How beauty blogger Ray Kadiri uses makeup as a tool of empowerment and self-expression
by Dina Lobo
In mainstream feminist discussions, the makeup world has been criticized for disempowering women and masking one’s natural beauty, but to 23-year-old beauty blogger Ray Kadiri, makeup has had an empowering effect.
“Makeup is a mask if you see it as one. It’s all in your head and it’s all about perspective. It helps people in ways you can’t imagine.”
Kadiri, who shares makeup videos and tips with over 3k followers on Instagram, says she’s always been passionate about makeup, but only began taking it seriously when she fell sick as a teenager. Living in Dubai at the time, 14-year-old Kadiri started developing severe migraines and could barely sleep for weeks in a row, something she would later find out to be chronic illness.
“I would walk around looking like a zombie. I’d have intense bags under my eyes from not sleeping. I’d go into school and people would tell me I look like a walking zombie,” says Kadiri. “People were rude to me when I was young because of my appearance.”
After a suggestion to wear makeup by her pharmacist’s wife, Kadiri used her mom’s concealer on her under eyes for the first time, which left Kadiri intrigued by the power of makeup.
“I put it on, looked in the mirror, stepped back and I was so surprised. It blew my mind. Like I said, I’ve always loved makeup, but that day and that week I didn’t get any comments about looking dead or like a zombie and that is when I knew I had stumbled upon something.”
Kadiri kept her makeup subtle – a word one wouldn’t use to describe her current makeup style on her Instagram page. It is only after moving to Canada that Kadiri felt she could fully express herself.
Studying English and Psychology at Saint Mary’s University and living on campus, Kadiri would wear what she calls “normal” makeup during the day and then experiment with more creative looks after classes and at night. This experimentation created her signature avant-garde eyeliner style that sets her apart from the thousands of other beauty bloggers on Instagram.
“My idea was to redefine my eye shape in a way that complimented my face. After playing around with a bunch of styles, I came up with that style and I realized it’s a style that really resonated with me. I stuck with it and kept doing it.”
Kadiri began getting attention for her more elaborate and intense looks whenever she’d wear them in public.
“I’d be walking around with this intense makeup-look and people would be like ‘where is she going? Is there an event happening, is there something going on? A carnival?’” says Kadiri. “I’d be walking in school and people would be whispering in low voices, which made me anxious, but it gave me motivation. It made me keep doing what I was doing because I had never seen anyone do the same makeup that I do.”
Through some encouragement from her peers, Kadiri was motivated to take her Instagram page more seriously in 2016 and began uploading makeup tutorials on her page. Her account has grown immensely since then and has attracted followers, who she prefers to call supporters, from around the world.
Although Kadiri first used makeup to conceal her imperfections, she now uses it as a tool for self-expression and fearlessness. She doesn’t care for the typical standards of makeup, and it is in her differences that she finds empowerment; something she hopes can inspire her following.
Kadiri says she’s developed thick skin from the bullying and the name-calling she endured because of her appearance, but she understands not everyone handles bullying in the same way, which is why she hopes people can find comfort and positivity in her platform.
“I want a person who has something different about them or a different look to see my work and be like ‘okay, I’m not that weird’.”
Looking at some of her captions and most of her stories on Instagram, it’s not hard to see the positivity pouring out from her account. From motivational quotes, inspiring advice and affirmations, it’s not just her creative looks that set her apart from most beauty bloggers on social media.
Kadiri adds, “My main goal with my social media platform is really just to empower people and make them see that making a small change can give them so much power over their lives. I can’t imagine the things people go through because of their appearance.”
Although Kadiri has found success in finding her own voice on a personal platform, she still struggles with chronic illness, as well as a growing cyst on her hand. The cyst she jokingly calls Greg, causes hand tremors, which makes it hard for her to apply makeup sometimes.
“I’m not always feeling the best or always uplifted, but I make sure everything I post helps people somehow.”