Mastering makeup: From hiding insecurities to making art


Natalie Miranda

Belen Hernandez, 25, covers half her face with a colorful eyeshadow palette in her North Hollywood, Calif. bedroom on Sept. 15, 2020. Hernandez uses makeup application as a creative outlet while being home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Belen Hernandez, Contributor

As Frankie J’s “Canciones Que Recuerdo” plays in the background and I light my spearmint candle, I sit at my vanity and slowly feel the stress of the day fade. I take out my eyeshadow palettes and start creating. With every product applied step by step, an artwork is created, thus making me feel empowered in my artistry.

But makeup has not always been a source of creativity, it was a skill I wanted to master to help conceal my insecurities.

Being bullied for most of my schooling experience, I always felt out of place as a child. As a result, I used makeup as a way to hide myself, never leaving the house without it.

In 2010, Instagram came out, popularizing makeup gurus and influencers. I’d watch tutorials on “How to get the perfect wing” or “How to look for your perfect foundation shade,” trying to find ways to make myself look like the way I wanted to be seen.

I felt ugly all the time until I saw YouTuber Nikkie Tutorials in a video titled the “Power of Makeup.” In the video, she creates a beautiful makeup look on one side of her face, leaving the other side bare. I realized how much I, like most of society, view makeup as a tool to hide instead of enhance beauty, shifting my view on beauty.

Belen Hernandez received her certification from the Ruby Makeup Academy in North Hollywood. Natalie Miranda

Inspired by my new outlook on makeup, I joined a four-month program to learn more about the application of makeup with the intention of becoming a makeup artist.

I was given the opportunity to work for Morphe in 2017. They just opened their new store in Burbank, and I was both excited and scared because it was my first job after receiving my certification from the Ruby Makeup Academy in North Hollywood.

After working as a makeup artist for a year, I learned a lot about the application process. I looked at makeup as an art form instead of looking at it as a way to hide myself. But soon after starting my career and transferring, makeup stopped being so important to me.

There was a time when I would wake-up a couple of hours early just to make sure I applied a full face of makeup to go to class, but eventually — admittedly — getting ready became a chore — the main reason why I evidently decided to take a step away from makeup artistry as a profession.

Two years later, I found myself in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After months of not being able to go out due to the stay-at-home orders, I rediscovered my love of makeup, which has become a creative outlet during an uncertain time. I found myself buying a lot of makeup and determined to experiment. I often spend one to two hours trying to study other makeup looks and playing with color that I otherwise wouldn’t be trying if I were going out.

For a moment in time, I forget about all my worries, put music on and just play with makeup. I think that the coronavirus pandemic made me realize how much I lean on makeup as a coping mechanism and apply it as a form of self-expression.