Janet Mock - TV host, author, and trans rights activist - just published the first essay of her new Allure column "Beauty Beyond Binaries" and we're hooked, as always, by the honesty of her writing. The powerful essay recounts how bonding over makeup with her best friend as a 13-year-old gave her the confidence to slowly begin to live in her truth. Waxing poetic about first meeting her best friend, Wendi Miyaki, Janet recalls, "she was carefree and confident in her nonconformity as a 13-year-old trans girl — and deep down, I yearned to be as unapologetic as Wendi."
Wendi gave Janet the confidence to adorn herself in the ways she desired and the camaraderie to step out into a hostile world as the person she always knew she was. Wendi's box of drugstore makeup, barrettes, and cosmetic accouterments was a vault of all the things Janet had coveted and thought could never be hers. This ode to the power of glam is told with particular reverence for the transformative power of friendship and the way that, together, Janet and Wendi found the tools to project themselves into the world the way they wanted to be seen: with tweezed brows, audacious hair accessories and glimmering eyeshadow.
The essay tracks the continuing friendship - how Wendi, now a makeup artist, learned her skills practicing on Janet, and, in turn, Janet came to see herself through Wendi's eyes. Janet reminds us that makeup is a powerful tool - it's armor, it's war paint, and frivolity all in one, and its application has the chance to create true intimacy.
Wendi and I came of age in the mid-‘90s, long before our culture had national conversations about gender, about identity, about the binary. (Had you asked, most people wouldn’t have known what the term “gender binary” even meant.) Even for a multicultural place like Hawaii, where trans and gender-nonconforming people were visible, Wendi’s aesthetics were out there for a teen. Her audacity to stand out, to refuse to live under anyone’s rules, inspired me to strike up a friendship and begin my fullest self-expression.
Our first sleepover laid a foundation for the future of our relationship. I remember gasping in awe when Wendi pulled out her purple Kaboodle — brimming with hair accessories, drugstore makeup, and grooming tools — determined to give me a makeover. The next morning, she sent me to homeroom with tweezed brows, a silver barrette in my short curls, and shimmering eye shadow.
“No one will notice,” she promised with authority.
When I walked into class, my cool-girl classmates, whose Clueless-inspired aesthetic I had so envied, swooned over my look. They lauded me and I felt pretty, a term that previously seemed elusive and so out of reach — until Wendi.
"Beauty Beyond Binaries" is a bi-weekly column for that dwells at the intersection between beauty and identity. Mock told WWD that the column "will talk all things glam like hair, makeup, skin and nails without leaving our feminisms behind.” She hopes the column "will expand the either/ors that aim to constrict and contain us: masculine and feminine, black and white, curly and straight, fat and skinny, dark and fair. It’s about blurring the lines, getting into the grays and challenging our preconceived notions, categories and labels." At Allure, she writes, "Beauty Beyond Binaries will cover everything from the politics of presentation and undervaluing of femininity to pretty privilege (yes, it’s real!), femmephobia, and why glam can be a gateway to survival."
We, at BUST, are excited for our bi-weekly dose of Janet. Read the full essay over at Allure - and keep an eye out for an upcoming BUST feature with Janet Mock in our upcoming June/July issue!
Images from Instagram/janetmock
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Miriam Mosher graduated from Smith College before moving to New York where she is a writer by day and beer maven by night. She is a proud feminist, a champion of the semicolon and an avid thrifter. See more from Miriam at Bushwick Daily and Two Cities Literary Review.