Take a trip to Memphis, Tennessee and you’ll be overwhelmed by many things. For vegetarians, it’s the extraordinary amount of barbequed meat; for travel-enthusiasts, it’s the family of ducks who live at the Peabody Hotel; and for music lovers, it’s the sweet sounds flowing from BB King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. For me, as a beauty editor, it’s that I learned the real meaning of beauty in an unlikely place: St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
Let me back up a bit. A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to go to Memphis with Lancôme to learn more about the brand’s partnership with St. Jude. When we landed, we were handed an itinerary full of events, including one that made my heart race: makeovers with the patients. As an emotional human who cries in the most benign situations, I was nervous. I worried I’d say the wrong thing, fail to make a patient smile, or worse, bring someone else to tears. I pocketed my favorite red-brown lipstick — the one that makes me feel my most confident. It just didn’t seem important right now.
It was beauty that bonded us, but most importantly, I could tell that this little bit of normalcy made her feel comfortable and happy.
We all met at St. Jude to make DIY flower crowns, get makeup done, take photo booth pics, and pick out fun cosmetics bags full of Lancôme goodies. Eager to interact with the kids, I walked up to a young, teenage girl who was wearing a purple Love Your Melon hat and looked a little nervous. At first, she wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I struggled through the basics like her name, her hometown, and her favorite television shows. But the moment I asked her about makeup, her eyes lit up. “I love it,” she said, her eyes meeting mine. “I love that it’s about creativity and that it’s such a supportive community.”
Once we covered all things beauty, including the 10 ten beauty vloggers she binge-watches daily, we stood in silence for a few seconds, finding comfort in the quiet. We chuckled when we heard a young girl request a “Kardashian face beat” makeover from makeup artist Alex Sanchez, and the way he diligently compiled his beauty tools to make it happen. We watched as a young girl with bright purple lips strutted across the room, and a baby smiled at its older sister assembling a festival-worthy flower crown. It was beauty that bonded us, but most importantly, I could tell that this little bit of normalcy is what made her feel comfortable and happy.
Before leaving the event, I helped my new friend pick out a makeup bag (she chose a lavender glittery one, a favorite of mine) and it all hit me — hard. It wasn’t sadness, like I initially thought it would be, but rather an understanding that beauty is more than just a collection of products to hoard on your vanity. It’s simple joy in life that, prior to this trip, I took for granted.
I came into this event worried how makeup played a role in all the love and support of a place like St. Jude, but it turned out to be exactly what these children were missing: a fun-colored lip gloss to make their parents smile, a full-face beat like the Kardashians just for the thrill of it, or a community of beauty-lovers to chat with and take their minds off of the day-to-day.
We may have given them makeup, but the children at St. Jude gave me a reason to fall in love with makeup all over again. As I pulled out my red-brown lipstick on the flight back home, I smiled, knowing that back in Memphis, a young beauty-lover at St. Jude is doing the exact same thing.