Makeup Museum ideas for now and the future, 2021 update

It's the time of year where I babble on about things I want to tackle but most likely won't be able to.  I reviewed last year's blog post ideas and out of the 30 topics I only managed to accomplish, let's see, 10.  One-third of what I was aiming for.  Sigh.  As for exhibitions, I only did one and it wasn't all that cerebral. Anyway, no point in ruminating over what I should have done so here's a bit of an update. 

In an effort to sort of narrow down the massive amount of exhibition ideas I have, I came up with a priority list of topics that might be doable in the 1-5 years (if the Museum is still in existence) and a secondary list for, well, I have no idea - eventually. I tweaked some of the descriptions as needed.  Also, please keep in mind these are working titles.  Hopefully I can think of better ones!  Once again the husband came up with handy graphics.


    1. "Black and Blue:  A History of Punk Makeup"
    2. "Catch the Light:  Glitter in Cosmetics from Ancient Times Through Today" - Aiming to have this up for holiday 2021, but it's a big one and I will need lots of help that I'm not sure I can get.
    3. "The Life Aquatic:  Mermaid Makeup" - I need to think of a better title soon because I want this to go up in June this year.
    4. "Color History Through Cosmetics: Blue" - I decided to scrap the gold-themed exhibition in exchange for blue. I discovered so many fascinating things about blue makeup while pulling together some trivia on Instagram, there's definitely enough there for an exhibition.
    5. "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" -  I did some polling on Twitter and Instagram and this one won as the next exhibition, so the tentative date is March 2021.
    6. "Just Desserts:  Sweet Tooth Revisited" - It might be good to revisit this on its 10-year anniversary in 2023.
    7. "Aliengelic:  Pat McGrath Retrospective" - Still a priority, but again, I will need lots of assistance and would strongly prefer having a makeup artist co-curate with me. Alternate title instead of Aliengelic:  "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
    8. "From Male Polish to Guyliner:  A History of Men's Makeup" - I know that a new book on men's makeup will be released in June this year and it would be great to have the author as a co-curator.
    9. "She's All That:  Beauty in the '90s" - Oh, poor little neglected '90s makeup book and exhibition. You know I've been wanting to do a comprehensive exhibition and book since at least 2014, but just never seem to have the time.  I do have the chapter outline but I think I need to make deadlines for each chapter and publish the drafts as blog posts, otherwise it's not getting done.
    10. "Pandemic:  Makeup in the Age of COVID-19" - Depressing but historically significant. I'll need to wait until the pandemic is safely behind us, but I am gathering bits of what will surely become history now.
    11. "Ugly Makeup: A Revolution in Aesthetics" - I am so incredibly inspired by Makeup Brutalism and her other effort Ugly Makeup Revolution, I absolutely need to explore looks that completely shatter our notions of makeup's purpose.  The exhibition would be a deep dive into how makeup is going beyond basic artistry and self-expression.
    12.  "Nothing to Hide:  Makeup as Mask" - This was the other choice I included in the Twitter and Instagram polls. While respondents chose Egyptian-themed makeup over this one, the mask theme in makeup goes back centuries and would certainly make a rich topic, plus I could do a subsection on mask-wearing's effects on makeup in the pandemic.

Makeup Museum exhibition list

Secondary list/things I'm not sure about:

    1. "Queens:  A History of Drag Makeup" - Amazing topic but overwhelming. Need much help!
    2. "From Mods and Hippies to Supervixens and Grrrls:  '60s and '90s Makeup in Dialogue" - In my opinion, cultural developments in both the late '60s and mid-1990s radically changed the beauty industry and gave birth to new ideas about how people view and wear makeup; there are many parallels between the two eras. I feel, however, that I'd need to do the '90s exhibition and book first so this would have to wait.
    3. "Gilded Splendor:  A History of Gold Makeup" - This is nice but the more I thought about it the more I didn't think it would be a priority.
    4. "Design is a Good Idea:  Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging" -  Another that I still like but not so much as to make it immediate.
    5. "The Medium is the Message:  Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as traditional art mediums, i.e painting and sculpture, and also how art history is incorporated into makeup advertising and collections.  Consider it a comprehensive discussion of this post while working in canonical artists whose work has appeared on makeup packaging.  My issue with it is that it's overwhelmingly white.  The artists used in vintage ads such Lancome's are white and even collections today don't collaborate with many BIPOC artists, especially Black ones.
    6. "Wanderlust:  Travel-Inspired Beauty" -  A rich topic and would be timely in light of the pandemic limiting travel for most, but honestly, I'm not that excited about it.
    7. "By Any Other Name:  The Rose in Makeup and Beauty" - I pitched this idea to the FIT Museum as a small add-on to their "Ravishing" exhibition.  They weren't interested and now that the exhibition has passed I'm tabling it for now.

Makeup Museum secondary exhibition list

And now for blog posts!

MM Musings (2):  FINALLY getting up the diversity and inclusion in museums post up this month after a year of working on it, and the other topic to tackle this year will be becoming a nonprofit organization.

Makeup as Muse (3):  I managed to get around to covering Gina Beavers last year, but that was it.  The artists on my list are Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz, Asa Jungnelius and Tomomi Nishizawa.

MM Mailbag (2-3):  Once again the MM mailbag overflowed in 2020 and most of the inquiries took a significant amount of time to research and answer.  I'll see what might be feasible. 

Brief histories (4-5): I still want to go ahead with histories of powder applicators, setting sprays and maybe colored mascara, color-changing cosmetics and how makeup language has evolved (for example, why we typically say "blush" now instead of "rouge" for cheek color.) The author of Cosmetics and Skin kindly suggested an article on copycats, i.e. how companies clearly ripped each other off and continue to do so today in terms of packaging, ad campaigns, etc. which is a great topic.  I'm also interested in a history of Day of the Dead makeup.

Trends (1):  Makeup brand merchandise and swag - another I didn't cover in 2020 as planned. I'm also very interested in the video game trend in makeup, but I'm hoping this amazing person writes about it instead!

Topics to revisit (1-2):  faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, and cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising. I did not update any of these in 2020 so I hope to do at least one of the three this year.  Also, perhaps a deeper dive into surrealism and makeup.

Vintage (6): series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, '90s prom makeup, and wear-to-work makeup from the 1970s-90s, defunct '90s and early aughts brands (Benetton, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nina Ricci and Inoui ID to start with), and a slew of other brand histories, especially Black-owned brands like La Jac and Rose Morgan. I'm also itching to write something about Black salespeople and customers in direct sales companies, i.e. Avon, Mary King by Watkins, Fuller, Artistry by Amway, etc. The company I hope to tackle this month if the objects I purchased on Ebay ever arrive will be Holiday Magic...the story is absolutely bonkers. 

Artist collabs (5):  As in 2020 I'm still trying to catch up on some of last year's holiday releases, including Fee Greening for Mikimoto and Cecilia Carlstedt and Morag Myerscough for Bobbi Brown.  There are tons of others from previous years that I'm still thinking about, such as El Seed for MAC, Connor Tingley for NARS, the Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms, and a series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging.

Book reviews (2):  In the interest of saving time and also because my reviews tend to be badly written (even for me), I decided to do regular reviews only for some books and speed reviews of others, combining several books in a single post.  Most of the ones I'm planning on are in the Beauty Library section of the website.

Dream Teams series (1-2):  I did actually start this series last year, albeit without the mockups I had wanted to do.  Stay tuned for more fantasy artist/makeup collabs. I especially want to focus on BIPOC artists and flesh out the idea I had back in 2016 for a Rrose Sélavy-themed collection. 

Color Connections (5+): I returned to Color Connections last year but only once.  They just take so much time. However, I've been toying with the idea of putting them as a dedicated series on Instagram separate from the Museum's regular account.  That way it might make me accountable in terms of working on them more regularly.

Finally, there will be lots of other random things popping up, and I have so many people I want to talk to so I hope to nab some interviews and guest posts. :)

And here we have my book ideas.  They're the same as last year.  The first one is an alternate title for the '90s exhibition.  The second one would basically be the accompanying catalogue for the Makeup as Art exhibition.  I still want to do a coffee table book of pretty makeup, but my concern is that it won't be diverse.

Makeup Museum book ideas

Any of these topics interest you?  Which ones would you like to read about/see first? 

Halloween 2020 roundup

It's hard to believe I haven't done a Halloween roundup since 2016, but here we are.  Hopefully this post will compensate for the makeup I missed the past couple of years, as cosmetic companies continue churning out spooky and fun collections.  I would have purchased some for the Museum, but by the time I made up my mind about which ones to add they had sold out and weren't restocked in time to arrive by Halloween.  It says something about the demand when these collections are released in late September and sell out immediately...I think consumers and businesses are feeding off each other, both creating the increased frenzy for Halloween-themed makeup collections.

I'm not the biggest fan of either The Nightmare Before Christmas or Hocus Pocus - I've never even seen the latter - but I will hopefully add them to the Museum's collection as I thought they were cute and culturally significant enough to warrant purchasing.

Revolution Beauty Nightmare Before Christmas collection(image from revolutionbeauty.com)

Coloupop Hocus Pocus collection(image from colourpop.com)

I should probably re-watch Beetlejuice.  As a kid it scared me half to death but obviously as an adult I should be able to handle it, plus it's got a good cast.  This Melt collection would go nicely with Hot Topic's Handbook for the Recently Deceased palette I bought in 2018.

Melt Cosmetics Beetlejuice palette

Melt Cosmetics Beetlejuice collection(images from popsugar.com)

Here's some other miscellaneous Halloween fun released this year.

2020 Halloween makeup

  1. Shroud Cosmetics It's Freakin' Bats palette
  2. Hot Topic Chucky palette
  3. Profusion Here Lies Jester palette
  4. Alien Cosmetics Spooky Glam palette
  5. Kihitsu pumpkin face brush
  6. Milani Halloween edition Ludicrous Lip Gloss in Let's Bone (yes, that's really the name.) 
  7. Peachy Queen Sweet Dreams palette

And now for a couple vintage pieces.  I'm pleased to have added this Glebeas (pronounced glee-bay) to the Museum's spiderweb collection. Even though I hate spiders there are some great objects with spiderweb designs.  You can read the whole history of Glebeas and see some of their other spiderweb packaging over at Collecting Vintage Compacts

Glebeas sample tin, ca. 1925

About three years ago I found a brass version of Volupte's awesome cobweb compact for a very good price in excellent condition and an original ad.  The compact dates to about 1946-1952 and there were many variations, including sterling silver and 14kt gold, along with butterflies and ladybugs that had the misfortune of getting caught in the spider's lair. 

Volupte spiderweb compact

Volupte Web of Gold ad

Interestingly, the spiderweb design was created by Josephine Forrestal, a Vogue writer turned military wife.  According to the patent the compact was originally intended for Paul Flato, for whom she created other compacts, so how it ended up with Volupte I'm not sure.

Josephine Forrestal spiderweb compact patent 121,953
(image from books.google.com)

So while it's small now, I hope the Museum's spiderweb collection continues to grow.  By the way, do you remember the Elegance eyeshadow on the right?

Makeup Museum spiderweb compacts

Some other spooky vintage finds include a celluloid coffin-shaped compact:

Vintage coffin shaped compact
(image from rubylane.com)

Wound filler used in mortuary makeup:

Vintage wound filler - mortician makeup
(image from ebay.com)

And a makeup room in Illinois said to be haunted by the deceased director of the Peoria Players Theater:

Peoria Players Theater - haunted makeup room

I hope you have a fun Halloween!  Are you dressing up?  I am not but the plushies and I will be eating copious amounts of candy, of course.

On makeup history, racism and the Museum: some thoughts

Let me preface this post by saying that I haven't forgotten about the bigger issues regarding racism.  Skin color is literally a matter of life and death in this country and has been for hundreds of years.  But I want to address the lack of diversity, particularly Black representation, in current and vintage makeup, at the Museum.  I also want to look at how, or even if, it can be remedied.  That racism exists within the beauty industry both now and in the past is indisputable, and as both a feminist and makeup historian I considered myself well aware of these issues. But awareness isn't enough. Before I dive in I also want to note that it's Pride Month, and all of these ideas are applicable to the LGBTQIA+ community - more marginalized people that have not been adequately represented at the Museum.

Currently the Museum has only a handful of vintage items that came from Black-owned companies.  There are about 200 makeup ads in the collection, roughly 150 of which feature models, and of those only 3 depict Black models. And of all the artist collaborations that have been featured over the years, only 3 of them (!) were with Black artists.  In short, the Museum's collection is overwhelmingly white and serves as a direct reflection of white supremacy. A key reason is obviously that Black-owned beauty companies or products for Black customers are few and far between; historically there simply weren't as many beauty brands or products geared towards Black people and advertising primarily featured white models, both problems that still persist today due to institutional racism and implicit bias.  It was much more difficult for a Black person to obtain a business loan to start their company, especially in beauty, as they've been told time and again the lie that there is no market for cosmetics that would actually suit the vast range of Black skin tones.  However, while these are valid points, my own blind spots definitely play a role in the lack of representation in the Museum's collection and content.  Information on Black beauty brands and campaigns is without question difficult to find, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that I couldn't do a more thorough job researching.  Here are the explanations for not actively working towards including more Black makeup products and histories.  These are just that - explanations, NOT excuses. I understand that I need to make more of an effort to diversify and that I am not totally helpless.  These explanations really just boil down to white fragility, albeit a different flavor in my case. I don't get defensive or angry when I acknowledge my privilege or when I've made a mistake (remember the Felicia the Flamingo debacle?), but boy am I fearful of doing the wrong thing. Not to mention I'm harboring a ton of white guilt.

It felt trite and tokenizing to be sharing the same Black beauty icons, the same few brands, the same few ads that we've seen before.  Especially during Black History or Pride months - I seriously hate when companies post a quote from MLK in February or turn their logo into a rainbow in June and call it a day. The histories and contributions of Black people and the LGBQTIA+ communities should be recognized year-round. Anyway, I thought it wasn't helpful to anyone to feature long-standing Black-owned brands that everyone knows about like Posner or Fashion Fair, or yet another history of Madam C. J. Walker.  For example, would it be interesting or eye-opening at all to keep seeing the same 3 Black models when discussing '90s makeup ads/looks? (Halle Berry for Revlon, Tyra Banks for Cover Girl and Naomi Campbell basically for everything else.)  Nope. So I thought, well, I'll dig deeper, I know there's more information out there on Black makeup history that hasn't been fully covered or unearthed yet.  And there is!  I found some pieces of Black makeup history that I haven't seen a million times and am finding more now that I'm looking more closely. 

Vintage Apex beauty brochure
(image from etsy)

But I still feel these are not my stories to tell or analyze.  As noted previously I've never had to struggle to find a foundation match or flattering colors.  And as a white person it makes me very uncomfortable to tell the story of a vintage Black-owned brand or ad campaign, that white-splaining would ultimately do more harm than good.  Why is a white person sharing their unsolicited opinion on Black makeup brands or trying to cover Black history?  Don't we need more Black voices?  Then I thought that I could ask Black historians to write guest posts on Black makeup history, or co-curate a whole exhibition.  And for more current topics, I could invite Black people to share their stories that I could then compile into an online, downloadable publication and have print copies on demand, with all proceeds going to charity. But could they be considered contributions to makeup history or yet more work for Black people?  Some white lady asking for the experiences of Black people sounds awfully demanding and possibly patronizing. 

Along these lines, I am fearful of appropriating Black culture.  Cultural appropriation is a topic I'm sensitive to, and I worry that it's offensive for a white person to be including brands intended mostly for Black customers.  Fenty and Pat McGrath are acceptable because while they are Black-founded and owned, they seem to cater to everyone.  Smaller indie brands like Uoma and Juvia's Place, on the other hand, appear to be primarily intended to meet the needs of Black customers. I loved the packaging for Uoma's Carnival collection and wanted to add it to the Museum. I wanted to interview Uoma's founder about the inspiration behind the collection and the packaging design. I understand everyone's money is green, but I was afraid that adding these products to the Museum's collection would somehow come off as appropriative. 

Uoma Beauty Carnival palette(image from uomabeauty.com)

To be honest, I feel odd sharing that I like any aspect of Black culture. White people have been appropriating it and exploiting it for years, can't Black people just have something we wouldn't take from them?  And so I felt like buying the Uoma collection would be wrong, that it wasn't intended for white people to have.  The same goes for some amazing powder boxes made by tribes in Africa such as the Kuba people of the Congo, especially as the cosmetics they hold were sometimes used in rituals.  On the one hand it's necessary to share and promote Black-owned brands and various African cultures; on the other I question whether it's appropriate for white people to do so.

So this leads to to a discussion of future Museum content and collection planning. Something as innocuous as round-ups of certain themes may actually be offensive, considering that many of them don't feature anything but white-owned brands, ads with white models, etc. I think these sorts of round-ups are important for makeup history and I want to keep incorporating them.  Ditto for objects that don't come from Black-owned brands and artist collaborations. I purchase items for the collection based on their artistic, design or historical value; just because an object doesn't come from a Black-owned company doesn't necessarily negate its importance.  But the lack of representation is really troubling, and I just don't know what to do.  Some examples:  I was going to post a picture on IG of all orchid-themed products, but quickly realized that not one of them came from a Black-owned brand, and every single vintage ad featured white models exclusively.  I was going to post the Too-Faced Quickie Chronicles on IG too - matching the pin-up artists to the Too-Faced palettes was a fun series to write...until I remembered that Too-Faced is white-owned, and all the vintage pin-up girls featured and the artists who created them are white.  A post I had planned for the blog was an artist collaboration that I didn't have a chance to cover last year when it was released, Connor Tingley for NARS.  Guess what, both Mr. Nars and the artist he hand-picked for the collab are white dudes. Do I not share any of these, then?  I don't think all the whiteness can be balanced by the Black makeup history I'm able to access.  So maybe I wouldn't write about them, but I still think they're important and need to be shared. Especially artist collabs, as they were one of the main reasons for the Museum's existence.

I don't know what the answers are.  I firmly believe makeup and its history is for everyone, but that sentiment is not being reflected in the Museum currently, and I don't know how to change that given that there are still so many barriers to racial and gender equality.  I can do absolutely do a better job researching and have already come up with some ideas for future posts focused on Black makeup history, and I have many more books on my list about museums and diversity in general to educate myself further.  Whether this will be enough, or even appropriate, remains to be seen.  Thoughts in the meantime?  (I think Disqus may be acting up so please feel free to email me if you can't leave a comment, or DM me on Twitter or IG.)

How to help: some resources

Update, 6/3/2020: There is an excellent website that rounds up key resources - it's far superior to what I tried to do a few days ago so please check it out!

As for me, I'm still processing the enormous amount of ever-changing information, but wanted to take at least a few steps in the right direction. Helping dismantle racism is a marathon, not a sprint, and I intend on working on it basically forever.  So while it's not much, I've taken in a lot of information and a few actions to start with. In the last 72 hours I have devoured countless online articles and IG posts, followed at least 30 IG and Twitter accounts run by black women, ordered 2 of the 4 books noted in the first list below (purchased from black-owned bookstores), and donated to the Black Visions Collective.  All of these are not enough and should have been done far sooner, and I'm certainly not broadcasting these things to be self-congratulatory or to receive a pat on the back. I'm merely trying to demonstrate that I'm starting to put thought into tangible action and that you can too.  Try not to be overwhelmed with all the information being distributed or the steps you can take.  It's a lifelong process and you don't have to do it all at once...but doing something tiny is better than nothing.

I'm also working on a plan or a statement of some kind about how the Museum can better represent and support black people.  I had long been intending to unveil a plan on diversity and inclusiveness for the Museum as part of MM Musings and actually had it scheduled for July, but I think given the current situation I am going to address the issue sooner with a focus on racism. It won't be complete since I still don't have the resources I wanted to incorporate, but it will be some thoughts.  Stay tuned.

Original post, 5/30/2020

You know I try to keep the Museum a happy place, somewhere people can look at pretty makeup and learn about cosmetics history.  I like to think of it as providing a much-needed escape from scary times.  But right now, as I was with the Freddie Gray protests here in Baltimore, I am too distracted to write about makeup.  I subscribe to the #museumsarenotneutral stance so with that, I wanted to share some resources that might be helpful to non-black people who are trying to be allies. I feel very useless as well as overwhelmed by the volume of information being circulated across various social media platforms and I suspect you do too, so by getting some key sources in one place I'm hoping you can feel like you're taking some small amount of action.  This just the tip of the iceberg and by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, but it's a starting point.

1. The basics: Understanding what allyship and privilege really mean and how white people in particular have benefited from a racist system.  This is a great allyship beginner's guide and an article explaining white privilege, plus an allyship primer on Twitter.

2.  If you can afford to, even if it's just a couple dollars, donate.  Here are the individual donation pages for Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as the donation page for the Minnesota Freedom Fund, the Black Visions Collective, and a complete list of bail funds.  And of course, there's always the ACLU.  More donation sites can be found hereThis list also includes organizations that provide mental health resources to black people, if you'd rather divert your money to places that help in a more direct way.

3.  Continue educating yourself...and not by badgering black people.  They do not exist to teach you; it's up to you to do the work.  There are so many resources out there.  In the interest of being totally transparent I haven't read these books yet, but these are the ones that I keep seeing on every list of recommended reading.  Lots more books here and here.

Others from a more feminist angle (I've read all of these except Eloquent Rage):

If you're not into books you can check out podcasts/TED talks here, here and here, plus a list of online articles, films and TV shows.

4.  Support black artists, writers and other creatives and businesses.  Follow, share, retweet etc. to help get their voices heard.  This is something I admittedly don't do much of because I was always afraid of it coming off as disingenuous - just a move to make the Museum look like it actually cares about diversity while not actually doing anything of value. I've also always been hesitant to attempt to write about black beauty history or brands because I was afraid of white-splaining, or that it's not my story to tell.  And honestly, I still feel like it would be wrong of me to, for example, detail the history of shade ranges since I've never experienced not being able to find a foundation match. I feel as though it's better left to a black person who has had to deal with it first-hand, especially since, again, we need to help make sure their voices are heard. I'm still trying to figure it all out, but I think following and sharing the work of black people is a start.

5. Do the work in real life.  Online support is great, but real-life interactions are necessary for change.  Here's a preparation checklist for protesting (if you're able).  The most important thing is having conversations with your friends, family, co-workers, etc. and taking action in your community. Here are 75 ways to you can do the work, plus another good general guide outside of protesting.

This situation is so odd because I don't want to be silent but at the same time I don't want to just be paying lip service either, and I know this post is going to come off as performative, absolution-seeking, virtual-signaling and/or white-knighting.  I also know that it won't solve or undo hundreds of years of racism. But I thought it certainly couldn't hurt, and compiling these resources will also clarify what to do. Finally, please know I'm also constantly thinking about how the Museum can be a more inclusive and diverse space, acknowledging that there's still a ton of work to be done on my part, and focusing on keeping the conversation going and not just when police brutality and other violence towards black people are dominating the headlines.

If there are any other key resources you think need to be here, please let me know. 

Makeup Museum ideas for now and the future

As I did back in January of 2016, I feel the need to discuss some ideas I've had rattling about in my head for quite some time.  I could basically copy and paste from that post since I didn't make any progress, but perhaps 2020 is the year I actually start tackling some of the bigger Museum projects I've wanted to pursue for so long.  Or not.  I'm not putting pressure on myself, especially since, as I've noted countless times, the necessary resources - research materials, time and money - are lacking.  The point of this post is to simply get down some ideas so that they can temporarily stop taking up so much room in my head and to possibly start prioritizing them. 

First, let's talk exhibitions. Four years ago I had ideas for 15 of them.  The number hasn't changed, although the topics for some of them have.  Here's what I'm thinking about, along with working titles.  I'll reiterate the disclaimer I had with the Stila girls exhibition:  if/when these are completed, they won't be executed anywhere near how I envisioned, but they will be something to start with.

  1. "Black and Blue:  A History of Punk Makeup" - A subject so near and dear to my heart deserves a solo show.
  2. "Catch the Light:  A History of Glitter Makeup and Beauty" - I think this would be perfect for a holiday exhibition.
  3. "The Medium is the Message:  Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as literal art.  Consider it a comprehensive discussion of this post.
  4. "Wanderlust:  Travel-Inspired Beauty" -  I cannot for the life of me believe how many travel-inspired makeup collections there are.  This exhibition would examine those and discuss the idea of makeup intended for travel.  Who wants to see some vintage train cases?
  5. "Design is a Good Idea:  Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging" -  I'm hoping this would be co-curated with two fashion/design scholars that I met on Instagram.
  6. "Taking Flight:  Makeup as Metamorphosis" -  I'm still a little fuzzy on the details, but I know I want to have a whole section of makeup packaging featuring winged creatures (butterflies, fairies, etc.) and makeup looks inspired by them.  Anchoring the exhibition would be an emphasis on the transformative nature of makeup.
  7. "Gilded Splendor:  A History of Gold Makeup" - Another good holiday exhibition topic. 
  8. "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" -  While I like this topic, it's necessary to be mindful of the rampant cultural appropriation.
  9. "Just Desserts:  Sweet Tooth Revisited" - Like a rich dessert, this topic is too good not to have another bite of.  I might also expand it to include non-dessert food-themed beauty, and maybe this very talented writer could co-curate with me.
  10. "Aliengelic:  Pat McGrath Retrospective" - Oh, how I'd love to do an exhibition devoted to Pat McGrath, with a stunning catalogue that would double as a coffee table book.  Alternate title instead of Aliengelic:  "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
  11. "By Any Other Name:  The Rose in Makeup and Beauty" - I pitched this idea to the FIT Museum as a small add-on to their upcoming "Ravishing" exhibition.  They weren't interested but I might just do it anyway. 
  12. "From Male Polish to Guyliner:  A History of Men's Makeup" - this will be huge.  Various writers have discussed it previously, but I want to go really in-depth with it.
  13. "She's All That:  Beauty in the '90s" - This is also the subject of the book on '90s beauty I've been wanting to write since at least 2014.  Not a great message in the film She's All That, but I would hope the premise of the exhibition/book will explain why I chose it as a title.  Or I might rework it to something totally different, I don't know.  And while I know I'll run into the same problems I did with trying to launch this exhibition previously, I figured I need to start somewhere.
  14. "From Mods and Hippies to Supervixens and Grrrls:  '60s and '90s Makeup in Dialogue" - In my opinion, cultural developments in both the late '60s and mid-1990s radically changed the beauty industry and gave birth to new ideas about how people view and wear makeup. 
  15. The last one is rather interesting in that it's the first exhibition topic suggested to me by an independent curator.  I don't want to reveal too much since we haven't really talked through it, but I can say it would be incredibly out of the box and involve '80s makeup. 

The husband made a super duper handy graphic of my exhibition ideas. 

Makeup Museum upcoming exhibitions

And now for all the other ideas that I'm going to try to get through on the website in 2020.  Here's another graphic to help wrap my head around what topics I want to tackle this year.  As you can see it gives the general categories and the number of articles in each category.

Makeup Museum upcoming topics list

Some details:

MM Musings (3):  Several huge topics, including the definition of a museum, inclusive museums, and an exploration of the process of a private collection going public.

Makeup as Muse (3):  the next artists on my list are Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz and Gina Beavers.

MM Mailbag (2-3):  Too many inquiries to list!  I'm still only at about 50% "solved" rate...good thing I'm not a real detective.  But there were some really interesting questions in the past year or so, including ones about the history of Corn Silk powder and a travel set by Madam C.J. Walker.

Brief histories (4): zodiac-themed beauty, crystal-inspired beauty, makeup setting sprays, and how drag makeup techniques became mainstream and/or co-opted.  Possibly something on colored mascara.

Trends (1):  Makeup brand merchandise and swag.

Topics to revisit (3):  faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising.

Vintage (5):  Feature on Revlon Futurama lipstick cases, research on a series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, a roundup of ads depicting women looking at their reflections (sort of a follow-up to my lipstick mirror post), a comparison of Benefit's Glamourette and Platé's Trio-ette compacts, and a history of face powder applicators.

Artist collabs (5):  Only 5 so far but I'm sure there will be more!  Currently I'm trying to catch up on some of last year's releases, including Brecht Evens for Mikimoto, Connor Tingley for NARS, Yoon Hyup for Bobbi Brown, and a staggering amount of Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms (there are 12, yes, 12 artists in all so I will have to combine several of them in one post.)  Oh, and I want to start a series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging.

Book reviews (3):  I want to do at least 3, hopefully more.  On my short list: Red Lipstick:  Ode to a Beauty IconStyle and Status:  Selling Beauty to African-American Women, Viva MAC, and Sacred Luxuries:  Fragrance, Aromatherapy and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt.  I also have two more tomes that have been sitting on my bookshelf for several years. 

New series (3):  I've been thinking about this for years, ever since I did my fantasy Broad City makeup collection.  This would be a series discussing artists whose work I want to see on makeup packaging, complete with mock-ups.  The reason I haven't done it yet is because I lack the technical skills to make said mock-ups, but hopefully I'll figure out a work-around.

Color Connections (?): I'd love to return to Color Connections.  It's such a fun, albeit time-consuming series.

I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way - I think some guest posts and interviews will make an appearance here.

Finally, my book ideas.  These are not new...I do hope to find some time to start writing all three.  I have outlines and chapters for each but that's about it.  The first one is an alternate title for the '90s exhibition.  The second one you can find a description of in this post.  And the last one, well, I still want to do the damn coffee table book of pretty makeup.  We're going on 14 years that I've been wanting to publish it!

Makeup Museum upcoming book list

So those are all the ideas I have swirling about in my brain at the moment.  They are subject to change as I'm sure I'll think of more but at least I've laid out the current ones.  Please let me know in the comments which exhibitions and topics you want to see first!  And if you'd like to help with any definitely let me know.  Book-writing tips are especially needed. ;)

Curator's picks and pans for 2019

Welcome to the 2019 edition of Curator's Picks and Pans!  It's been a bad year for me and the Museum, but at least there was some great makeup!  And some not so great too but again, they were a welcome distraction. 

First up are my picks, i.e. the items with what I thought had the best concepts and design.

1.  Mikimoto holiday 2019 collection:  I haven't even written about this one yet - I hope to get a post up early in the new year - but as with last year's holiday collection as soon as I laid eyes on it I ordered without batting an eye.  This year Mikimoto partnered with artist/illustrator Brecht Evens, who created even more mermaid-laden and fantastical underwater scenes than last year's collection.

Mikimoto holiday 2019 makeup
(image from mikimoto-cosme.com)

2. Paul and Joe x Doraemon:  I must admit I was totally unfamiliar with Doraemon, a wildly popular manga character from Japan, when I first heard about this collection.  It was a perfect fit for Paul & Joe given the founder's love of cats as well as her penchant for quirky, playful prints and collaborations (see the 2016 Warner Bros. collaboration.)  I hope to write about it sometime in 2020.

Paul & Joe x Doraemon
(image from blog.ulifestyle.com)

3.  Chanel Eiffel Tower Illluminating Powder:  I don't have much to say about this other than it was released in honor of the opening of Chanel's first beauty-only boutique in Paris.  The embossing was so lovely and intricate, and the exclusivity made it impossible for me to resist - it was only available at Chanel boutiques in France and and the French website (I acquired it through ebay).  Plus it's a fabulous piece to have if I ever want to revisit the Museum's fall 2015 Paris/French-themed exhibition.

Chanel Paris highlighter

As the Museum continues to expand its vintage holdings, for the first time I'm including my top vintage acquisitions. 

1.  Stila paint cans:  The picture shows the Museum's entire collection since I was too lazy to weed out exactly which ones I got this year, but back in February I bought 20 rare vintage (okay, maybe not quite vintage yet but very close) paint cans on ebay from a former collector who didn't have room.  I was sad for her but glad I could give them a good home.  Plus they really added something extra to the Stila girl exhibition.

Stila paint cans

2.  Volupté Petite Boudoir:  among my many weaknesses are novelty compacts and palettes.  I had been coveting this adorable vanity-shaped compact for ages, so when I saw one in excellent condition at a great price I pounced. For photography purposes (and because I love miniatures) I purchased some mini makeup items as accessories.

Volupté Petite Boudoir compact

Volupté Petite Boudoir compact

Here's an ad for it from one of my collector's guides, in case you're curious.

Volupté Petit Boudoir compact ad, 1950

3.  Yardley Glimmerick eyeshadow set:  Another I haven't gotten around to sharing, but I was so pleased to get this one in fantastic shape and still with with the insert.  

Yardley Glimmerick paint box

Yardley Glimmerick paint box

And now for the more lackluster releases this year.

1.  Madonna by Too-Faced:  A hugely successful brand collaborating with a pop culture icon seems like a surefire hit, but dear lord was this unimaginative.  I'm truly shocked at how boring this was.  Between the flamboyance of Jerrod Blandino and Madge's propensity to push boundaries, I expected way more not just in packaging but the entire concept.

Madonna by Too-Faced

Madonna by Too-Faced
(images from shop.madonna.com)

2.  Revlon x Mrs. Maisel:  Another squandered opportunity, and much like the Estée Lauder Mad Men collaborations, a good idea but poor execution.  You would think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel would be a goldmine for inspiration.  Midge worked at the Revlon makeup counter so the brand makes sense, but why the packaging didn't get a fabulous retro/vintage treatment I'll never know. 

Revlon x Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
(image from ew.com)

3.  Guerlain Rouge G Wild Glam case:  Maybe it's sour grapes because I can't afford it, but I wasn't a fan of this one.  It's a cool design, but not $290 cool!  I honestly have no idea what Guerlain was thinking.

Guerlain Rouge G Wild Glam case
(image from neimanmarcus.com)

If I'm going to pay 300 bones for a lipstick case (and I've done it before, embarrassingly enough) it better at least have some sort of handmade element or utilize precious materials.  As far as I can tell, neither of those things came into play here.  It's just plain old rhinestones (not even Swarovski - I mean COME ON) and a silver-toned case, not real silver plating.  And it wasn't handmade by a jeweler, just designed by one.  It does say the rhinestones were "hand-set", but I'm skeptical.  Plus this other rhinestone-encrusted case is within a normal price range, costing a mere $36.  Finally, I'm confused by the snake motif, as it doesn't have any significance for Guerlain that I'm aware of.  It felt like a very uninspired piece overall.

And those are some makeup highlights and lowlights of 2019.  (I was going to do picks and pans for the past decade but immediately got overwhelmed, so I'm keeping it simple.)  What do you think of these choices?  Please visit the archives and let me know!

In crisis mode: a personal update

If I never see another ICU I will be a happy camper.

I wish I could say I was taking another blog break to tackle some big exciting projects, or because I just needed a little time off, but my absence has been for much sadder reasons.  In the early evening of Monday, March 18, my father suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke.  If you've been following me for a while you know I'm very close to my parents so I'm heartbroken for him as well as my mom, who has been married to him for over 50 years.  While we are incredibly grateful he is still alive (at the time of this writing - I now live in constant fear that something equally horrible or worse will happen), my family and I are devastated at the damage the stroke has done.  My dad as I knew him isn't here right now, and it's uncertain whether he'll be coming back even remotely the same. 

Spring 2019 bmore
I basically missed spring.

My parents live a few hours away, so juggling travel and a full-time job is making things difficult logistically. I have not spent one weekend at home in Baltimore since early March and since I do nearly all blog/social media stuff on the weekends, there's literally no time to dedicate to the Museum right now.  Obviously that's the least of my worries, but I wanted to note the other contributing factors for having to abandon the blog at the moment.

I've always wanted the Museum to be a happy place, so discussing this depressing situation further doesn't seem appropriate. I'm logging off again now, but I hope to be back to Museum business in the next few months, or even weeks - if I can focus enough and manage to take pictures off-site, blogging may be a good distraction.  I also know my dad, internet-illiterate though he is, would want me to keep going. (And of course I'm still buying makeup regularly! I'm at least able to concentrate for the few minutes it takes to place an order.)  Fingers crossed intensive rehab will lead to significant improvement for my dad. 

Father's Day 2017

Thank you in advance for any well wishes and good thoughts/vibes, as we need all the ones we can get! 

Curator's picks and pans for 2018

One of the annual blog traditions I started a while back was gathering my favorite and least favorite releases of the year.  While I neglected to do this for 2017, I'm triumphantly returning to the tradition this year.  Here are my top 3 picks from 2018.  It was hard to choose!

1.  The mermaid-themed goodies illustrator Donald Robertson created for Rodin Olio Lusso took my breath away.  Plus I got a bag customized by the artist himself.

Rodin Olio Lusso x Donald Robertson

2.  I know there was significant backlash to it, but I just loved the MAC Jeremy Scott collection.  So. Much. Nostalgia.

MAC Jeremy Scott

3.  There were so many amazing collections this holiday season, but since I'm forcing myself to choose I'm going with the stunning Shine Classic compacts from Sulwhasoo, which celebrate a part of Korean cultural heritage that nearly went extinct. 

Sulwhasoo holiday 2018

There were a few vintage honorable mentions as well, including some pieces that I've acquired but haven't shared yet (stay tuned!), as well as the plethora of donations the Museum received.  So incredibly thoughtful and generous!

Now for the pans.  Sometimes even brands that have released previous Curator's picks miss the mark.  I guess they can't all be winners, right?

1.  Givenchy African Light highlighter.  Cultural appropriation much?  I found everything from the name to the description ("a gorgeous illuminating powder adorned with African ethnic motifs [that] evokes the color of African deserts, while the light frangipani fragrance reminds of the lush South African gardens") to be fairly problematic. 

Givenchy African Light highlighter
(image from beautyalmanac.com)

2.  I love iridescent packaging, but Shu's spring 2018 Tokyo Spirit collection left me cold.  It was just so uninspired.  The addition of Qee figurines on the lipstick cases did nothing either.

Shu Uemura Tokyo Spirit

Shu Uemura Tokyo Spirit
(images from chicprofile.com)

3.  While I enjoyed Lancôme's spring 2018 collection, the Proenza Schouler collab was a complete snoozefest for me.  It's a shame, as I think they could have done so much more.

Lancome Proenza Schouler
(image from beautyalmanac.com)

Do you agree with these choices?  What were your favorite items this year?  Have a spin through the Museum's archives and Instagram and tell me what you think!

Pre-spring blog break

some ecardHello!  Again, while I don't think anyone is positively dying to know my whereabouts, the compulsive side of me felt the need to officially announce that I'm taking a little break from the blog.  As you know, I'm feeling less than positive about it lately, and I also desperately need time to work on makeup-related things that I can't get to while writing and taking photos.  Namely, I plan on doing a lot of decluttering, re-organizing and inventory updating.  It would also be nice to, you know, enjoy a couple weekends that aren't entirely spent blogging - I'd like to maybe read a book (one that's not for review here), color, bake, spend time with family, etc.  

I'll be back in a few weeks, hopefully feeling refreshed.  In the meantime, please be sure to keep up with me on Instagram and Twitter, and check out the archives if you want something to read.  :)




Museum/blog update: 2018

Somecard(This will be a long and whiny post.  Feel free to skip it.)

I've been wanting to write this post for a while and I figured what better day than New Year's, a.k.a. the most depressing day of the year.  The Museum plan for 2018 is that there is no plan.  The only thing I intend to do is continue posting up until the Museum's 10-year anniversary in August, when hopefully I will have come to a decision as to whether to keep going or end this sad endeavor.  Both 2017 and 2016 have been a nonstop cycle of Museum-related stress, frustration and rejection.  I haven't shared any of these failures because there have been so many and because I don't want to come across as negative, but I can't hold it in any longer.  I took all the opportunities that were offered to me and undertook my own efforts to try to improve the Museum in terms of research, visibility and organization as well as trying to make it a physical space or at least get an exhibition, all of which ended with the proverbial door getting slammed in my face. 

Social Media
As much as I enjoyed blogging and Instagram, recently they've been killing me.  Whether I'm losing sleep over people unfollowing me, or the fact that I've been on Instagram a year and a half and still haven't reached a measly 1,000 followers, or that it takes me 1-2 hours at a minimum to set up and take a photo I consider decent enough to post, it's been less than fun lately.  A few weeks back in December all I wanted to do was run a 5 mile race and hit up the Charm City Craft Mafia's annual holiday show.  Instead that Saturday was spent taking hundreds of photos for both the blog and Instagram.  I never seem to have time for any of my other hobbies anymore.  This is especially troubling when I see people with, to be blunt, downright shitty photos having thousands of followers.  Ditto for poorly written blogs - I see how many readers they have in Feedly compared to mine (I currently have a whopping 58 readers, down from 59 in early 2017) - and it seems people who can't even spell properly have hundreds of readers.  I might pretend that the blog and Instagram are more for me than anyone else, but if I'm being honest, I'm sick of talking to myself.  It's disheartening to put so much time and effort into both when I get basically nothing in return.  I feel like I'm standing on a table in the middle of a crowded room shouting through a bullhorn and no one hears a damn thing.

I have tried my best to really step up the research on vintage items and make my posts on contemporary items more scholarly and academic.  What I discovered is that: 1. Baltimore's public libraries suck; 2. the library at the university where I work doesn't have anything I need; 3.  Hopkins' library is good for art history but they want $200 a year for access and they don't have the magazine archives I'm after; 4.  The New York Public Library has both Vogue and WWD archives and does allow out-of-state residents to get a library card, but you have to go up there in person to get it and then renew it every 3 months (again, in person).  Despite these obstacles I was all excited until I realized that both of these much-needed resources are only accessible from a branch, i.e., even though I hauled my ass up there to get a card, I can't access those from here.  And both of those require an exorbitant amount of money to subscribe.

So much for this.

Along those lines, I can't upgrade to a proper museum website or publish any of the tons of books I've had rattling around in my head for years, because I am not independently wealthy.  A coffee table book wouldn't require much heavy-duty research, but as it's mostly eye candy I'd need to hire a professional photographer.  Same with digitizing the Museum's collection.  I'd need a pro to take photos and for a professional redesign of the website, it would cost thousands.  Yes, I've actually priced it out - I live with a designer who does this for a living, for god's sake.  As for my own exhibitions, I have so many ideas that go beyond the very basic themes I normally cover.  Forest creatures and rainbows are nice, but not complex like some others I'd love to do if I had access to better resources. 

Other Exhibitions and Museums (or, so many fails I had to number them)
1. In March 2016 the director of a major university library contacted me and asked about starting a real cosmetics museum together.  She'd handle the business end and I'd do all the curating, and I could do it remotely so I wouldn't have to up and move to the small town she was proposing it would be.  She had a lovely old warehouse space picked out and everything, we made tons of plans and I really thought my dream would be a reality.  After several months of emailing and phone calls she proposed visiting me in Baltimore so I could, in her words, "make sure she wasn't an axe murderer" (and obviously she needed to size me up too).  In June 2016 we had a very nice dinner during which we continued discussing plans.  I thought it went well, and then...nothing.  Radio silence for 3 months, at which point I followed up and asked if everything was okay.  She explained that her old house hadn't sold and she needed that cash to buy the space where we were going to put the museum, but that if anything changed she'd let me know.  This was in September 2016.  I have not heard hide nor hair from her since.  So yeah, being - what's the term the kids use these days?  Ghosted? - by this person was truly upsetting, especially since it seemed to have occurred immediately following our in-person meeting.  To this day I still wonder what about me in person was so off-putting that she abandoned the project.

2. I emailed Makeup in New York about whether they'd have an exhibition of vintage beauty items, something I've been going to see the past few years.  I was told that they would not be having one at their 2017 show, so I gathered my courage and boldly offered to help organize/curate one in the future.  This was the response I received. 


Am I being too sensitive or was that stone cold?  Why wouldn't you at least entertain the notion of someone with nearly a decade of makeup exhibition experience helping to curate one at an expo?  I realize the exhibitions I organize are just in my home, but give me a gallery space and I'd hit it out of the park.  I'm one of a handful of people on the entire planet who has actively, thoughtfully considered beauty exhibitions and would know what people want to see and how to go about organizing it.  You would think they'd be interested in having my help, but no. 

3.  At least I received a response from them.  Esteé Lauder continues to ignore my requests for information about their archives...but they are more than happy to have "social media influencers" have access to them

Ignoring me for over a year.

4. Finally, there's this exhibition.  Normally I'm thrilled to see other makeup exhibitions, but this one has broken me since it's one I genuinely could have helped with.  I was asked to lend some objects for it, but that's where my involvement ends, and for that I am crushed.  I just can't figure out why, again, someone with nearly a decade of experience planning and executing exhibitions devoted to makeup is brushed off (yes, I offered to assist in any other way besides object-lending capacity and was rejected.  They were very polite about it, at least.)  I know no one is going to hand me an opportunity to guest curate on a silver platter and that people need to take ownership of their exhibitions - I'd never ask to co-curate because I understand it's THEIR exhibition - but it would have been nice to be asked to do a little consultation on what they were planning.  Again, I'm one of the few people on earth who has spent years thinking about how to curate makeup exhibitions.  I'm certainly not saying the grad students organizing this are incapable of curating a great makeup exhibition, as some of them work for well-known galleries so I'm sure it'll be good and I'm definitely going to go see it.  I'm just saying that my insight might have been as helpful as gallery experience.  The other thing that's upsetting is that an exhibition in a physical gallery space is something I've worked so hard to achieve for years, and along comes this one, which was organized in a matter of months.  I bet they had no trouble getting cosmetics companies to reply to them about borrowing objects from their archives or accessing other historical resources.

To sum up, I'm just really tired.  Tired of spending every spare minute and drop of energy on something no one's interested in, tired of being told no, tired of not being taken seriously. Most of all I'm tired of the "you're responsible for your own destiny/happiness" bullshit because it's simply not true.  People don't seem to understand there's a fair amount of luck and connections involved in making dreams a reality.  I have been doing everything humanly possible to improve the blog and make the Museum "real" and have been stonewalled every step of the way, while others (some of whom I think are less deserving) are met with nothing but success due to dumb luck or because of who they know.  It's just history repeating itself; I was shut out of the museum world and academia at a young age, and I had originally conceived of the Museum/blog as outlets to help me deal with my shattered career dreams.  If museums and universities didn't want me then I'd forge my own path and make my own opportunities.  Instead it's the same old thing.

Thank you for reading and apologies for being bitter and entitled, but that's just where I am right now and had to get it off my chest.  I am grateful for the few of you that continue to support the Museum and I hope 2018 has good things in store for you.