Refinery 29 UK
For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it’s a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we’ll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our latest subject is Stacey Louidor, a model, beauty activist, and self-proclaimed Afro-femme futurist. This story was told to Aimee Simeon and edited for length and clarity. My relationship with beauty was complicated for most of my life until about my mid-twenties, and I have social media to thank for that. I grew up in Haiti and came to the United States at the age of nineteen. As a young child and teenager, I didn’t have many people around me who could effectively reinforce my confidence or encourage me to feel beautiful. Growing up, I was the biggest of all of my friends, and that wasn’t something that was celebrated. My family signed me up for the gym when I was eight, and my experience with body image became very distorted at a young age. I learned early on that people who looked like me weren’t celebrated. That feeling only evolved when I started getting acne as a teenager. I wasn’t very conscious about my breakouts when they first started, but when I realised they weren’t going away it became a challenge. My feelings about my skin only grew worse because I would always get comments about it from relatives. I would always hear things like, “Wow, you have so many spots, what is going on?” It was never, “You look pretty today,” or “I love your outfit.” These self-loathing ideas only became louder in my head when I began to develop acne scars. Back in Haiti, I didn’t have a lot of access to makeup aside from my aunt’s powders and lipsticks, which I used to hide what I could of my bumps and dark spots. I didn’t know how to properly take care of my acne-prone skin, so I just developed even more acne. When I moved to the United States and started college, I was desperate. I spent so much time searching for ways to help and cover up my skin. That was when I really discovered the power of makeup. I would layer on my most full-coverage foundation and instantly feel more confident about my appearance. But while I found this temporary solace and escape from reality with makeup, I struggled in other areas. I fell into a deep depression while studying to become a pharmacist because all I’ve ever been preached was job security. My family pushed really hard for me to pursue a career in the medical field, but I really wanted to be an architect. I tried to make others happy and I suffered in the interim. I felt like I was losing control of myself and my life. I used makeup as a crutch, but now it’s how I express myself. During that time, I started to look for tools to empower myself in other areas of my life. That’s when I was introduced to YouTube videos. I became immersed in taking care of my skin and actively treating my acne and hyperpigmentation. I never left my house without makeup — even when going to the beach. I had self-inhibiting thoughts about being intimate with someone because of my hyperpigmentation. I obsessively checked on my skin to see if spots were showing when I was outside, and I always carried concealer with me. I felt like when people saw me, all they saw were my imperfections. Now, I’ve come to a place of feeling more powerful in my skin, even though it isn’t perfect. If I could hold younger me and speak to her, I would tell her to breathe and to relax. Having acne or acne scars doesn’t make you a bad or less-deserving person, and I allowed myself to believe that. I was convinced that my skin didn’t look beautiful until I had foundation on, and I hope that anyone who feels that way finds resources and encouragement that tells them otherwise. The Positive Power Of Social Media I actually found that positive environment on the internet. Social media can be a scary, toxic place, but I’ve been fortunate enough to find a community of people who helped me embrace my authentic self. It started on Tumblr, and I’ve now developed a community of people on Instagram who don’t know me personally, but don’t judge me for my imperfections. I started to find more confidence in being myself online and felt liberated to share my story. Social media has opened up many avenues of expression for me, leading to opportunities like walking in the Savage x Fenty Fashion Show last year. It was a huge accomplishment, but then my fears started to creep in. I was so concerned that people were going to see me without makeup and send me back home — but that didn’t happen. That experience taught me that I could do anything and that I was truly limiting myself. It doesn’t mean that I’m immune to trolls or someone’s negative opinion, but I think about all of the people going through similar situations to mine and how we’re not authentically represented, and that keeps me pushing past the hate. I understand now that self-love is a journey that many of us will be on for the rest of our lives. I still go through ups and downs. Some days I’m really proud of how far my skin has come, and other days I nitpick. I broke my tooth in 2016 and struggled with coming to terms with my smile. One time, I met with a friend and the first thing that came out of my mouth when we met was, “I’m sorry, I have a broken tooth, and I am going to get it fixed.” I was apologising for simply existing, and it didn’t even matter to my friend. At that point, I learned that you start to experience things differently when you accept and embrace parts of your identity. It’s exhausting trying to alter or hide who you are. My Beauty, My Rules Black women have been policed for far too long, and it’s why I’m passionate about living authentically and encouraging others to do the same. Society sets so many rules and expectations when it comes to a Black woman’s appearance. We’re constantly told what and who to be, and it’s so exciting to see so many Black women take their power back. It’s important for us to find and define our beauty on our terms — we don’t owe anyone an explanation. Black women don’t have to apologise for being themselves. Historically we’ve been told that we aren’t allowed to be or feel beautiful, and those are lies we have to stop believing. That’s why I identify with calling myself an Afro-femme futurist. I love being a Black woman, and I love experimenting and thinking beyond the necessity to belong. That outlook has heavily influenced my approach to makeup. At some point, people may have considered my choice of makeup or hair to be clownish — now, experimenting with beauty is encouraged. I love black eyeliner, but at one point I was afraid to overemphasise my eyes. Now I’ve come to a place where I make the rules. One day I might want to wear a black lip with wasabi green eyes; other days I feel comfortable in my naked skin. It’s just a testament to doing what makes you happy. Confidence Is An Illusion Some may perceive me to be a very confident person, but I believe that confidence is a lie. Confidence is aspirational and not necessarily lived reality to me. Instead, I am now comfortable with who I am. It goes deeper than the physical perspective, but overall I am comfortable in my skin. I embrace the good days and learn from the bad ones. It has been a long, tough road that has involved me unlearning many unhealthy ideals, but I am thankful that I’ve opened myself up to loving myself. Finding an online community has helped with that. You allow yourself and others to feel more at ease when you can be comfortable with yourself and respect other people’s comfort levels. Even if you don’t subscribe to my style or prefer to be more muted or toned down, that’s your choice, and only you should have power over that. It’s truly liberating when you begin to walk in your truth — whatever that looks like to you. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?