#MakeupMonday: Unapologetically “Too Ethnic” for STEM (And On a Budget)

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer. I welcome content on #MakeupMonday (the initial impetus was a Twitter follower asking for #MakeupMonday posts oriented toward women of color) as well as anything related to the academic and post-academic career. Today’s post is by Dr. Adriana L. Romero-Olivares – part II in a 2-part series (the first was last Friday).

Dr. Adriana L. Romero-Olivares is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of New Hampshire. Her research examines the ecosystem-scale consequences of the adaptation of soil fungi to climate change. She uses a combination of traditional microbiological techniques and field work, coupled with molecular biology and biogeochemical analytical tools. Ultimately, she’s interested in advancing knowledge on fungal ecology and apply her discoveries to protect our environment for future generations. Follow @fungi_lover

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I am an ecologist and in the field of Ecology, wearing makeup may be frowned upon. Firstly, because when you love wildlife and spending time outside, there is no room for makeup, perfume or any other nonsense that distracts you from the holiness of nature. Secondly, no one will take you seriously in academia if you put too much effort into your looks. Well, I happen to be an ecologist, who loves nature, fungi, and my job as a scientist. Also, I love makeup, perfume, accessories, and wearing all of them at the same time. I am also Mexican, so a lot of my style is influenced by my culture; think about the color “rosa mexicano”, “azul Frida Kahlo”, the colors of the traditional “zarapes”, and the colorfulness of the Day of the Dead.

I am a postdoctoral research associate at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). In New Hampshire, the Hispanic/Latinx population is very small. With my bright lips, colorful clothing, and overall look, it is difficult for people not to notice me. I’m an avid knitter and I have a few festive pieces I’ve made for myself, such as the flower top in the picture below. I often get compliments on my appearance, although sometimes just long stares. In general, people are curious about my presence in the state of New Hampshire and UNH. Sometimes, their “curiosity” will evolve into cringe-worthy comments that can go from straight insulting to eye-rolling.

It took me a few years to embrace my style and to be unapologetic about my looks when going to work. For a long time, I did my best to not stand out, as my dad always told me, “don’t look too ethnic, try to blend in”. Newsflash, I will never blend in because in New Hampshire, I am usually the only brown person wherever I go. I have no control on how people perceive me, so I might as well wear whatever makes me feel happy and comfortable.

I have a few makeup essentials I wear every day. Since I’ve been living just above the poverty level in the USA (i.e. grad school/postdoc/school debt), I’m good at finding beauty products on a budget, and I usually invest in only one or two “expensive” products that are really worth my money; the rest of the products I use are affordable, even for grad students and postdocs. I have two perfumes I love, Indian Coconut Nectar and Himalayan Patchouli Berry from Pacifica ($22 each), they make me feel pleasant and joyful all year round.

The “expensive” items I always have are a Lancôme mascara (définicils) ($27.50) and eye liner (artliner) ($30.50). I like these because they last all day long; they’re both water proof so I don’t have to worry about awkward stains under my eyes, especially on a tough day in academia that may involve tears. My foundation is budget friendly; I use Simply age-less ($10) by cover girl and I go for golden tan-257. My blush of choice at the moment is Lychee+Gold ($14) by Seraphine  Botanicals and my bronzer is Amazonian Clay Bronzer by Tarte ($30). I want to point out that I got these from Ipsy so I only paid $10 dlls for the monthly subscription and not the full retail price. I have a lot of good makeup from Ipsy, including a super amazing pencil eyeliner, Wonderwand by Ciate ($18). As for eyeshadows, I have one palette, Naked2 by Urban Decay, which I got last year for $25 dlls during a sale (Black Friday maybe?). However, I’ve thinking about getting Born to run or Elements by Urban Decay (Black Friday this year, maybe?) to take it up a notch.

And now the fun part, lipstick. Lipsticks can be tricky because of the warm undertone of my lips. Depending on how my planner looks like for the day, I will go for lip dyes or regular lipsticks. If I’ll have a long day and I don’t want to worry about getting lipstick on my teeth or retouching my lips, then I definitely go for the best budget friendly lip dye, outlast by cover girl ($9); I have three favorite shades, brazen raisin-542, hottie pink-548, and blossom berry-555. I tried super stay 24 by Maybelline, and although some shades are ok, most colors don’t show well with my undertone; sometimes I can’t even tell I’m wearing lipstick. I recently discovered Pure Lust matte tint+velvet from Cailyn (Personable-43) ($19), and I can’t stress enough how amazing it is; personally, these are in the expensive side for me, but I am planning to budget to get more shades in the future. Another amazing Ipsy goodie was the Nars Cruella Velvet Matte lip pencil. I finished the one from Ipsy and got a full size recently, is not cheap, but it lasts a long time ($27). There’s two Maybelline lipstick shades that I love and have been using for a few years, 1) blissful berry-410 color sensational ($4.99) and 2) plum me-806 color sensational matte (which is sadly, discontinued). I love a rich dark red shade from Revlon, Black Cherry-477 ($8.90), and a matte “rosa mexicano” by Milani, aka orchid-64 ($5.99). I will sometimes use Victoria Secret’s Velvet Matte Cream Liquid Lip as a final touch (i.e. in combination with another lipstick) for extra vibrancy. I usually get them on sale (3 for $25).

Finally, last year I gave a workshop at the National Conference for College Women Leaders (NCCWSL) by the American Association of University Women, and one of their sponsors was Realher, “makeup made to inspire and empower women”. I got some freebies and I was hooked. I especially like their matte liquid lipsticks ($18), which have the best names; my personal favorites are “I am a queen” (bright pink) and “I deserve the best” (deep mauve). Finally, the highlight of my makeup collection so far: a limited edition of Selena’s “Como la flor”  by Mac which I got as a gift from my husband. I love Selena. I love the color. I love the lipstick. As a closing remark, the only downside I can think of using “too much lipstick”, especially matte lipsticks, is that they can dry and chap your lips. I struggle with that sometimes, especially during winter. My solution is to use eos lipbalm ($3.50) every night before going to bed, and once a week I exfoliate with ChapStick total hydration lip scrub ($4.50).

Overall, using shades and colors that bring out my “ethnicity” empowers my everyday life. I even wear colorful clothing during field work! The way I look, and the time and effort I put into my style, has nothing to do with the quality of my work or my ability to do great science. When I look at the mirror, I tell myself: “this is what a scientist look like, stereotypes are boring, dull, and inaccurate, I’m Latina and I’m proud”.


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