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Who I am and who I’ll be
Dee has always played with makeup and clothing as a tool for self-expression. She shares her experience transitioning during Covid, and path to self acceptance.

I used to use makeup to hide imperfections and now I use it to enhance. Makeup helps me to enhance my femininity, whether that's working with my eye shape, or playing up my lips.

19/99      Tell us a bit about yourself.

Dee Sabado      My name is Dee Sabado, I’m a design manager at Hudson’s Bay, and have been there for about two years. I started working in retail on the floor at Joe Fresh; from there I began jumping from retailer to retailer and developed a passion for visual merchandising. I eventually landed at Holt Renfrew, which lead to corporate opportunities. At the same time I was working at Holts, I was going to Ryerson for Fashion Communications. I eventually became the National Visual Coordinator for all of Holt’s off-price stores, and then came to Hudson’s Bay, and since then, it's been a continuous progression within the creative and design world. I have a connection and passion for fashion and beauty. They have grown with me as an individual and in my career. This has been a very special year for me. I recently made the tough decision to start hormone therapy, to start my transition. It has been amazing to be go through my transition in such a historic time where we're having these difficult conversations and allowing everyone to have a seat at the table. This cultural shift has allowed me to share my story and my journey with an audience I may not have had the opportunity to reach and connect with. Digital spaces and this new way of working has really been a silver lining for me and has had a great impact on my transition. Coming out as trans to my peers and my colleagues, especially VPs and executives, was daunting and something I was fearful about. But being able to do it from the comfort of my own home has given me a lot more courage than I probably would have had. So I am thankful for that. Through these learnings and these conversations we are having my voice has been amplified, and I can share my story. It has allowed me to be a little more vulnerable, which I am quite proud of. So yeah that is me. 


19/99      When did you start your transition? 


DS       My trans story, medically, started late last year in 2019. One of the toughest things about transitioning is that there are no medical guidelines or books readily available on starting the process. I hope that is something that will progress. There were a lot of meetings with doctors, finding the right clinic to get you from point A to point B. I have learned a lot during this process, it has changed a lot over time; you used to have to meet with doctors to see if your mental health was in the right place. The process to starting hormone therapy has certainly evolved. From my experience it seems like the government is taking steps to acknowledge trans people for who they are and really guide them on the best and safest path to transitioning. I went through a bunch of different tests to make sure my body was responding to the different therapies. I’ve had to pause on my medication since February because there was a spike in some of my liver enzymes and it has been hard to get back into the doctors office during the pandemic. This has given me quite some time to reflect internally on what being trans means to me, which I think, again, is another silver lining. It's been a blessing in disguise and I don’t think I would have wanted it any other way. 


19/99       How do you see the conversations that are happening right now impacting the trans community? 


DS      I think for many, this is the first time where timelines and Instagram feeds are unapologetically raising issues around topics like trans rights. I think this is a great moment for everyone to really soak it all in and take on the responsibility of educating ourselves and each other on these important issues that we may often turn a blind. I’ve learnt a lot through all of this, through the Black Lives Matter movement, and issues of racism. When we think about the LGBTQ and where it all started, we start to uncover history rooted in the resilience of black trans women. These are things as a community we need to understand so we can appreciate the blessing and privileges we have today. If you asked me a couple of months ago, I surely was not as informed as I am today. So the opportunity to learn and also teach through sharing my experience has been really amazing over the last few months. 


19/99       Can you take us through your daily beauty routine, morning and night?

DS      I have combination skin and have dealt with mild acne in the past. Skincare has been a big challenge for me, starting early high school, where I would use makeup to hide some of my breakouts and I wasn’t the most educated or responsible when it came to washing my face or cleaning my makeup off, which obviously lead to more breakouts. So finding the perfect recipe for my skin has been a battle – I have probably used every 3-step skin care line out there. I’ve been using’s the Regiment. It has done wonders for my skin and I absolutely love what the brand stands for. It was founded by Dan Kern, who dealt with acne for a lot of his life. He started a non-profit platform for people to follow his regiment and then he created some products, still being non-profit, for people to find the solution to their skin issues. The demand became so high, he turned it into a business. Their strategy is to provide people with the best skincare products for acne at the lowest possible price point. 

Beyond skincare, I love makeup, and my relationship to it has evolved quite a bit. I used to use makeup to hide imperfections and now I use it to enhance. Makeup helps me to enhance my femininity, whether that's working with my eye shape, or playing up my lips. Playing with makeup has always felt very natural to me. There is not a day that I am not wearing makeup; it varies from only wearing powder to going full glam. I love lashes, I love lip colour. I used to hate a red lip but lately I am really loving it. Generally the colour red was daunting to me before, but now I am experimenting more, even with clothing, it’s something that makes me feel bold, strong, and I love that it's loud and sophisticated at the same time.


Image via @deesabado

Differences should be celebrated rather than inspected under a microscope

19/99      How has your routine beauty changed over the years? 

DS      My beauty routine has definitely evolved over the years, especially with my skin changing.  I’ve learnt a lot more; I’m obsessed with watching YouTube beauty tutorials. There is so much information and accessibility; over the years I’ve learnt technique. I have learnt through my friends, my best friend has probably been the biggest influence on how I do my makeup now. The insights and opinions of others, especially when it comes from someone you respect and love so much, add so much value. So to have my best friend’s opinion and learn from her is amazing. We have different faces so I will adopt things to work for my face or eye shape. I remember a time, when I wasn’t using liner, going into a Hudson’s Bay, and there was a lovely lady working at a counter who just wanted to show me how to do liner. She took the time to sit me down and teach me how to do liner, it was a busy day too, and it was really touching for her to be so compassionate. At the end of it she said how beautiful I looked, and it just made me feel so seen. That is what makeup does for me – it helps make me feel beautiful to express who I am on the inside with who I am on the outside. 


19/99       Do you feel pressure to look a certain way?

DS      Yeah absolutely, as a trans woman, without a doubt, there are social pressures on how I am perceived by people who aren’t part of the community. I think from a physical perspective there is an expectation put on trans women to exude a hyper feminized physical appearance. But what I think is so great about the conversations we're having today as a community, and as people in general, is the open dialogue and ability to educate each other that there really is no "one size fits all" or one look to what trans is - whether that is female or male. I think beyond anything, trans people are human and human have different characteristics that make them unique. I think those differences should be celebrated. 

19/99       Does that term age appropriate mean anything to you?

DS      Yeah I think from a retail and fashion perspective age appropriate is definitely something that has been habitually taught to us as consumers. I find the segmentation of trends and styles for different age groups interesting. There seems to be an attachment to youth and a willingness to hold onto that. I think the issue here is when we ridicule people who want to break out of those norms; when we see older women tap into beauty trends I think it is refreshing and great to see. We need to see more of that, and I am sure there are a lot of people out there that want to dress in whatever is being marketed to younger groups; we are quick to judge, and I don't think it should matter. 


19/99      If you could share advice with your younger self what would it be?

DS      I would say it gets better. I was a very introverted and shy person growing up, and I think that has to do with being taught to not do things, things that beat down who I was, being afraid to act a certain way, or do something that would make me stand out in the wrong way. I would say now to that person that is doesn’t matter, encourage myself to focus on the things that I find passion in and embrace those things. Those are the things that make me special, and have helped me creatively & in my career. I would tell myself to be bold, be loud, be expressive. 


19/99      What makes you feel beautiful?

DS       What makes me feel beautiful is my self acceptance, and the love I have for who I am, and embracing all that I really am. Through that I think physically what makes me feel beautiful is allowing myself to tap into makeup and clothing. I will look for things that accentuate my femininity; clothing that cinches in at the waist or a colour to enhance my lips. I think there is a recipe for everyone and it takes some time to find, but it is always fun to experiment with different seasonings and different toppings till you find what works. 


19/99      Do you think there is a point when we stop learning and growing? 

DS       No, I think even in day to day life, when crossing paths with someone, even if you don’t communicate verbally you are learning something about them – whether it is what they are wearing or the way they are walking, and I think there is something so beautiful in that. The world is constantly evolving whether that is technology, or the environment, and as humans I think it is in our nature to progress and evolve with that so we are able to navigate through our daily lives however we need to. 


Follow Dee on Instagram @deesabado


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