Makeup artist Lauren Elyse has a massive following on Instagram where she’s known for her wildly colorful and whimsical makeup creations—inspired by Halloween and cartoons like Steven Universe. Her Insta is peppered with comments like “you’re so talented,” “THIS LOOK IS TO DIE FOR,” and “you inspire me so much!!!”. The makeup savant also happens to have vitiligo, anautoimmune skin disorder, which causes patches of pigment loss. Because of this she has striking pale patches on her eyes and instead of masking them completely she makes it part of herthis edition of “A Thing of Beauty,” we asked Lauren Elyse to reflect on how her own notions of beauty have changed over the years, and how she finally came to love—and not hide—herself on social media.
Growing past my own insecurities about my vitiligo wasn’t easy. During my teenage years, I tried my best to shrink away and not draw any attention to myself. When I’d go out with friends, they often had no idea I was wrestling with how to feel about my skin. I pretended I was okay; that everything was fine and that I didn’t have any issues with my vitiligo.
In reality, I was freaking out inside. I used to cry about it, and be really upset and down about it. I’d wonder why I wasn’t normal like everyone else. But I appeared so positive while out in public that perhaps some people mistook that for confidence. The truth is, in trying to hide my vitiligo, I was also hiding myself.
“The truth is, in trying to hide my vitiligo, I was also hiding myself.”
It took a few years, but I eventually learned to not be so insecure about it. As I entered my early 20s, I began embracing the fact that I’m not like everybody else. Not just physically, but in my personality, in what I like, and who I am as a person. I figured, if my interests differ from others, that’s okay. If my appearance differs from everyone else, that’s okay, too.
Still, being okay with notcovering up my vitiligo was a more gradual process. While on Instagram, I kept noticing all these other girls who were doing the traditional makeup looks. With each glamorous makeup creation, their followers grew and grew. Looking at them, I felt like that’s what I needed to look like, in order to get my name out there and grow successfully on social media. I was wrong.
Moving past the cover-up
Covering up my vitiligo was so normal, I would even do little “coverage” mini-tutorials on Instagram. While I was showing my natural skin tone in the process, that wasn’t the goal. Thankfully, about two years ago, I started moving in a new direction.
As I thought about what I wanted to look like, how I wanted to present myself, and who I wanted to be, the answer was clear. I wanted to be me on social media. I don’t look like everyone else, like the same things as everyone else, and or create in the same way as everyone else.
Sure, I could do glam, ‘natural’ and so many other kinds of looks. But the real me? I always loved being artistic and experimenting with bold colors, new personas, and fantastic creations. It was about time, I decided, to lean into that side of myself. Hiding myself, wasn’t an option anymore.
Instead of covering my vitiligo, I started doing my makeup around my vitiligo. My make up became more experimental as I played with color, texture and shapes. The most gratifying part of it, too, was the response I got from fans. Before I knew it, I had thousands and thousands of followers.
I never imagined that, in sharing photos of myself with my vitiligo on display, I would touch people in such a positive way. It’s been a humbling and amazing experience.
The more I was becoming comfortable with myself, the more experimental my makeup got. I embraced my creative side and began completely transforming myself into fun characters that, okay, maybe aren’t a “wearable,” makeup look. But that’s what I love! The ability to create from your imagination and see what’s possible, new and ultimately—you.
As I’ve become more open with my followers, the more comfortable I’ve felt with just being me,and letting everyone see who I am. Including the weird, fun, and funky parts of me.
Beauty is anything but singular
The funny thing about sharing so many selfies and photos of yourself on Instagram is you end up with a sort of open diary of yourself. Looking back through the years, I can see a visual evolution of my makeup skills and my internal growth. I can see how I slowly became more comfortable in my own skin.
I used to think about beauty in a singular manner. It was how well you look, how polished your makeup was, etcetera, etcetera. Today, though, I’ve come to see beauty as how you radiate from the inside. That kind of beauty is evident no matter your physical appearance.
Our skin, though, isn’t a “statement”
Vitiligo isn’t something we can control. I hope people can understand that. And, sometimes, that can mean that people don’t want to control, or don’t want to cover. Having vitiligo is not something that makes anyone any less attractive. It doesn’t make them “weird” (in the wrong way, because I’m happy to be weird in a good way).
I want people to understand it’s not something we do as ‘a statement.’ If we are flaunting it and being proud of it, it’s just us being who we are and accepting ourselves for who we are. We’re just trying to embrace our differences—and that’s always worth celebrating.
—As told to Theresa Avila