Caleb’s Story: Using Makeup as a Path to Self-expression, not Self-Perfection

Caleb (32) is a professional makeup artist from Vancouver, Canada. He shares with us his journey towards self-discovery through art and expression.

“Originally, I got into makeup as a scene kid. I would shave off my eyebrows, wear brightly colored lipstick, and blacken my eyes. My parents were very religious, and I did it almost as a means of acting out. After I started doing scene makeup, I melded in with the scene kids. When I first started wearing makeup, of course, it was a little bit of a mess. I ended up just coming out to my parents at 16, and the funny thing is that my Dad actually took it better than my mom.”

“My mom actually ended up being very supportive, but it took some time. She was very committed to believing that it was a phase. My parents were extremely religious, but the reason I came out anyways was basically because I couldn’t live like that anymore. It felt really bad, and I needed to say it. One night, I just wrote it on a floppy disk, gave it to my parents, and I went back upstairs and cried. My mom came and knocked on the door, and she said - “I still love you.” Thankfully, even with her religion, she came to the terms with the fact that I was gay, and she felt that it was not Christian to reject her child.”

“My dad was able to take it in faster. Every Friday night, we would sit down and watch Smallville, whatever TV show was on, or have movie night. When we’d watch movies together, he’d be like - “do you find that guy hot?” He was just trying to connect, but all I could think was - “...this is so awkward...” Looking back at it though, I can’t help but laugh because I’m very thankful for the support.

At the time, one of my favorite movies was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that’s when I realized that I could do makeup professionally, but the prosthetic makeup gave me acne breakouts and allergies, so I enrolled in the Blanche Macdonald Makeup School. When I graduated, I got more into the runway fashion, wedding, and retail industry. Now, I’m a professional makeup artist who works in these industries, and I’ve also been enjoying creative spaces online like Instagram and Amazon Live. But with that, I’ve been seeing how there is a new movement that is very critical of makeup.”

“As a trained makeup artist, it’s hard for me to separate makeup from skin positivity. The natural face has always been the most important part for me, but I have also always felt like makeup is such a means for self-expression, for doing what you love to do, and for having fun. If you want to glam up your eyes and just have glitter over the top of your acne, that’s perfect. If you want to just show up exactly how you are, that’s perfect too. As long as your comfortable, and as long as you feel happy, it really shouldn’t matter. Personally, I love the glam look. It’s not always the healthiest for the skin, but it all comes back to how that person is feeling.”

“If someone feels good in glam, I don’t think it’s right to be like - “Hey, no glam. You need to be showing your real skin now!” That’s not everyone’s style, and that’s okay too. I’ve even seen people use makeup to accentuate features that are typically considered flaws. Now, people are even using makeup to do a “hangover eye” which is accentuating and adding colors to the dark circles that some people naturally have around their eyes. Makeup can be used to do anything.”

Caleb has pinkish-orange and sky blue hair like the colors of the sky at dusk here. He is wearing small-medium sized gauges and he gives an intrigued stare.

“Makeup has always been an outlet and a way to express how I’m feeling in the moment. Makeup can also change how I’m feeling. Even if someone is super comfortable in their skin, I think everybody has days when they wake up and they’re like - “Omg.. today is not the day.” If I wake up feeling like this, and I put on a little cream corrector and a little brow mascara, I feel like a thousand times better. Some people look at makeup as if it’s armor, but I don’t necessarily think armor is a bad thing as long as you remember to look at the root of the problem.”

“Like, for example, I went through some things when I was a kid, and I ended up landing in foster care when I was 11. After I got out of foster care, and when I went back to my parents’ house, I was diagnosed with autism. When I went back to school, someone called me the “R” word. 

“I snapped.”

“From there, I was put into a care home, and I stayed there for 2 years. There were like 3 years of being bounced around from foster homes and care homes. When I came back to my parents, I had a breakdown, and I started delving into substance use.”

“Even though the path I went down was not the safest, the pain I went through brought out the creativity in me, and my art has helped me to not feel invisible. I had such social anxiety, and because of the autism, my anxiety then spiked. Even though it was very messy, I still wouldn’t change it because it caused me to evolve, and it helped break me out of my shell and into being visible. I’m sure there are a lot of bad ways that it could have broken me out of my shell, but through that, I found my outlet. And without even realizing it, my outlet became my face. The trauma I went through actually set me on my path to makeup art. When I started expressing my pain, art just started flowing from me. My early life has made me who I am, and it has made my artistry what it is.”\