We love getting our makeup done. Though most of the time you’ll catch us bare faced most days of the week, all of us here like wearing makeup. Lately though, it seems that we’ve been noticing a trend in makeup tutorials. Nose contouring. If we had five dollars for every time we’ve run across an in-depth tutorial on YouTube we’d be rich. A little highlight and contouring here and there never hurt anyone, but when the conversation turns to “black nose jobs” or “fixing bridges” we couldn’t help but wonder if nose contouring is becoming the new gateway drug into something else that ran deeper than just wearing make up for fun. Nikia and Angel sat down to chat about it and share their thoughts on their own personal struggles.
ANGEL: My first introduction to contouring was in a Kevyn Aucoin book — Face Forward — and I loved the results. The man made Tina Turner look like Cleopatra. Pure genius!
NIKIA: Me too! I remember watching Kevyn on MTV in the late 90s. I also vividly remember looking at pictures of Britney Spears with and without makeup and I was like, “Whoa! Her nose doesn’t really look like that [without makeup], does it?”
ANGEL: Now it’s everywhere. You can’t throw a rock at a beauty tutorial without being encouraged to contour your face and especially your nose.
NIKIA: Yeah, I don’t think that the every day woman became aware of nose contouring at the level it’s at now until all of these YouTube tutorials and now everyone is thinking, “Okay this is what I need to do now.”
ANGEL: It’s like it has become the next evolution in makeup application. “Blush” is now conturing plus blush.
NIKIA: I see pictures of super extreme contouring and I’m just screaming “No, no, no!” How should I put this? I realize that everyone is not happy with all of their facial features but when you take all of that make up off are you happy with what you see? That’s an important question.
ANGEL: I’ve contoured my face before when I was on TV or when I was going to be doing something bigger than my day-to-day work. Do you or have you ever contoured your nose?
NIKIA: If I have an audition or photo shoot, I put a little highlighter on my bridge, brow bones and cupid’s bow but that’s for work and to highlight my features. Everyday? I’m not doing all of that. Put it this way, if I’m at home or just going out I’m not contouring my face.
ANGEL: When I was a younger, I wanted to be six feet tall like my mom and have the same curls as my dad. Neither of those things happened for me. [laughs] My young naive thinking was that being taller and having curly hair would be “better” for me in some kind of way. I can understand wanting to change something about yourself. I wanted to change my hair. But then I had to think, “But why though?” When I answered that question honestly, there was more behind it than I’d anticipated. So I think If I started contouring my nose every time I wore makeup, I need to step back and examine why.
NIKIA: This is gonna sound funny but one of my friends and I have this thing we call “turtle nose.” It only happens when you smile — you know when your nose spreads. I remember being younger and thinking, “What’s going on with my nose? Why can’t it stay the same way it looks when I’m not smiling?” I kinda had to accept it because that’s my nose. [laughs] That was the only thing that going into my 20s I was bothered by. I’d look at pictures of my parents and wonder who could I blame for this! [laugh] My sister does not have my nose. I’m not getting a nose job because I’m okay with it now. It’s my nose. What am I supposed to do?
ANGEL: I think we as black women have lots of messages [still] coming at us from white corporations telling us in subliminal ways we need to look white-ish just like it tells white women to be as blonde and blue-eyed as possible. It’s nothing new. But I also think that trying to think about nose contouring in relation to say relaxers or skin bleaching some would say is reaching. I don’t think so. I think if you’re not careful, it can become a habit that’s hard to shake.
NIKIA: Yeah, I think nose contouring can go too far when the person doing it no longer looks like themselves. When you have to wonder if someone got a nose job, that’s when it’s gone too far. Honestly, I love noses. I’m really partial to large noses on men and women. So when someone gets rid of or diminishes that feature that bothers me. I’m like, “But your nose gave you so much character!” When you contour your nose really harshly to completely change the shape, it changes the shape of your entire face. Your eyes and cheekbones now look different so you have to now “fix” them to blend with your new nose. It’s like a domino effect.
ANGEL: I think that when people say they are “insecure” about their nose, what they are really saying whether it’s conscious or subconscious is that my nose is too wide and flat. Basically too not Caucasian looking. To feel that your nose is too wide, there has to be a juxtaposition, a counter to be able to measure yourself against and in this game, the hand that is dealt is always the same and spade always comes up Caucasian.
NIKIA: What are we saying about ourselves by changing the shape of our nose?. That we can’t love our faces? Do we look at our mom or dad’s nose and say, “Oh that’s such an awful nose”, if our nose is exactly how their nose looks? Are we gonna start shading the sides of our 7 year old’s nose when she has our nose? What are we saying about ourselves and our heritage when we simply can’t leave the house without contouring our nose.
ANGEL: Most definitely. I love makeup. It’s very versatile. In addition to turning your lips red, you can cover up acne and skin conditions like hyper-pigmentation. To say makeup is useless would be going a bit too far. But, in my opinion, makeup’s main existence is really to enhance your natural beauty. Makeup is not really supposed to transform you into another person or race so that you are now “prettier.” Seriously, who told Black people they had low bridges? In comparison to who?! Why is this a problem?
NIKIA: If you google “African American noses” one of the first results is “Why do Africans have large noses and lips?” People are so curious about our bodies. When my sister and I were younger, we’d imagine that the air in Africa was so good we needed wider noses to breath it all in! So that’s why our noses are wider! [laughs] I was watching a movie with Don Cheadle; he’s so cute, and I kept looking at his nose. He has a beautiful nose. You know, noses define in lots of ways where you’re from. So changing the shape of your nose is kind of in a way getting rid of your heritage.
ANGEL: I agree. I don’t see anything wrong with contouring your nose per se, but I think if your reasons are to make your nose look “white-ish” or “thinner” or “prettier” there’s a big problem there. Feeling insecure about your nose because it’s an “insert your race here” nose and then using makeup to “fix” it is on another level.
NIKIA: I’m not going to say don’t contour but I believe in moderation. Contouring your nose can easily become a gateway drug. I have lot of friends from different backgrounds who have gotten nose jobs when they are around 16 or 17. It was like their rite of passage given to them as a gift by their parents. I always wonder, how did this start and when did they assume that their new nose is what’s considered beautiful? I wonder if in our culture, we won’t or don’t go under the knife as much but we’ll contour because it kinda gives us the same effect.
ANGEL: Something to think about…
Print of model Jeneil Williams. Contour makeup and photographs by Angel.