From Pain to Beauty: Lessons from a Make-up Artist

Growing up I was often reminded that I wasn’t the idea of smart and/or beautiful. I was criticized and compared constantly about my appearance. I cried a lot and blamed God.

Still trying to see through the tears to have a good childhood. Playing dress-up with my cousins, styling our hairs, applying our mother’s makeup, just playing and having fun was my escape. I had no intention to make playing “dressing up” as a dream or career. 

I was raised in a way to know that there are special people in the world but you are NOT one of them! This is something I cried about all throughout my life. 

Self hate, criticism and negative thoughts were things I nourished. Reliving those bullying statements “you’re ugly and stupid” made it so difficult to trust and believe in others and myself, especially in good moments of genuine acceptance.

However, there came a breaking point.

I lived through my awkward teenage years, coming into a young adult I was on a mission to “look beautiful”. 

Even though I was full of internal pain and suffering, I was determined to “fix” this part of me and prove to my bullies I can be beautiful! 

I began my research on beauty, which led me to makeover shows, makeup and hairstyling. This encouraged me to pursue makeup artistry and cosmetology. 

A true passion emerged.

Still unsure if this could be a career, self doubt fluttering in an out, with a leap of faith I began posting my work on social media with no expectations, luckily business took off. 

Clients always use my business name as a fun and sweet conversation starter which I love very much, but not knowing it came from sad pray to god. “please god, can you make me beautiful”. Make Me Beautiful was born. 

After 13 years in this business I can say I’ve learnt a lot and still learning both personal and professional. But with my struggles, misfortunes, failure and success I am very grateful for all my experiences. I’m a strong believer in growth with whatever field or life choices. I want to help manifest more inner beauty and self love.

Society has made makeup artistry into a negative reflection of someone’s self-esteem.

But I chose not to listen to those voices anymore. Makeup is a form of art, I know I’m enhancing someone’s beautiful canvas, I’m not changing, covering up or fixing who they are. I chose to believe I’m bringing out their best selves within, outward. 

I now have a different perspective about my past.

Instead of enduring and reliving my pain, I see it as lessons that pushed me into the right direction. I’ve notice that when I stop playing a victim and  face the darkness, I can fully let go to live a mentally happier life and I’m proud of whom I’ve become. 

So instead on tossing around the negativity, bullying and pain like dirt, I collectively use them all to mould a beautiful life and career. 

I would encourage you all to embrace your talents, skills and dreams. Learn from negativity, face your fears head on. Keep moving forward.

You are worthy, beautiful and loved.

Written by: Vandana Ramnath 

Makeup Artist & Hairstylist 

Founder of Make Me Beautiful by Vandana Ramnath

Follow her on Instagram @makemebeautifulvr if you’d like to learn more about her work and her journey

The Magic of Possibility

Alia_ The Magic of Possibility

Possibility (noun): a chance that something might exist, happen or be true. 

I am lucky to have been given a glimpse of what life could look like when you open yourself up to possibility. What I mean by this is – staying open. Staying open and seeing what happens, seeing who or what crosses your path, seeing places and spaces and discovering things that you wouldn’t have otherwise. 

When I moved to the city of Toronto for a brief period of my life, I had a choice – either let fear of the unknown hold me hostage in my little apartment, or I could show up and stay open. I chose the latter. It was a choice I had to make repeatedly, day in and day out, and some days I didn’t make it out of my apartment (or my head, for that matter). But I strove to choose courage over comfort more days than not, and that made all the difference. 

Staying open is more of a mental practice.

It’s an internal shift that happens when we consciously decide to allow life to surprise us, that allows us to receive the gifts and opportunities put in our path that we so often miss because we’re not paying attention.

But there is a physical aspect of this as well –

putting yourself out there, stepping out into the world, either literally or figuratively. It could be as simple as taking walks in the neighbourhood, or saying hello to someone new; or it could look like applying for your dream job, volunteering, starting a business or sharing your art with the world. 

Of course we aren’t necessarily going to find something profound every time. Sometimes there will be little or nothing; we apply for the job and never hear back, or we share a piece of our hearts on the internet and nobody responds.

But, most times, staying open is not about the big things. 

It’s about finding the threads of joy and hope that connect us as humans – dazzling sunsets, the laughter of children, a new favourite song, a conversation about life and God with a friend.  

It’s making eye contact with strangers and being given the subtle reminder that I, too, exist in this time and space; that for this brief moment, we are a part of each other’s worlds

The reminder that living, and feeling alive, and wanting more for life, comes true not in hiding ourselves away in our rooms, but in stepping out into the world, and being open to what we might find

That, at the very core – it comes down to our willingness to participate in life, to follow our dreams and curiosities and desires, no matter how small.

It comes down to courage. There are no two ways about it.

“Life expands in proportion to your courage” — Anais Nin.

I’ve seen the truth of this in my own life. When I have the courage to take action and move forward, life feels so much more expansive. The possibilities open up and life becomes so much bigger than my worries and anxieties. It reminds me too, that when life starts to feel small again, maybe it’s time to do something brave, to take a step out of my comfort zone. 

Maybe sometimes all life requires is that we stay open. Maybe things pass us by because we don’t believe they exist or because they don’t look the way we envisioned in our minds. Life is uncertain, but that also just means it’s full of possibility.

I admit that staying open is not the easy choice.

In fact, for a lot of us it’s easier to stay closed off most of the time. But it’s something I strive to remind myself of often: stay open.

Because you never know. 

You never know where joy is hiding.

You never know where you’ll find it next.

Alia_ The Magic of Possibility

Written By: Alia R

Alia is a Writer.

You can follow her on Instagram for more of her work and insights at @courageovercomfort_

Your Strength is Within Your Story

Carla Beharry Your Strength is Within Your Story

I remember the moments, right before I felt the crushing impact of her car tire on the bones of my right foot.

Lightness and ease, shifting rapidly into a shattering, piercing, dark, terrorizing pain.

Committed to my transition into advanced-level yoga teaching, I had been anticipating this week-long Moksha Flow teacher training, for months.

I believed I was in good hands – getting picked up from the airport, by the woman running the training, the owner of the yoga studio, herself. I had spent $10,000 and 10,000 hours of diligent dedication to Moksha, consciously transitioning from my career in homeopathic medicine to the pursuit of yoga, movement, and meditation.

She was distracted. She was deep into conversation with her friend in the front seat. Did they forget I was there? Why didn’t they help me to put my suitcase in the car? Why didn’t she turn around to see if I was in the car, before she started driving?

It took less than ten seconds to change my entire life.

The impact of car, pummeling me to the ground. My head hitting the pavement just moments before I felt the excruciating pain of the massive tire of her grey Land Rover SUV. The weight of rubber, shattering my right foot, which has been turned sideways, on my impact with the ground.

Lightness, transitioning into shock, hysteria, fear, and terrorizing pain. The only words that came out of her mouth, were, “holy, f*&k, I ran over a trainee”. She didn’t say my name. She didn’t call an ambulance, or the police, or her car insurance. They scooped me up, and put me into the backseat of the SUV. I remember crying, telling them to drop me at the side of the road, so I could call my own ambulance. They sat in the front seat, and kept driving, talking about yoga.

When I finally arrived in emergency, they left. They left me alone at the hospital, 1,700 miles away from home.

Alone. Flashes of doctors moving quickly in and out of the room. An immediate emergency surgery was needed. Doses of morphine, ketamine & fentanyl, the doctors said. “Amnesia drugs, to it help you to forget the excruciating pain of having the bones in your foot, reset.”

The last thing I remember, is clutching my throat, and telling the doctors that I couldn’t breathe. 

After two hours of terrorizing hallucinations, a rare reaction to the ketamine, I woke up, with doctors around my bed, telling me that “I had scared them”. I had stopped breathing. Alone.

This is what happens. What happened to me, in the hours, days, weeks, and months, following this accident. I lived alone. In an apartment, with stairs. After years of building a vibrant and bustling yoga career, my entire income and livelihood were dependent on the health and wellbeing of my physical body. I was in my prime years. My mid-thirties. I was single, and excited about the possibilities of travel that lay ahead. I loved dancing to dancehall and soca. I loved hiking and the warmth of white sand under my feet.

What happens to entrepreneurs, who live alone, and who’s ability to eat, to sleep, to have a safe place to live, depends on their ability to move their physical body?

A month later, I had a second surgery, to have external metal pins inserted into my foot. Five metal rods, protruding through my toes and horizontally across my foot, to hold what was left of my shattered bones in place.

The thing about accidents is that the trauma doesn’t end with the initial event. 

It was a slow and heart wrenching process, to feel the muscles in my leg begin to atrophy. The violence incurred by one’s physical body is like a wave, rolling over you, again and again. There are invasions of skin and bone. Invasions of personal space. Metal rods jamming into your precious skin and bones. Heavy painkillers infiltrating your kidneys and liver. Nightmares and flashbacks inviting themselves into your thoughts and your dreams.

Many of the 12 months I was in a cast, ended with me, lying on my wooden floor, in tears. It was a learning process. Living alone, now on heavy doses of percosets, I learned how to navigate my space and my world, in a new way. I learned the true definition of perseverance and resilience.

I learned to become innovative.

I carried a satchel around my chest, to carry a bottle of water, food and books, as I journeyed through my apartment on crutches. I learned to set new goals for myself. If I could be out of bed, and could maneuver myself into a warm bubble bath, I could be ready to sit on a walker in my kitchen to start making breakfast by noon. I started tracking small wins – rather than rewarding myself for teaching 3 epic yoga classes in a day, I was happy if I could move my toes.

My life became about healing. On the days when my arms were too exhausted to negotiate my small apartment or my slippery rain-soaked stairs on crutches, I carefully sat on the floor and used my arms to propel my body along. I eventually swallowed my pride enough to let my mum take me out for a few summer “walks” in a wheelchair. My family was, and continues to be, my greatest support team.

Months later, I started using a cane, to make my way to a physiotherapist. I have spent every dollar I could find, to attend healing appointments with chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, acupuncturists, surgeons, doctors, energy healers, social workers and trauma therapists. 

I’ve learned to ask for help, honestly, and to feel extreme gratitude for support that came from the most unlikely places.

The PTSD that comes in the form of flashbacks and nightmares is intense. I feel very grateful for the therapists and mentors who have sat with me, through hours of tears, to listen and to hear my story.

Functional movement has become the queen of my daily goals. I am no longer granted the luxury of simply waltzing into a yoga class for a few downward dogs, because I’ve “had a bad day”.

Three years later, yoga is no longer an easy refuge of healing for me. This has been a tragic reality to accept, after 20 years of immersing myself in this powerful form of movement.

I work hard, every single day, at my practice. And every day is different. Sometimes a yoga practice is filled with tears and resentment, being unable to bend my toes, to lunge, to jump, or to put weight on my right foot. Sometimes it’s filled with awe about the strength of my magical body. I’ve learned to be extremely aware, about who I train with, and who I practice with.

I learned to let go of self-judgement.

It was a hard and scary experience, to move from looking at myself in the mirror, as a vibrant and healthy yoga instructor, to seeing reflections of myself, awkwardly relearning a new form of mobility. The months that follow a traumatic accident, are just the beginning.

Cultivating self-worth as someone experiencing the financial and emotional impacts of trauma is a massive undertaking. Over the course of three years, I have had to sell my car, and put all of my belongings in storage. I’ve spent many thousands of dollars in medical appointments, casts, orthotics, supportive metal plates, and shoes that will allow me to walk. My evenings are spent sitting with my feet on circulation boosters, and in heated boots to minimize chronic and daily pain.

I’ve had to let go of the continual mathematics in my brain, calculating how many dollars I’ve spent on orthotic sandals, rather than a new yoga training, or a social media marketing plan, or a week-long tropical vacation. 

Redefining the definitions of self-love and self-care have become my primary healers of trauma and loss.

I’ve had to accept, with some sadness, that I will never be the girl at a wedding in fancy heels or the woman running along the beach in bare feet. While these sound like small things, they are big. They are significant, because they represent the grander picture of choice and opportunity that feel stolen by someone outside of myself.

I have learned that self-worth isn’t dependent on my job title or my career. 

The ability to feel like an independent female, is connected my capacity to create fulfilling work in this world, and again, I’ve had to redefine that narrative for myself.

At the end of the day, I can answer these questions – “have I been as kind and as generous as possible?”, “have I treated everyone that I know, with love and respect?”, “have I been able to cultivate dignity and grace in my life and work?” – with confidence and ease.

I have learned to be my own advocate.

The woman who was driving didn’t call her car insurance to report her accident, until I approached her, and spoke of my necessity to receive compensation, knowing that I could no longer drive, could no longer walk, and could no longer work. No matter how hard it feels, this is a system that works, ONLY if you are willing to be your most fierce advocate. In the face of challenge and hardship, you are deserving of support, of compensation, and of compassion.

One of my biggest life lessons, has been to understand that not everyone in yoga or meditation, automatically embodies love, kindness and compassion.

The sign on the door, outside her studio, “Metta Yoga” means “benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and the intention to take an active interest in others.”

These are words. This is a title. This is a name.

True loving-kindness, happens in action.

Three years later, and she has never approached me with a genuine apology. She has never acknowledged her actions or her role in changing my life. I have never heard from her again. After a single phone call from the founders of Moksha, where they told me that my experience has propelled them to create a new “emergency protocol for their trainers” (they didn’t have one before?), I have never heard from them again. I have never heard from the yoga organization that I spent thousands of dollars to train with. Not a single phone call, to ask if I was okay, or if I needed support.

The pain of this betrayal has been agonizing. The emotional trauma of being left alone in the midst of the moments when I desperately needed to know that I wasn’t alone, has been one of the hardest realities to accept.

I’ve learned to absolutely trust my own intuition.

When someone or something doesn’t feel right, I listen to my instincts. I realize now, that I trusted women who deemed me as invisible from the moment we met. I didn’t realize it at the time, but, this was an indication of their limited capacity to offer love and support, in these post-accident years. I have left Moksha, which no longer feels like a safe space for me, and have become much more conscious about who I share my time with.

As women who are healing from generations of systemic and personal adversity, we have a voice that matters.

We are intelligent. We are brave. We are courageous. We have a story that needs to be told. Stories that remain stuck within your heart, can be an invisible barrier to moving forward.

There are women and men, who need to hear your words. The shortcomings of your oppressors are not your weight to carry. You are made for more.

Your strength is within your story. The words I live by.

Carla Beharry Your Strength is Within Your Story

Witten by Carla Beharry,

Founder of the Woke Women’s Movement.

You can find out more about Carla and her amazing work here.

And you can follow her on Instagram here.