Man proposes, God disposes.
If you’re new here – hey there, make yourself at home – you must know that in 2015, I had most glorious plans to refurbish this book review series that had delighted readers back in 2014. But weeks, and then months, slipped by and I barely had the time to get on with all the relevant topics, managing the blog, my job, and just life in general. No whining, that’s how I want the ride anyway, right? 😉
Books reviewed in 2014 in the Bookshelf Monthly series were like surprise boxes: fiction and factual books; from books about food, health, sustainability to urban fantasy, memoirs, and steampunk adventures. We’ll see what 2016 brings!
And today, we talk about books that discuss beauty.
One author is a successful make-up artist and a YouTube star, another a self-made woman, an entrepreneur and The modern burlesque icon – today I’m reviewing ‘Face Paint’ by Lisa Eldridge and ‘Your Beauty Mark’ by Dita von Teese.
Reading ‘Face Paint’:
The Story of Makeup
By Lisa Eldridge
I’m reviewing the Kindle edition (€17, amazon).
This is NOT a how-to book.
While Lisa’s You Tube tutorials are close to iconic, Face Paint is not a how-to book. It’s a book about history, beauty ideals, power and wealth, toxins and technological progress, and much more.
My personal highlights in this book were the reviews of ancient cosmetics with the most atrocious ingredients from lead and arsenic to nightingale droppings and crocodile dung; a critical examination of beauty trends and the recurring dig at the male beauty ideals inflicted on women throughout history; and some criticism of the ancient, toxic ingredients that goes all the way to the unrealistic narrative of today’s beauty brands and careless ingredients regulations or the lack of the latter.
Lisa has beautifully put together some of the most iconic, archival photography and advertisements, though this aspect might not be as impressive on a Kindle as it would be with a coffeetable book. The chapters bear dramatic names that set the mood right like “Red: Beauty’s Most Enduring Shade” or “White: The Politics and Power of Pale”.
Core themes of Face Paint are, to me, ‘history repeating’ in relations to just what people would do to be perceived as beautiful (often achieving the contrary effect) and, slightly surprisingly, the story of female empowerment.
This book is for you if you have interest in history and cosmetics and want to put a new complexion – no pun intended – on each beauty tutorial, magazine or blog you’ll read from now on. The context of Face Paint is beautifully multi-faceted with excursions in psychology and anthropology, and although the facts presented here aren’t brand spanking new to anyone interested in the history of cosmetics, the oeuvre itself does a really good job in tying together the story of make-up from ancient times to the first relevant beauty brands.
Reading ‘Your Beauty Mark’:
The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour
By Dita von Teese
I’m reviewing the Kindle edition of the book (€16, amazon).
Okay, THIS is a how-to book.
Having watched Dita’s performance once, I can’t say that I’m a fan of this part of her work but I do admire her business savvy. An entrepreneur whose key product is her very own signature appearance, Dita von Teese makes her most recent book a celebration of – Dita von Teese. And I love me a clever, bold business woman in the likes of a Mae West. And so, to me, this book, “star-studded” with the loveliest portraits of (mostly) Dita von Teese, reads not simply as a tutorial to leading an aesthetically outstanding life – if you read between the lines, you can learn a thing or two about life and business.
The beauty advice in Your Beauty Mark might appear surprisingly down-to-earth for someone as glamourous, but in all the (presumed) commercial conceptuality of it one thing rings true over and over again that is not a pose: “If perfection is about being free of all flaws, then the only flaws worth fretting over are apathy and self-doubt.”
Nevermind your beauty routine and regimen, nevermind the size and price of your beauty case, nevermind the shape of your eyes or colour of your hair – celebrate your unique beauty and dare to bring out the best version of you. This resonates with me strongly although I’d never walk the miles Dita has in terms of, erm, aesthetic enhancements. But yes, I do believe that being the best version of me in what might be the one and only life I’m given on Earth is the best thing I can do.
My personal highlights from the book? First would be the common-sense-ness of it and getting an idea of Dita’s sense of self-creation and savvy. Second is the tongue-in-cheek, no-bull language. Example? #1 “Don’t bitch about how your skin looks like last season’s It bag when you won’t put down the cigarettes and you can’t keep out of the sun.” #2 “Let the love and beauty in life runneth over. But tits? No way.”
Is it just me or is this hilarious?
More personal highlights from Your Beauty Mark: I was 70% amused and 30% delighted at the fact that there’s a green smoothie recipe in the book. On a more serious note, the exercise part is surprisingly extensive and quite interesting to read, part yoga, part ballet, part (light) strength training.
Of course, you’ll get tips along the way that fast forward you – sometimes – to Dita’s own products, such as fragrances, but such tips are neither too obvious, nor ubiquitous. She’ll also let her favourite beautician, nutritionist or designer shine in the limelight while sharing advice with the reader. Beauty tutorials are more of a visual treat than actual advice (unless you are a make-up newbie of course).
Bottom line: Your Beauty Mark, for me, was entertaining more than anything else. If you’re going for a burlesque/ dancer/ performer career, grab it and enjoy it. If you’re in the media/ pr/ branding – grab it and enjoy it.
Let me wrap up today’s Bookshelf Monthly with just one more quote from Your Beauty Mark:
Whether your stage is in a theater or in everyday life, it’s all about smoke, mirrors and desire. It might take a lot of work, grit, and pain to get there. But in the end, it’s all about making it look easy and leaving your audience wanting more.”
– Dita von Teese