Luminous red lipstick, flattering foundation, and bold brows. If only they could conceal the abuse, pain, and distress.
Sexual violence, domestic abuse, and human trafficking are unfortunately very common in many parts of the world. What makes it worse is that it is not considered a criminal act in some areas, one of which is the Caribbean. “I was probably around nine years old when I used to hear my neighbour’s mother and children crying every night… one day, I decided to wake up extra early to see what the mother was up to,” said Andrea. To her surprise, the mother was dolled up with a brightly-coloured lipstick and a full face of makeup. This confused Andrea. However, it wasn’t until many years later when Andrea left her hometown of Grenada and realised the reason behind the heavy makeup.
Accomplishing what most young girls only dream of, Andrea flew to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a makeup artist. Combining her makeup skills alongside her passion of empowering domestic abuse victims, City Girl Beauty Project was born — a non-profit organisation teaching female victims of abuse to empower themselves using makeup, and become leaders of their community. Since 2011, Andrea has held various workshops such as the Heroic Beauty Workshop hosted by previous Miss America winners:
“The victims learn about beauty, boost one another’s confidence and become change makers.”
“Makeup is very personal. You make your client feel beautiful and confident, and through that process, you gain their trust,” Andrea said. However, this confidence brought out many heartbreaking stories about the survivors of abuse. Andrea cleared her throat and said, “There were some women who had never spoken about their suffering. I was the first person they ever spoke to about it.”
Undoubtedly, Andrea’s job will bring satisfaction to anyone who has the honour of helping victims regain their confidence. However, it is definitely a bittersweet job: “I am glad to be able to earn a living by helping others, alongside my passion for makeup. The worst part is telling women they’re beautiful, but them not believing you because they have a spouse at home telling them they’re not.”
Applying makeup to victims is not something that should be taken lightly. As much as Andrea enjoys her job, she also takes it very seriously. There is a huge responsibility on her shoulders. She took a deep breath and said: “I remember one girl came very quickly and sat in the makeup chair, so the production team didn’t see her bruises and scars.” Had Andrea been unable to conceal the bruises of her client due to domestic abuse, she could have lost her job as a model.
In just a short period of time, Andrea has accomplished many achievements — from being titled ‘New Yorker of the Week’ last month, to transforming women’s lives. However, these are simply stepping stones for the major successes awaiting in the future. Andrea hopes to take the Heroic Beauty Workshop worldwide. Her main goal is to go back to her motherland, Grenada. There are no shelters where victims can seek safety. Police can be called, yet the most they are able to do is speak to the spouse. “After the police leaves, the spouse feels embarrassed and further abuses his partner. He may even kill her. It happens a lot,” she sighed.
It is the work of inspiring individuals such as Andrea which makes a difference in the lives of those affected. It gives them hope, confidence, and a bright future.
Luminous red lipstick, flattering foundation, and bold brows. If only they could conceal…
(Photographed: Andrea D Charles, CEO of City Girl Beauty Project)