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Who I am and who I’ll be
Toronto-based makeup artist and writer Marlene Gordon's love for makeup was inspired early on after meeting Kevyn Aucoin. She shares her journey from watching Fashion Television at age 6 to publishing two books and modelling in her underwear for Knix.

I had this black eyeliner that I wore as a lip liner, eyebrow pencil and eyeliner, so I was making my own multi-purpose pencil before it existed.

19/99       Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

Marlene Gordon      I am a makeup artist and a writer. I started doing makeup when I was 19. When I was 16 I met Kevyn Aucoin at a book signing, and he signed my book “To the next great makeup super star”, and I became obsessed. I started doing all my friends’ makeup in the cafeteria, I would recreate all the looks from his book. I worked for MAC for several years and honed my skills there, then moved into freelance and now I'm a college instructor in makeup artistry.

19/99       Before you met Kevyn Aucoin did you have any inclination that you wanted to be a makeup artist? 

MG      I kind of looked like a baby drag queen before that, but I didn’t necessarily think about getting into makeup. I loved experimenting on my face. It was the 90s, and I had this black eyeliner that I wore as a lip liner, eyebrow pencil and eyeliner, so I was making my own multi-purpose pencil before it existed. I loved experimenting, but meeting Kevyn Aucoin really propelled me into it. I was always into art, I wanted to do fashion, so I was always drawing, and makeup seemed like a natural progression. 


19/99      When did you start writing poetry?

MG      In high school. I went to a Catholic school, and one of my favorite teachers was my grade 10 and 11 English teacher. At the time, I was skipping most of my classes, but I would always attend her class. I wrote a poem about being an atheist in a Catholic school, and her comment was “Great form, but maybe the content isn’t appropriate for a Catholic school”. I wrote a story and she let me turn off the lights, light incense and read the story to the class. When I launched my first book, a friend of mine who knows this teacher arranged for her to come to my launch, without me knowing. When my friend told the teacher that I was writing a book, she was like “Finally”. She always encouraged my writing, so it was a full circle moment having her come to the launch of my first book. 


19/99       Does your writing inform your makeup artistry and vice versa? 

MG      I think being a makeup artist is sort of all encompassing. No matter what genre, I think artists tend to see the world a little differently and draw inspiration from many things. So, I would say yes, it does. 


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

MG      Well now that I am old, I’m turning 40 next year, my routine is more minimal and focused on skin. For my morning routine, I’ve been using this great Vitamin C serum from Etymologie, a Canadian skincare line, because my main concern skin wise is hyper pigmentation. Then I put on some sunscreen. It took me a long time to find a sunscreen that worked well on darker skin, but I’ve found one now so that is great; it’s called Black Girl Sunscreen. I put a little bit of concealer under my eyes, mascara, and my eyebrows – I don't have any and can’t leave the house without them - and a soft lip colour, I’m actually wearing Neutra right now. I always wear cream blush – I never use powder blush. Nighttime routine, I use a Micellar Cleanser to take off all my makeup, and a black clay skin wash, a Kiehl’s eye cream for nighttime, and I always use Etymologie’s Bakuchiiol Serum, it is like a natural retinol, and a lip balm. I tried traditional retinol, my skin isn’t super sensitive but I found it didn’t work that well for me. I didn’t see any benefits and it made my skin more sensitive. I haven’t had any issues with the Etymologie one. The texture of my skin has been great, and the Vitamin C in conjunction with that is helping brighten and even out my skin tone as well. 


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

MG      My skin has always been pretty good, but when I was younger I wouldn’t go out without foundation, and now to wear a full face of foundation, especially during this time, is too much for me. So I think the older I get, the more comfortable I am with a minimalistic approach. 

Image via @mar_gordon

the older I get, the more comfortable I am with a minimalistic approach

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

MG       No, I think I let go of that a long time ago. In A Cure For All Your Maladies there is a poem called Where did you get it?, about not fitting into traditional beauty standards. It looks at how when I first moved to Canada, at 6 years old, I would watch Fashion Television any chance I got, and I would be posing with my ashy little elbows, and pretending I was a model, and I looked nothing like those women. I thought they were beautiful, but I didn’t look like them, and I didn’t necessarily want to, I was beautiful in my own way. And that was ingrained from my mother, and then finding it within myself, finding my own standard of beauty. The main thing is not leaving the house without eyebrows on. 


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

MG      Yes, but people should be free to do whatever makes them feel good. If you want to wear cobalt blue eyeshadow in your 60s, and you feel hot wearing it, go for it. I don’t feel like there should be any restriction on that. Although I think certain textures work better for certain skin types, but there shouldn’t be any rules really, whatever makes you feel good. 


19/99       If you could share advice when your younger self, what would that be? 

MG       Don’t pluck your eyebrows and also, don't be so hard on yourself. 


19/99      As you’ve gotten older have you become gentler on yourself? 

MG       Oh yes, 100%, and I think it just comes with age, becoming more comfortable in your skin. I modeled for Knix a few months ago and if you had asked me two years ago, I would have never considered it. But I am at a point now where I am so comfortable in my own skin that I was like ‘why not’. But if you had told me a few years ago that I’d be on the internet in my underwear, I would have told you that you were crazy. 


19/99       What makes you feel beautiful? 

MG      I would say being in the midst of my art. At my book reading last night I was so nervous in the beginning but in the middle of it, when I felt comfortable and was sharing my art with people, that is when I feel the most beautiful. 


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

MG      Oh I hope not, that sounds horrible to me. There is always something you can learn and expand your knowledge. I hope to never stop learning and growing. 


Shop Marlene's Books:

Not All Mangoes Are Sweet

A Cure For All Your Maladies

Follow Marlene @mar_gordon

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Who I am and who I’ll be