m forever captivated by Grace Jones’ slow, synth-ridden process of moving from sculpture to human at the beginning of the vid. And her skittery eye contact with the camera as she sings of looking fully at someone’s face aways reminds me of the discomfort between wanting to be seen and invisible at the same time.
Exhibit C: Grimes - Vanessa
This video is a film-school special effects nightmare that somehow still manages to coalesce into something beautiful. The reason that it works for me is that the self-conscious muddle of slow-motion kaleidoscopic editing mirrors the uncomfortably self aware dancing and makeup smearing.