Makeup Por Vida
May 15, 2017 8:08 AM   Subscribe

"We would lean over the sink in the girls’ room before first period, putting on our war paint and posing with serious pouts in the mirror. Together we would perform this ritual and roll out late for class in a cute, menacing pack like Mexican Heathers (or La Vida Loca, the film that came out not long after). In those early days I drew strength from the ritual. I put my faith in it, in us, and in makeup’s power to transform not just my face but my life." Melissa Mesku, for The Hairpin: "Chola Makeup: An exercise in becoming."
posted by MonkeyToes (13 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Man, that's an excellent essay. Thanks for posting it.
posted by languagehat at 8:32 AM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I love makeup, and it's a treat to read about Mesku's experiences around it. Thanks for posting this article!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:07 AM on May 15, 2017

You're born naked, and the rest is drag.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:34 AM on May 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

You're born naked, and the rest is drag.

"But the most glaring contradiction I returned to again and again was that if I wanted to be fierce and intimidating, wouldn’t a bare-faced female who doesn’t give a shit about makeup or identity or fitting in be the fiercest of all?"
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:23 AM on May 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

"It made me see my growing self-estrangement as a rite of passage."
posted by amanda at 11:40 AM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

This was a terrific essay. Thank you for posting it!
posted by lysimache at 1:49 PM on May 15, 2017

Interesting essay, thanks for posting. As a white girl at a mostly hispanic school, I could only envy those fierce Chola girls. There was no way they would have accepted me. I thought it would be great to be a badass Chola that everyone was afraid of. I had no idea what their lives outside of school were like, so all I saw was their power, something no other women in my life at that time, displayed.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:55 PM on May 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

I really loved her realization of the "price of membership" to these teen groups. That's a really tough lesson to learn in teenagerhood.
posted by amanda at 4:02 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another white girl here who grew up in mostly Hispanic/Latinx schools. This essay made me so intensenly homesick for my Texas middle school in a sense less of wanting to go back somewhere than of getting a vivid full-sensory flash of a place/time/feeling that existed. The rich cheerleader girls and the chola girls both wore heavy makeup, heavily stylized in defiantly opposite directions, flawlessly applied.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:04 PM on May 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

WalkerWestridge and nicebookrack, I'd like to hear more about what you remember.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:02 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

At my SoCal middle school, one of my best in-class friends, one of the GATE set, rolled with the cholas outside of class, at lunch, etc. She lived in the right neighborhood for it, had the right hair, the right skin, but she was Jewish! This episode of her life still fascinates me. She rode the Morrissey transition to regular goth by high school.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:13 PM on May 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Morrissey Transition would be a great name for a Latin Emo (Latemo?) band.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:27 AM on May 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Fantastic essay, thanks for posting.

I also grew up in SoCal, and went to a middle school that I was bussed into for the magnet program, while we also had kids bussed in from another neighborhood to relieve overcrowding in the local school. Many of those girls had chola affiliations, as much as a 12 year old girl can I guess, and they scared the shit out of me. I already felt weird and out of place due to not living locally and having changed schools twice in two years. The school I'd been at previously was literally in the wealthiest neighborhood within a ten-mile radius of our own, which I'd got into because my mom worked within the district. Now I was at a school that was much more racially mixed, had racial tensions that I did not understand, and I'd gone from feeling like the poor cousin from the country to being called a "rich white bitch" when I walked down the halls, despite not having said a word or looking askance at anyone. It was all too confusing, and while I did try to find a group to fit into (not the cholas, they weren't going to take a guerra like me and it never would have occurred to me to try), I spent most of my middle school years trying to hide my face behind my hair.

This essay brings to the forefront a lot of painful things about trying to fit in that I've deliberately put out of my mind. I used to pride myself on having gone to schools that were so racially mixed, but the older I get and the more my consciousness is raised, I realize how much we self-segregated, and that I understand as much about the experience of other races as I would if I'd gone to schools that were predominantly white.
posted by vignettist at 1:10 PM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

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