Sephora, Authenticity and Accessibility

posted in: Uncategorized | 2

 

Usually, when there’s a shitstorm on the internet, I tend to hit ignore to be completely honest.  I don’t want to weigh in.  I don’t want to have a conversation.  I don’t want to get involved.  It’s only when my Muse nags me half to death to say something that I finally do, fully knowing it’s going to force me into pointless conversations that just irritate everyone.  It’s why I’d rather talk about pop culture.  No one is going to get too involved or too annoyed but it’s generally amusing and interesting.

***

Let’s preface this with a few things:

  1. You are totallllllllllllllly entitled to hate Pinrose, Sephora, the media, consumer culture, whoever.  It’s your life.  You are captain of your own ship.  You are welcome to have whatever grudges you want.
  2. Let’s be clear: The Pinrose Witchcraft Starter Kit was in no way shape or form priced in any kind of affordable manner.  It was not actually accessible.

What to do, what to do?

***

A conversation from yesterday:

Me: So the biggest trend right now in occult writing is talismanic publishing, meaning the book is published with fancy goatskin or hand bound or whatever. Naturally, this is not a group that has wanted much to do with me due to my basicness. However, a west coast press is doing an anthology and they hand bind their books. They took my piece! I will have my piece in a hand bound book!

JohnM: loooool.  basicness.

Me: Hand bound book! Me!

JohnM: Basic! You!

Me: Yeah, I’m the PSL of the occult world.

JohnM: Goals honestly.  I just wanna be basic and ubiquitous.  Like Chris Hardwick was.

Me: I’m finally reaching our goal for me to be a mediocre white girl.

***

Once, several years ago, a Young came to me at NYC Pagan Pride.  He said that he worked for Sephora and they had been passing around my first book, the self pub.  He was emotional when he told me that I didn’t know what it meant to be seen, to be understood and that I got what they were trying to do.  That cosmetics were a kind of sacred space and that it meant something.  That it wasn’t just something you smeared on your face because someone told you to, that it could change your life.  That you could change each other’s lives with it.   I squeezed his hand and told him he was doing good work.

***

Long ago, in ye olde 90’s, Witch stores were brick and mortar places that lived often in the mall.  Borders usually lived right next to the mall.  Borders had poetry slams and was one of the few safe spaces to go as LBGT youth.  They had books about kink, about LBGT, about feminism, about Witchcraft.  We bought our books there.  We bought our Tarot cards there.  We bought our crystals there.  We talked shyly to adult Witches there.  I didn’t know I was a Witch yet.  I wouldn’t know for years to come.  This was a safe space for my mother to look upon with an indulgent eye while shepherding me to church.  In confirmation class, we did mediation to Enya.  My dad wasn’t dead yet.  I didn’t need to question god yet.  I had no need for actual magic yet.  Seeds were being planted, so deep and dormant.  I didn’t know that eventually my origin story would be considered sweet in a basic sort of way at best, garbage at worst.  No goddesses called to me.  No special dreams were given.  I watched The Craft.  I read Francesca Lia Block.  I don’t have a GamGam who practiced.  I have cemeteries and best friends’ stepmothers and honorary aunts when I want to make this respectable.  But none of my real teenage roots would be deemed respectable now.

The mall is not a respectable place for enlightenment, for glamour, for sovereignty, for dreams to be born.

***

If the Pinrose kit was $30, I would have bought it.  I would have definitely liked to have rubbed my grubby little paws all over it in store.

I’m a Sephora VIB Rouge level member.  I have over 1,000 points banked in my account with them.  I have free flash shipping.  I just got my biannual sale box full of moisturizer.  I was a Play! member for about a year and I would distribute whatever goods I knew would not work for me to my fellow (part time and full time) femmes at parties on my Giving Table.  I felt like a Fairy Godmother.  I remembered how special and sacred it always felt when someone would give me their Clinique bonus week cosmetic pack.  I had been chosen.  I could conjure whatever I wanted.  Now I was giving my girls the chance to try all kinds of things too.  Grassroots glamour, nothing can be wasted.  Even just tried lipsticks needed to be distributed.  Like the tested Lime Crime lipsticks Bridgette gave to me, only available via special order.  If they did not work for me, it was my sacred duty to hand it to the next daughter of glamour.  I go to Sephora see my Girl when I have questions about highlighter, when I want to admire lipsticks, when I feel sad and think maybe a new eyeshadow will make me less sad.  The lighting there is literally magic.  On a sad day recently, I smeared myself full of glittering cosmetics, a private one person version of Joan Rivers and Miss Piggy.  I felt invincible.

***

What’s the difference?  I keep turning this question over and over in my head, a worry stone that hasn’t left me alone for days.  I often vend with Bridgette.  We sell: soaps, smudges, ritual oils, eye shadows, incense, candles, Tarot readings, my book, beard oil, unsolicited compliments, bath bombs, junior Witchscout advice.  Sure, we make all this ourselves and we do our best to do our best but . . .

What’s the difference?  Why is it okay for me to sell cosmetics and witch supplies but it’s not okay for Sephora?  Yes, they are much larger production, of course.  Of course.  But is it so wrong to link cosmetics with witchcraft?  What was the point of talking about glamour as magic and cosmetics as magic and fashion as magic and style as magic and glamour related influence as magic if it’s not okay?  What was the point of Azrael showing us how to weaponize cosmetics if it wasn’t?  What was the point of kosmesis in the Trojan War?

We have been told that this is dirty and wrong.  That cosmetics and religion don’t go together.  We have taken art and made it crap for young girls and as we know, anything meant for young girls is crap.  We have to be authentic as witches.  We have to be wild and free and never ever consumers.

But that’s not my authentic truth.  Not as a Witch or as a human.  And I bet it’s not a lot of yours either.  And I don’t think we should have to be constantly racing to fit an archetype that may not actually be your truth.  And I’m saying it’s okay.  It’s okay if you like the Witch aesthetic on Insta.  It’s okay if you haven’t read a ton of books or listened to a ton of podcasts or vblogs.  It’s okay if you like Witches in the media.  It’s okay if your representation as a Witch isn’t being covered anywhere but in your heart.  It’s okay if you go to Target or shop on Amazon or if you don’t.  The point of being a Witch isn’t being enraged on command, it’s making your own judgement.  I’ve made mine and it’s okay to have made yours too.

I see you.  I hear you.  I hold space for you.

 

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  

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2 Responses

  1. Old Grouchy Ro

    I’m beginning to think the point of the entire internet is be blindly enraged on command. :/

  2. The critiques of the Sephora witch kit that I’m seeing on my twitter tend to fall into two camps.
    One is “Why is a huge multi-national, whose primary focus is makeup (there is probably some beauty-myth/hope-in-a-bottle critique built in here about making money off people’s insecurities) trying to turn OUR FAITH into another thing to make $$$ off of when [probably] their CEOs are Not Witches?”
    The other – which in my particular social media circles is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more prevalent – is: “Uhm… where are they sourcing this stuff? How much already-over-harvested white sage are they moving here? Are indigenous people in California able to make a living by supplying this stuff to the huge multi-national? Or is this just another (probably) white-owned company getting rich(er) off the traditions/traditional-components that indigenous people were literally jailed for performing/practicing/using?”
    There’s a third one, which I think is the one you’re addressing here. The one where “You Can’t Buy The Craft” which… Ugh. My face turns into a lemon when I see that particular stuff. And I think this third one is tied pretty heavily to the “selling our faith” bit I mentioned above. But let me get into this.

    The thing about cultural appropriation? YEAH. I definitely get why a LOT of people are pissed off about that, because that’s what’s happening. I don’t see a whole lot of difference between “white company selling white sage bundles” (or sweetgrass, or, or, or) and “white company selling pocahottie costumes”. I’m very, VERY glad that your stuff uses clary sage (Euro transplant) NOT sage brush (AKA white sage). And since I’m very on board with that particular critique, I’m going to just leave it alone for the purposes of this (holy cats… THREE PAGE LONG comment…)

    The other stuff though…
    This almost feels like the difference between “big/corporate ag” and “small/eat-local ag”.
    It’s okay for YOU to sell cosmetics because you’re billing yourself as a practicing witch whose specialty is glamour and whose cosmetics have an explicit (if optional) magical purpose… but it’s also okay because someone can background check you to make sure that’s the case. Like you’ve got decades of blogging about your personal practice and its ongoing evolution to back up your claim that this stuff matters to you personally and, while it’s your living, it’s demonstrably NOT a money-grab or a way to hop on a trend.
    Whereas they can’t do that with Sephora.
    Not really.
    Like, it’s great that the staff at the particular Sephora are like “Yes! Someone sees what we’re doing here!” but Sephora-the-huge-multi-national hasn’t spent its (almost) 50-year history talking up the spiritual side of makeup and beauty. I can look at their “about us” page on their website and, IF I read it at a certain angle, I can see the connection. But it’s pretty much endogesis at that point. I’m reading INTO the text what I want to see there, not pulling stuff out of the text that’s there to be read.

    So…
    Look. Witchcraft and cosmetics have been linked for thousands of years. And they still are. Case in point: Disney. Everyone from Snow White’s Wicked Queen through to Ursula literally putting on lipstick and then telling Ariel not to underestimate the power of body language, all the way up to Elsa in Frozen claiming her power and literally BY changing her appearance (from super-demure to glitter eyeshadow, undone hair, and a curves-revealing gown), to say “This is mine, I own it, and I’m not afraid of (to be) MYSELF anymore”.
    And I think the fact that ALL of these women are coded as DANGEROUS is relevant. More on that in a sec.

    I think the “you can’t sell our faith” stuff is relevant. I know I’m not thrilled that a major retail outlet who isn’t usually about this in terms of product, is going “Hey, but also witchcraft?” in a way that, tbh, I would probably be way less eye-rolly about if it were straight up Hot Topic doing it. (There, I said it. My dollar-store-black-lipstick baby-goth roots are showing. Y’all can cope). It seems very out-of-left-field in a way that it wouldn’t (so much) if they were JUST selling a box-set of witchy-aesthetic/ritual perfumes without the crystal and the sage (or, heck, with the crystal but *as jewelry* instead of just a chunk of rock).
    But…
    Look. In terms of the folks who are going “you can never sell the craft” – and I’m not seeing tonnes of them, but I know they’re there (on insta, no less) – I have some mixed feelings about it.
    Because it’s not like I’m not on twitter yacking about the magical ingredients you can snip out of the local abandoned lot, pick up at the grocery store, or otherwise get for dirt cheap. My kitchen witch Thing is pretty bound up with “my finger is my athame” type Goddess Spiritualty stuff, and also with the idea that the works of my hands are an offering in and of themselves. I wasn’t a “Teen Witch” with a silver broomstick, though the main reason for that was probably because I got access to Grown Up Pagan BBSs before Chapters came to my neck of the woods. If I’d been three years younger? I probably would have been reading SRW instead of (or maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe in addition to) Starhawk and Margot Adler.
    At the same time: I buy crystals. I buy tarot cards. I buy your perfumes and use them in ritual. I buy dried chamomile and rosemary when I’m doing a spell that needs that stuff and my garden’s under 3 feet of snow. I’ve sold ritual/ensorcelled jewelry and candles through Etsy. And when people my age get pissy about witchcraft being trendy (again), I get pretty fed up.
    Because, COME ON, the people who are just trying something on? Will drift away if this doesn’t fit. And if it does fit? WONDERFUL.
    Maybe they’ll buy that kit at Sephora – or the tarot cards at Chapters, or the moon-and-stars necklace at Target – and it’ll be the beginning of something. Maybe rose quartz and herbal incense will remain a significant part of their practice. Maybe they’ll spend ten years feeling soooooooooooper embarrassed that they ever bought magical supplies from a make-up store (but maybe they’ll also be super comfortable buying make-up supplies from a magic-supplies store). Who knows.
    TL;DR: I don’t think it’s bad for gateways to Magical Worlds to be easy to find, and I think on some level, maybe, it’s a bit of a hold-over from Gardnarian and Alexandrian Wicca’s roots in Secret Society Land that has (some) people grousing about how easy it is for Kids These Days to find their way in.
    Which brings me back to the other thing.
    Witchcraft + Makeup = Dangerous/Evil in our culture. (Your own book addresses this one, so it’s not like I’m telling you something you don’t know).
    So maybe there are a few (or a lot of) witchy folks who, even if they’re not all about Love And Light, haven’t exorcised that stuff from their own heads.
    Because it’s HARD to exorcise your own fucking culture from inside your own head. (Don’t we know it…)
    So I wonder if maybe SOME of the “fuck you for tainting our magic with your makeup” is less about “but makeup is shallow” (please, have you seen the nails on Instagram? The finger tattoos? The pastel-goth hair and septum-tiaras?) and way more about “big companies are unethical/greedy/evil” mixing – maybe not so consciously – with “witches who use makeup are dangerous/greedy/evil” and ending up with some kind of “Please don’t associate me/us with That Kind of Witch, the kind that is untrustworthy, ESPECIALLY when I’m trying to make MY living through direct-to-client sales (crystals, candles, herbs, tarot-readings, you name it) based on a personal-ish relationship where my clients trust me.”
    I mean… maybe not?
    But also maybe?

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