Posted 20 hours ago

All Made Up

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Renowned for being a bridal expert, Emma creates flawless Hair and Makeup looks and enjoys playing an important role in a bride’s big day, joining in on the frivolity and fun while keeping everyone calm, relaxed and on time. On the one hand, both titles are witty comments on the memoir genre, asking questions about truth and memory and acknowledging how much must necessarily remain hidden. The desire for knowledge, education, honesty and affection emerge and re-emerge despite the weight of negative expectations and pressures. Born to a middle-aged mum, Janice has to fight for space with Cora, her bullying, much older sister.

Exotica such as Vesta curries and bolognese sauce arrive in 1970s Saltcoats, and the family eventually adds a fridge to its consumer electricals, while mother continues to dispense advice: "Self-sufficiency was the only survival tool you could count on. In attending a school which seemed to be equally progressive in its curriculum and quality of teaching, young Janice seems to flourish, especially, in her learning of music (joining an orchestra) and Latin (which she claims can lend all the more meaning to almost everything in life) and appears to be in short, a star pupil with a promising future. There is a history and a cultural significance that comes with wearing cat-eye-inspired liner or a bold red lip, one that many women feel to this day, even if we don't realize exactly why.Reading this book led me to see it in a different light since a long time ago, beauty was witchcraft and it was outlawed. Reading this book makes me feel seen, it puts into words the confusing, intangible, vexing internal struggle that many women I know face when it comes to makeup. The topic is dealt with in a brutally honest way, but somehow, the book manages to stay lighthearted - which makes it a joy to read but also more tragic. This was less of a trip into the history and nature of makeup and more of an overview of some tangentially connected factoids.

And throughout all that the author incorporates the racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, and consumerism that have become entangled with the evolution of makeup. Ranging across time and place, All Made Up shows how makeup contributes to and reinforces social definitions of gender and race, even as it has been a tool of creativity and subversion. Their mother tries to kill herself but fails, and the book ends with 11-year-old Janice on the phone to the Samaritans, after yet another small but telling act of cruelty from Cora, leaving her "a sensitive plant with a memory like a packet of razor blades".

She does a fantastic job of acknowledging that while this is often considered a women’s issue, women of color and LGBTQ individuals are often judged most harshly, have the most risk, and are the most harmed in going against the dominant culture in the world of makeup. However, this being the early seventies, when society was becoming more permissive towards young people than ever before, Janice too would become more rebellious and daring in turn, doing things which were frowned upon a generation before, such as having boyfriends, skipping school, and more controversially, harbouring an ambition to become a composer or a scholar in Latin, which girls still “didn’t do” in that day. I loved all the history and stories in the book about women (and trans women) who exploited beauty/gender politics to gain power or to resist the status quo — eg the story of the Chinese empress and Josephine Baker.

As she becomes a teenager Galloway discovers boys, and sex, and motorcycles, peeps at Mayfair magazine, hangs out like all her peers. Writing astutely about the complex yet fascinating world of cosmetics, Rae Nudson shines a light on what is now a multibillion-dollar global business. My reading of this book is that it is a little more cerebral, a little more guarded, a little more reserved than her earlier book - the stoicism which was such a hallmark of the first, and in some ways remarkable in the child, somehow left me wanting to be let IN a little more, in this one. It delves into a lot of interesting information and while I thought a few poignant points were made throughout, the book lacks a strong conclusion and really doesn’t have much of anything to say beyond presenting us these facts. Perhaps the greatest burden she carries is her sister Cora, a character painted with searing honesty and one who ultimately evinces some sympathy despite (or perhaps even because of) all she has done.

We are only on page 11 of the new book when Cora head-butts Janice because she says the wrong thing, and their mother ‘foraged with her fingers for damage’.

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