HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: The makeup trend that’s positively exhausting


We had officially run out of ridiculous mind-numbing reality shows to waste our time with on Netflix when an advertisement for Glow Up appeared on our screens. The series is in its third season now and is not too dissimilar from The Great British Bake Off or America’s Next Top Model. It pits specialists in the field of makeup against each other over and over again to participate in different challenges with different themes until one by one they’re all eliminated, and the winner is declared as the best makeup artist.

Who knew makeup was so darn interesting? Well, I did. I for one cannot scroll past a TikTok video of a dark-skinned woman giving me a quick tutorial about how to highlight my jawbone and minimise the size of my broad neck and shoulders through the magic of makeup.

I know how now. Have I ever done it? No. Do I ever have the need to wear makeup? No. I think I wear makeup about 3 to 4 times a year max. And now with the pandemic in our path for the foreseeable future, that number has become 1. One times per year is how much I wear makeup. But still, it is fascinating stuff.

The fact that you can walk around looking like a version of you that is photoshopped in real time is pure wizardry. And unlike before where this wizardry was reserved for Hollywood, red carpets, Vogue magazine models and the silver screen, we’re all able to access the tricks of the trade through social media.

And thus I have learnt: Everyone you know who wears makeup does not actually look like they look, people. Everyone. Trust me. People even use makeup to look like they’re not wearing makeup. My point was proven in one of the Glow Up episodes where contestants had to use makeup to make models look natural. The judges who dish out the challenges may as well have said: “put makeup on her so that she doesn’t look like she has any makeup on.”

Now, if you’re anything like me and believe you are totally in the loop because not only do you know of contouring and highlighting and creating fake shadows and shines on all the places the light needs to hit on your face, but you’re able to sort of execute it that one time per year that you need to, man, are you wrong. I am about to blow your mind…

In the last episode of Glow Up, the makeup artists were challenged to create a TikTok video that would engage users, provide an adequate How To guide in a few seconds and also have the potential of going viral. The guest judge of course was a viral TikTok makeup sensation. Naturally, quite a few of the Gen Z contestants (of which they all were) did not find the task too daunting. They all have TikTok, they’ve all used it for their makeup videos, and they’re well acquainted with trends.

But guess who isn’t? This girl. Because before I knew it, one of the competitors was creating a look of “tiredness”, by drawing and shading big bags under his model’s eyes with concealer and the other relevant eye makeup. My wife and I looked at each other and thought well, no one’s going to like that and mere seconds later, the guest judge piped up that she thought it was very cool because it was very on trend. Obviously, I had to look up this absurdity and it turns out that drawing bags under your eyes is the next tier in the “make me up with makeup so it looks like I am not wearing any makeup” genre.

The “accentuate your eyebags” or “draw circles under your eyes” trend is brought to you by Gen Z, who are using this makeup sensation as a form of… protest? Political messaging? Wokeness? I don’t know what it is, but apparently what they intend to do by using darker hues under their eyes is to normalise exhaustion and show everyone how tired they are, even if their “tired” isn’t showing and they have to quite literally pretend they are by drawing it on.

When I read up on all this, an exhaustion rose up in me that I haven’t felt since fighting the battle to be an open Muslim gay woman who married a white woman at a beach wedding in the summer of 2016. I won the battle but God dammit was I tired. And the dark encroaching circles around my eyes were real. They are real. Did I try and cover them up? No, because I don’t notice them. Did I try and accentuate them? No, because that seems extremely insecure and attention-seeky. Like “I need people to please see how tired I am and ask me about it and point it out”. But Gen Z has evolved to a whole new level of “we do not have to think of the above because ours is a cause”.

Sara Carstens, a popular TikTokker, posted a video to the social media platform where she reached for a brown lipstick and swiped it below her eyes to create a tired look. The 19-year-old received over 8 million views and before long, many other multitudes of Gen Z-ers were doing the same.

Carstens says she wanted people to see rings under the eyes as beautiful and normal. To normalise dark circles. Forgive me for being daft, but isn’t physically creating something that isn’t really there the opposite of normal? Sure, I agree with the 19-year-old. There is nothing wrong with bags under the eyes, if you want to cover them, use concealer; if you’re tired, you’re bloody tired. This is normal. Faking it till you make it isn’t. It is the direct opposite of normal. It is abnormal. Unusual. Absurd.

I am not against body positivity by any means. Wear your scars like the tattoos of a life lived and all that, but for god’s sake, are we at the point where we need to pretend we’re tired? We all lived through 2020 and we’re all living through 2021. You’re tired. I’m tired. We are all tired. What 19-year-olds have to be tired about now (more than the rest of us) I’m not sure of, but I feel horribly bad for the next 20 years of their lives. How big can those tired bags get? And do they have enough crayon or whatever?

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.

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