This weekend, I felt very privileged to be given the opportunity to finally meet a wonderful and talented family friend of mine, Alyn Waterman. Alyn is a hair and makeup artist for the film and television industry and has worked for many big names over the years, such as working closely with stars such as Dame Joan Collins DBE. As a registered blind young person, makeup, self-care and good body image has always been important to me, but I sometimes can’t always see where to apply the makeup and what I perhaps best suit. It is no secret that we all have our insecurities over one thing or another – it is a natural human thing, to always want to be better, look better, feel better in ourselves. These insecurities can often be far greater in those who perhaps then have visible disabilites. Although I very much embrace my visible disabilities, having bilateral microphthalmia, (abnormally small eyes) has admittedly made me stand out from most other people, and not always in a good way. But, with Alyn’s help and very generous time and kindness, his talent in the art of makeup application helped us explore the ways in which I could embrace my unique eyes, and to draw the best kind of attention to them, using different colours and brands of makeup, and thus changing my attitude towards the art of application altogether.
What Alyn quickly taught me was, it’s not about where to apply the makeup and what type of makeup to apply, but rather, how I apply the makeup that gives the best results. The application of multiple layers, through small amounts, helps create a foundation, (literally) for working a final cover. This concept of application and the process of layering can very much be applied to everyday life, far beyond the four walls of the salon. Without the base layer to a concept, you instantly make it more difficult to apply the next foundation, whether that be achieving the right qualifications for your desired career pathway, building up rapport and friendship in relationship goals, making it across the terminal in time to catch your connecting flight, or dressing into a few thin cotton layers before wrapping up into your oversized winter coat. It’s all very logical, no?
Not only will you create yourself an unstable foundation if you don’t apply the base layers to a concept, but you also won’t be as convinced or equipped in knowing what you want to achieve. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what the desired finishing product is, and therefore then, how are you going to build up to that desired end product. When Alyn and I explored foundations, (again, literally), and highlighters, we agreed that my current tones were in fact too dark for my skin, rather unknowingly to my poor-sighted self. Little had I known that I had most probably been strolling out into the daylight looking rather like the pimpled face of an orange peel. Not now though. But, these mistakes inevitably occur from time to time, and that’s okay. But, I have seen this in the working world too, and then it’s not so okay. As a medical student, I have always wondered what, very singly, the one characteristic medical schools look for in the ‘base layer’ of pre-medical students upon interview and acceptance into the school. And how then, do the medical schools then work, through their curriculum, to build up those foundations into every one of us, to create that final layer – the perfect, best-desired ‘doctor personality’. Medical students need to demonstrate their ability to broaden their problem-solving skills for instance, but more importantly so, to instantly show that they possess that necessary presence of kindness and charisma so that they can communicate with their future patients. Without these foundations in a medical student, the final product, ‘the doctor personality’ will be imperfect, and contradictory, regardless of how many layers you try to smudge on over that student’s true self. And I’ve seen this. So many times. The number of doctors I have come across, who may have the acceptable capacity to problem-solve, yet have no communication skills whatsoever. They fail to lift up their heads from their notes, they fail to look their patients into the eye and talk to them. They walk away with their patients no more knowledgeable of what is happening to them. They have just failed to address Medicine. Then it all turns quickly problematic.
That problematic scenario is very much like the ideology of balancing wonky teacups. There is no point trying to balance the porcelain teapot on top of a tiny saucer. Soon enough, your building blocks, the teacups, will topple, and crack. Coat on too thick a layer of concealer onto the creases then, things will only look worse off than before, drying out and cracking. Plunge your medical colleagues into the traumas of human injury without debrief, then your employees will eventually crack.
This is all very theoretical and perhaps a little too cliche for the whole topic of this blogpost, but Alyn taught me so many more life lessons beyond the art of the makeup brush. Brushes. Pencils. Tools. With 50 plus brushes lavishing the dressing table I sat at, all different shapes, sizes and colours, there was a multitude of purpose in every single type of tool that sat around us. In fact, my most favourite brush used in the creation of a perfect contour was no more than a paintbrush, from an art store, rather than a blusher brush, or whatever you’d like to call it. Fact is, it only requires a small input of initiative and imagination and the least obvious, thought-of object suddenly becomes an amazing tool for a multitude of everyday purposes. For instance, in replacement for your tool that is your eyes, your sight, my hands become the tool – feeling and touch gives just as much a story than the eyes, and still they give way to a multitude of purposes – for shaking hands with your companions, for reading Braille with the light trail of the fingertips, for scooping out the best of the cheese sauce in the Camembert, and for wholly improving your manual dexterity in holding a makeup brush, as I very much learnt this weekend. When my PEG tube, a feeding tube placed into the stomach, split and began leaking stomach acid uncontrollably onto my skin, just a little bit of innovation and imagination meant that a plastic sandwich bag from the kitchen drawer did the simple trick of containing the leak until I reached the hospital. The sandwich bag now had an entirely new purpose. It became an entirely different type of tool. And very much like the pencil, the brush, the pen can also beautifully draw a picture, as well as write a story.
It is no doubt wondrous how the art of application learnt during a makeup lesson has now changed my perspective into the building up of the necessary layers of life. It was a truly enjoyable experience and one that I can reflect on with good memories, smiles, and bringing away new concepts. Huge thanks to Alyn Waterman for your time this weekend, and if any of you ever fancy an experience like this then Alyn is definitely your man!