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Episode 3828th September 2022 • PowerPivot • Leela Sinha
00:00:00 00:08:49

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Shownotes

"I've been experimenting with the possibility that makeup does not have to be an artifice. That it can be a bold-faced statement. In the same way a shirt is. Nobody believes that the shirt is your skin."

Transcripts

Leela Sinha:

Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. The

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hardest thing for me about a public face is the difference

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between artifice and grace, which sometimes feels like the

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thinnest possible line. And sometimes it just feels like

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lies and I don't like lies, they've never served me. Well, I

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don't maintain a falsehood into the future. I can make up a

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story on the fly, but I won't remember how it started by the

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time it ends, much less long enough to carry it forward as

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though we were friends. We're not friends, we're something

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else. We're uncomfortable, awkward bedfellows. It's the

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same with makeup. The thing I don't like is the thing where I

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would be trying to pretend to look like something I'm not. It

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just doesn't sit right fit right... leaves me feeling like

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I can't breathe or touch my face. My hands end up smeared

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with paint. I'm questioning why it is that I have to be

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something different. And make myself so faint. I don't. I

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don't want to be anybody but who I am. For you, for my clients.

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For the world. I don't think the fake me has much good to say,

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frankly. And I have so many words that are real. I have so

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many thoughts that are real. I have so many everythings that

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are real. Why would I waste time and energy putting forth

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something that isn't? Now this isn't the same as fiction, where

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we tell a story that has more truths than just the facts. And

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sometimes costume is important. Because it opens doors. It makes

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us believable as the people we know ourselves to be to the

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people who have to believe us, in order for us to get into the

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room. But recently, and by recently, I mean over the last

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several years, maybe since 2017? I don't know. I've been

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experimenting with the possibility that makeup does not

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have to be an artifice. That it can be a bold-faced statement.

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In the same way a shirt is. Nobody believes that the shirt

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is your skin. We all know you put it on over the top to look a

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certain way, to get a certain kind of environmental comfort,

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because it's considered appropriate or necessary or

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proper in that context; because you felt like it, because you

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thought it would help you, because who knows why? But we

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all know that it's not your skin and we don't expect it to be

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your skin and we're kind of curious to see what skin you

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would put on if you put a skin on over your skin and so we look

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at the clothes you wear to find out a little bit about who you

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are. And what if makeup could be like that? I started asking.

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Looking at my phua, putting a bindi on her forehead. Looking

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at my cousins putting on lipstick so bright you couldn't

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possibly mistake it for homegrown. It was a weird moment

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because they wanted me to dress up, to look a certain way to,

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meet a certain standard that was culturally embedded. And I was

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there for eight months. I was a guest in the culture but I was

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also of the culture and I wanted to do it right and so I

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acquiesced. I didn't fight the way that usually I would have at

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24-years-old American-queer-feminist. Instead

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I said "okay, but not too bold. I want it to look like me." And

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so my aunt found me a lipstick the exact color of my lips. And

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I wore these tiny tiny tiny red bindis. Clearly a bindi, but

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nothing more than just a placeholder.

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And then a few months in, I decided to pierce my nose, which

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is an odd decision because I already knew that I was not a

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girl. But I had found the part of me that liked flash and

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ornament. That liked swirly skirts and bright colors. And I

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didn't want to forget. I knew I was returning to a country where

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the darker and more boring your clothes are, the more respect

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you get. And I did not want to be that person anymore. I was

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awakened to smells and colors and sounds and ways of being

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that were part of my blood and that I had not had access to.

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And so I pierced my nose. And I got a little sparkly pin for it.

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And aside from having to let it heal and repierce it, I have

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worn that nose pin since that trip in 1999. Because I did not

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want to lose the part of me that was so easy to efface to make my

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life easier. And it has become a part of me. It would be really

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weird now if I didn't wear a nose pin, and I love it. And so

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over the last few years, I have started to ask myself the

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questions that that nose pin evokes. What if I could wear

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stripes of bright color on my face? Ones that are so clearly

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not me that they express a deliberate choice about me

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instead of trying to present me as something that is not me. And

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what if I were those along with a three-day scruff? What if I

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wore those along with a button down shirt? What if I wore those

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along with my 18th century men's clothing? Where are the lines

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and why should they stop where they do?

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And how do we use the tools that we have to be truly boldly who

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we are in the public eye so that we can shift the conversation,

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so that we can open different doors, so that we can move

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through the world more freely and make the world more free for

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