Eleven women on how makeup empowers them

Header image by Mikki Galang

Why do you wear makeup? Are you fascinated by pretty lip colors and gorgeous palettes? Is it a requirement for your profession? Do you feel like you “need” it to correct and cover up imperfections?

There are no right or wrong answers. We’re lucky to be living in a time and place where women who swipe on rouge are no longer commonly judged as prostitutes. There are beauty communities to share our raves and rants, a wide variety of brands and products available in stores, and even schools that provide formal training to would-be professionals.

But it’s not a perfect society. There are still those who praise “natural beauty” and shame fellow women who choose to spend hours primping in front of a mirror. Project Vanity has always been and will always be about helping women to be more confident about who they are and how they look. So we talked to a few makeup lovers, professionals and enthusiasts alike, to share how makeup has been a source of empowerment for them.

Rizza Mae Aganap, professional makeup artist

Makeup is a confidence builder, especially when people stare and give compliments about how beautiful I look. 
I feel "naked" without any makeup on. Putting on makeup is also time for yourself, your personal pamper time. Making the effort to look good can be empowering for women.

Lian Capili, professional makeup artist

Makeup empowers me by giving me the extra confidence I need. It gives me the assurance that I will still be presentable even on days when I don't get enough sleep and my skin isn't at its best, which happens a lot of the time. It helps me enhance what is already beautiful in me.

Kris Lumagui, YouTuber and beauty blogger

Makeup allows me to become the best version of myself. Should I want to be the most confident, most glamorous, or even the most comfortable person in the world, I can do it with just one swipe of my makeup brush! Makeup helps me see the beauty in me that sometimes becomes blurry because of the world's negativity. 

Gen-zel Habab, makeup artist and beauty blogger

For me, makeup is a tool, a weapon to conquer a woman's fear and achieve her goals. It's not a mask like what other people think. You are still yourself, with or without makeup. It's very similar to dressing up: wearing the best clothes to look more presentable or to emphasize your favorite part of your body. Makeup boosts our confidence in presenting ourselves to other people.

In some countries, wearing makeup and being prepared from head to toe is being polite. It means you value the person in front of you that you want to look your best for them. To some, makeup is like a magic wand (let's say a tube of red lipstick) that transforms a woman into her best self.

Arian Yupangco, beauty and lifestyle writer

I’ve always believed that makeup is not just a medium for self-expression and creativity. It is so much more than that. It allows women like me to put our best face forward – quite literally. I recognize that I, just like all others, have flaws that are both physical and figurative. Using makeup to minimize or cover those physical flaws is not an act of deceit like so many people bitterly claim. I don’t wear makeup to fool anyone. I wear makeup because it empowers me. It helps me enhance and emphasize the already existing features I am proud to have.

Sweeping foundation over my face is not me telling the world that my skin is flawless; it is allowing me to not be distracted by my imperfections so that I can focus on and develop other aspects of myself. Why should I spend time worrying about how dark my undereye area is, or if my complexion is too dull? With some concealer and blush, I can instead spend that time sharing my passion for beauty on my blog with others around the world, or simply create memorable moments with family and friends. I don’t use makeup to pretend I am someone else. I use makeup to empower the person I already am.

Tara Cabullo, beauty and lifestyle blogger

I am typing this during a rare window of time I have on a typical Wednesday in telco life -- launching a new device. Being in one of the busiest industries in the world means there's very little time and opportunity to fix myself within the day. Knowing that I have done and executed my makeup to a degree of what I need (whether I'm alone, with my friends, or attending a work event) gives me the energy to power through, like Beyonce launching video after music video. There is a certain kind of confidence that comes from knowing you look your best at all these moments - even though you're not on camera, it always helps to be prepared. With great makeup, fabulous hair, a killer outfit and heels, you can face anything that comes your way.

Mikki Galang, beauty blogger

Makeup empowers me as a transgender woman because it helps me feminize and soften my facial features —such as a soft smokey eye, slimmer chin and prominent cheekbones through contouring. As a woman and artist, it empowers me to express myself through colors and see the joy from other people. As an entrepreneur, it gives me a venue for my skills and talents to shine through.

Janlee Dungca, PR professional

Makeup to me is an instrument of self-expression, similar to how clothing speaks of a person's personality. Personally, I like to keep my makeup natural and sleek as that is how I would describe my total look and style. But it's also fun to play and experiment with makeup based on my mood and outfit.

As a transgender woman, and just like any other woman, wearing makeup gives me that extra boost of confidence because I know that it enhances my appearance. And when I know I look good, then I also feel good. I cannot speak for every transgender woman since expression of gender and beauty are very personal but for those who want to have a more feminine and softer look, makeup has been a very helpful tool.

Trina Mendiola, HR Specialist

Makeup helped me to bounce back from life's greatest challenges. I never imagined myself to be someone who will embrace it. I started my interest on makeup when I had my fair share of tough hours in life. One day, I found myself trying on makeup testers that cosmetic kiosks had on display. I had no idea how to use them but I enjoyed looking at the colors, and even if it looked messy I didn't mind that the backs of my hands were full of lipstick and eye shadow swatches.

When I got home, I got on my computer and spent hours watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. After a few failed tries, I was able to do my eyebrows like how my favorite YouTube vloggers would do theirs. I learned how to do my own makeup. I began to enjoy discussing makeup products and tips with my officemates. I began to feel good because I knew I looked good.

Makeup has a therapeutic effect on me, especially when I lost my mom. When I look back, I was able to survive my dark days because of this simple obsession. Even though I am not a professional makeup artist, when someone says my makeup looks nice or asks me for help with their makeup, I feel a sense of confidence and of achievement; that at the end of the day I can say to myself, "Hey, you did something great today!" or "Hey, you were able to touch someone's life today!" 

Jessica Nicole Cañaberal, writer/editor

I see makeup as a tool for enhancing my features and expressing my individuality. I like to accentuate what I feel confident in flaunting, like my lips and cheeks. I also love to put colors on my face that would reflect how I feel or would make me imbibe a character that I am far from real life. Aside from enhancement, makeup transforms, and it makes me ready to face anything since I know I look better (than my usual bare face). 

Katkat Baluyot, book illustrator

Makeup empowers me by giving me confidence and making me feel beautiful. As a transgender, I always want to look feminine, and makeup has helped me in so many ways to achieve that. It’s not that I don’t like the way I look without makeup. But I find putting makeup a FUN way to cover up the parts of me I’m still learning to love :) Although I have so much issues about how I look, I know I can’t just sit at the corner of my room and feel sorry for myself that I don’t have the perfect brows, or smooth and beautiful skin, or thick eyelashes! I have a choice, and I choose to be beautiful and confident.

For these women and the PV team, getting prettified isn't just skin deep. Cosmetics have a real and meaningful impact on our lives. How about you? In what ways has makeup become a source of empowerment for you?