...my supervisor had never seen someone wearing red mascara before. I don’t blame him, that is not something you see every day, and definitely not in academia, especially in the engineering disciplines...
It was a regular day, in the second year of my PhD in chemical engineering. I had started my day as usual, gotten ready and left the house bright and early. I had spent the whole morning in the lab, running some protein assays and trying to identify how the enzyme I was using reacted to some specific reagents. At some point, my supervisor came in the lab. He stood by the door, I was working in the middle bench, almost 5 meters away. We chatted a bit, he looked at me and asked if I was feeling alright today. I looked at him with puzzled and answered “yes, why not?”. I wasn’t used to him asking such questions out of the blue, usually I would approach him if I had an issue. He said it might have been sunlight reflecting on my lab specs, and that he thought I looked “not ok”. I reassured him I was fine, and I noticed he came closer to check. “But your eyes are red!” he said when he got closer. It took me a moment to understand what he meant… That day I chose to wear my favorite red mascara after a long time!
A little bit about me, I love bright, big, bold accessories and brightly coloured mascaras. I bought my first blue mascara when I was around the age of 12-13 from a local cosmetics shop in my neighborhood, and I never looked back. I loved how unique this mascara looked and how it made me feel. From then, the bolder the better. I am originally from Greece, and although we do have a decent selection of makeup in stores, we don’t really go overboard, at least we didn’t used to 15 years ago. I was able to find anything I wanted or saw on advertisements, but that was usually the “normal stuff”. I could not really find coloured mascaras, past the kind of standard hues of black, off-black/carbon, brown and for some reason blue. When I first visited the UK and entered a Superdrug store (kind of equivalent to Ulta in the US), that was it. Love at first sight, with almost everything! The glitter liners, the mascara hues, the eyeliners… I loved it! I don’t know why, I always had a thing for mascaras. I can really enjoy good eyeshadow work, but if I have to pick, I would always pick mascara. So far, I have used several well-known brands (or not, one of my mascaras was from a small store in Birmingham, selling Asian makeup products) and I have worn several colours. In no particular order of preference, I have had red, electric blue, dark blue, sky blue, teal, green, forest green, bright purple, eggplant, brown, burgundy, pastel pink, lime green, white, orange, and gold mascaras (besides the obvious black). If I had to pick a favourite I would say that it would have been one among the red, orange, lime green, or teal.
“I loved how unique this mascara looked and how it made me feel. From then, the bolder the better.”
Back to the story, my supervisor had never seen someone wearing red mascara before. I don’t blame him, that is not something you see every day, and definitely not in academia, especially in the engineering disciplines. He commented on how unique and deceiving it looked, and left. And I went back to my PhD. Throughout my studies I remember wearing some sort of makeup. Not a full on face, I never liked foundation – I got introduced to tinted moisturisers, BB, and CC creams when I moved in the UK – but more often than not I had eye makeup on. Then I discovered the joys of wearing blush and how it can transform the face, before moving on to brows. I have ever had an issue with my brows (thankfully avoided plucking them when I was young), but when I started filling them in, my whole approach changed. And then highlighter came into the picture… The only thing that never left, it was my love for coloured mascara! Always eager to try new formulas and shades, I am more than happy to cause the initial shock to people of “what does she have on her eyes?”. I have gotten some really nice comments over the years, on how a particular colour compliments my eye colour (your standard brown eye really), how brave I am to be going out like “that” (I always take this comment as a compliment), and how unique I look. I have also gotten some weird stares, but unfortunately there is nothing I can do for those. I think that academia is a place of flowing ideas and free thinking, and appearance and makeup preferences have nothing to do with someone’s work and output.
"I think that academia is a place of flowing ideas and free thinking, and appearance and makeup preferences have nothing to do with someone’s work and output."
I entered university with a bright blue mascara in hand (ok, not literally, figuratively speaking), and to this day, three degrees later, I am known for my fierce eyelashes, amongst other things. My friends and few of my fellow PhD researchers know this is one of my hobbies, the endless journey of finding the next best coloured mascara! And now my supervisor knows too...
Have you ever experienced a similar situation? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Eleni [LinkedIn (Eleni Routoula), Instagram (@curleni), or Twitter (@EleniRoutoula)]