a space for you to blush
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Lisa Michelle Cornelius

Lisa 01.jpg


Michelle Cornelius 


AGE: 36 





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Right now, I'm a naturalista. I had locs for seven years, and I just cut them all off in December, so now like ... I don't know what you want to call this. I would say "teenie-weenie 'fro," but it's not even a 'fro at all because it's shaved on the sides and everything. I love it like this. I love it in any natural form and by natural, I mean non-relaxed. It's been that way for maybe 14 years.  I prefer my hair this way. I don't judge other people necessarily who don't like their hair that way, but it's just not for me to change the chemical structure of my hair. I just don't like the way it looks on my face like that.


It was just time. The same way I felt like it was time to grow locs was the same way I was like,"Okay, it's time to let it go." It was almost, I want to say spiritual, but it was more physical than that. It was just a really innate feeling, almost the same kind of feeling you get when you're hungry. You know when you're hungry because your body told you were hungry. My body told me it was time to grow locs, and my body told me it was time to let them go. I was hesitant to cut them off because it's kind of a big deal to cut off seven years' worth of hair, but I was just holding on to it just because I was thinking about what other people might think about it and because I wasn't sure if it was gonna hurt my acting career. Then, once I let go of all of that, I was just like, "Ah." I let go of a few extra pounds. 



I love to do it. I love buying it. I go shopping for it. But I'm not the greatest at it, so anytime I had a special occasion or something I need to get dolled up for, then I hire a professional, like Elle St. Aubin. But for my everyday makeup, I still love to have a little mascara, definitely don't go anywhere without eyebrows. Those are my staples: eyebrows, mascara, and at least a light powder, just something to kind of even out the skin. And then if I'm feeling like I have a little more time on my hands, I'll do a little bit more. Makeup is just fun. I think hair is a part of me,  whereas makeup is just a fun accessory.  If I'm feeling dark, then I wear dark lipstick. If I'm feeling even a little combative, then I want to wear like maybe black lipstick or something really close to it. If I'm feeling flirty, or I really want to stand out, then it's red lips. Sometimes I'm like, "I just want to look clean," then I'll wear a neutral colour or just gloss. I guess it's like a mood ring, depending on how I'm feeling is how I'm gonna do my makeup that day. 




I'd say when I first started doing this and being on set, around 2004, 2005-ish, that's when it was like, "I don't want them to touch my face. I don't want them to touch my hair. They're not gonna know what to do." I've definitely had some instances where they put stuff on your face, and it just looks a little ashy. You're like, "I just wish they didn't bother." But more recently, I'd say I haven't had that problem at all, even when I had locs, and I was on set. I was surprised,  pleasantly surprised at how much one of the white stylists knew about how to do my hair. She even had loc extensions that she put in.I was really, really impressed. In my experience, I'll say that makeup artists and hair stylists in the film and TV industry have come a long way over the past few years. But in the beginning, in my beginning, no, there was a lot of faux pas.

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They should have way more people of colour on set than they do. I think I saw an interview with the supermodel Duckie, and she said something similar. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something like, “They should have more women of colour or men of colour on makeup teams on film sets, photo shoots, and things like that because they know how to do everyone’s makeup.” They train, and they know how to do all shades, whereas you run into a lot of white makeup artists, who only tend to know how to do lighter shades well. But we tend to cover everything. You’ll never meet a black hairstylist who doesn’t know how to do all kinds of hair. But you certainly can’t just walk into a white salon with kinks unless you know for sure, called them and had a conversation before, about whether they have someone on staff who can do black hair. Yeah, we should definitely be getting more work on all sides of the set life.
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I like to express myself through coloured lipstick because I'm terrible at eye shadows. My pops of colour and expression come through my mouth. Take that as you will. With my hair, it's really short now, so there's really one or two things I can do with it. But I love having it like that. A lot of people say things like, "Oh, you're so brave or bold or courageous to have your hair like that." Sure, maybe, but I've also been confident, regardless of what my hair looks like. But I like how it makes other people feel empowered to see my hair like this. There's so many black women, who come up to me all the time, almost every day, and say, "I wish I could do that." I always try to stop them and be like, "You actually can." We have eyes and a nose and ears and a mouth. They look different, but they're the same. You can do your hair however you want, and if you don't like it, it can grow back. I like that me having my hair like this symbolizes risk-taking and makes other people feel like, "Ooh, maybe I should take a risk."


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Oh, this is a hard one, and this is gonna sound terrible in print because I've always loved myself. Why is that? I'm trying to think of where that stems from, why I felt confident because all reasons point to that I shouldn't. All guideposts and signposts point to the fact that I shouldn't because I grew up in, white neighbourhoods in Mississauga, so I really shouldn't. I don't know. I guess I was just surrounded by a really, really supportive family. I have a humongous family. I have five siblings. I have a million cousins, a million aunts and uncles. I'm the youngest of my siblings, so I think I've always just been, I guess, spoiled in a way or had been illuminated or had light and attention put on me, I always felt full and loved.

I have a hard time answering that question personally, but socially, I think it's pretty obvious that people try to express whiteness as the way to go or features that look white. Even if you're black, people like black people who have, quote/unquote, "European" features. I do try to be mindful of that. Even if people are paying me compliments about what I look like, I'm very mindful that it's not like, "Oh, your nose is so cute." I don't want to hear things like that.I know where it's going. Of course, I love compliments, but I am cognizant of whether it's fetishizing me or not. Yeah, no, I'm very happy to be who I am.

I'm actually listening to a book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, and it really talks about being in the moment. I say all that to say, I think it's so important for me to listen to and remember who I am before I believe anything said outside of me or coming at me. I find that, at least in my age, now it's easier to say I'm not as affected by socialized beauty standards. I think it's going in a really good direction because of social media, where, when I was growing up and when I was younger, we didn't have #BlackGirlMagic, where you can follow that hashtag and see awesome images of women who look like you. Now, there is that. Now, if you didn't know what to do with your natural hair, you have a million resources to find out how to take care of your curls or how to find makeup for your look. It was certainly harder when I was younger, but it was all you knew. You didn't know that it was gonna explode into this beautiful world of black girl magic, so you just dealt with what you had to at the time. I was okay at the time, but I think young girls growing up now, young black women growing up have so many good images out there, and representation of black women is at an all-time high.

It definitely has already started to feed into the esteem of black women. There's a huge shift that I'm sure we feel that we're coming out on top for the first time in a long time, regardless of whoever's running the United States, I don't say the name. It's all noise.We know who we are, and it's clearly becoming apparent.  The beauty social standards are changing. 

                                                           MORE FENTY 

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My face is full of Fenty right now. That is new for me because, honestly, before Fenty came out, I don't think I have ever owned a liquid foundation. I have not because, as much as I love makeup, and I love having my makeup done, and I do wear some makeup every day, I'm not a professional at it.

I don't think I have exceptional skills, so liquid foundation just felt way out of my league and something I probably shouldn't play with until I'm with a professional who can do it for me. But when Fenty came out, because of all the hype and all the beauty blogs that were happening and the vlogs and the testimonials and the tutorials, I felt like it looked so easy. I don't know how it's different from any other liquid foundation because, like I said, I haven't used them myself.

But I was like, "Oh, I can do this." I just bought a whole bunch of stuff. I bought the Fenty foundation, the foundation brush, the Match Stix trio, and the Gloss Bomb. 


People always feel comfortable, or they're like, "You're such a cartoon" because my eyes are large. Unless I'm trying to lie when I'm acting, but I can't really lie through them. I like to think I'm inviting. I let people know that, "Hey, I see you as innocent until proven guilty." I like someone before I decide I'm not going to like them, as opposed to you have to earn my trust. So, maybe my lips aesthetically and then my eyes because I think they welcome people.