4 Siblings, Countless Beauty Lessons From A Remarkable Mother

Before magazine articles and YouTube videos, there was my mom, my own personal beauty and hair guru; a hat among many that she wore.
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Before magazine articles and YouTube videos, there was my mom, my own personal beauty and hair guru; a hat among many that she wore.

My mother, Margarette, is the most extraordinary woman I know. First and foremost, she is a wife and mother. She has been married to my father, Gommaire, for 35 years now (yay for true love!) and they have raised four kids: Christine (myself), 29, Pascal, 28, Sarah, 24, and Cassandra, 21.

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In addition to being the ultimate wife and mother, she was also a teacher that obtained a Master’s degree in school counseling while working a second job by night, and she made it to church every Sunday. My mother and father never missed a play, a spelling bee, a piano or guitar recital, or the endless gymnastics competitions. She helped us with our first math equations and with studying for state exams in high school--the reasons why we were all able to attend and graduate from accredited colleges and universities on scholarships. 

Even if we didn’t have the money for expensive clothes and shoes, we sure looked like we did! She did it all, of course with the help of Poppy (aka Dad), and still made a home-cooked meal for six at the end of the day, every night, like a boss.

Superhero, philanthropist, therapist, mindreader, ninja, master chef, mentor to Oprah.

Superhero, philanthropist, therapist, mindreader, ninja, master chef, mentor to Oprah.

She is an all around queen and the superwoman I strive to be.

She has taught us many things as we became adults in the Michel household. I was going to just write my own experience of what my mother taught me growing up and what she continues to teach me to this day, but then I remembered: I have three younger siblings with different experiences and different stories to tell!

Our personalities are so unique and we are still insanely close. Like Cosby Show close. (I call Denise!) So I asked each of them to write firsthand experiences of what they learned from our mother in honor of Mother’s Day.

CHRISTINE

I am my parents’ first-born child. For the first few years of their marriage, my parents were unable to conceive children, and my mom had six miscarriages. Under doctor’s orders, my parents were to stop trying but they believed God had other plans--and then I was born. YAY! My name was actually derived from the Bible, (Jesus Christ, anyone?) and after I came into the world, my parents were blessed with three more children.

Before magazine articles and YouTube videos, there was my mom, my own personal beauty and hair guru; a hat among many that she wore. I did as the women in my life did. My mother and aunt modeled and were their own glam squad. Word spread, and they had a roster of clients, doing hair and makeup for women for special occasions such as fancy weddings and crazy birthday parties at a disco to the everyday wash-and-set in my grandparents' basement. 

They could do it all: relaxers, hot rollers, haircare for natural-textured hair, Jheri curl, faux buns, high buns--the list goes on. They even sold makeup for Mary Kay for years. I saw all of this and wanted to know it all; I saw the talent mother had and shared with the black women in our community. 

From kindergarten to high school, I was usually the only black person in my class. I would see the white girls in my class with long, flowing ponytails, doing each other’s hair or sharing makeup, and I always felt left out. I wanted their hair and their skin tone. I wanted someone to be able to play with my hair and not just ask to pet me. What about my hair? Can I wear red lipstick, too? (I was told by a girl in school that I could not.)

This Afro puff was a main attraction in my wonder years.

This Afro puff was a main attraction in my wonder years.

One day, I was going to the mall with some friends and the windows of the bus were open, and while all of them had hair blowing in the wind as if in a music video, mine didn’t do as theirs did. One girl asked me “what was wrong with" my hair. When I got home, I cried to my mother asking her why I wasn’t like my friends at school. I hated that I had to sit for hours to get braids done. Why did it hurt so much to get my hair combed or brushed? Why couldn’t I just wash my hair and put it in a ponytail and go about my business like my friends? 

My mother’s response: I am beautiful the way I am. My hair was gorgeous and so was my dark skin, and she taught me that the only person I can be is myself. She taught me to love people for who they are, not what they look like. My friends were beautiful, and so was I. No one person was better than the next. We learn from our friends and surroundings; we don’t become them. We each have something unique to add to the world we live in. 

Those were the best words my mother taught me about beauty.

My mom taught me how to wear any lipstick color I wanted to. When prom came along, she suggested a gold sparkly dress to compliment my honey complexion. No, I couldn’t style or maintain my hair the same as my friends and classmates, but she taught me how to take care of my kinky coils, as well as a variety of different hairdos I could achieve with my texture.

One of the first and easiest hairstyles my mother taught me as a youngin’ that I am currently rocking today.

One of the first and easiest hairstyles my mother taught me as a youngin’ that I am currently rocking today.

What my mother taught me about beauty is to love the skin I’m in. I have the most diverse group of friends, but my mother taught me to embrace my culture, my Haitian heritage, my textured hair, and my dark brown skin. I think that is where my love of doing hair came from.

Y’all can thank my Margarette for most of what I write here on xoVain because she was my teacher. 

PASCAL

I am the only boy amongst my siblings.

Three sisters are a lot! But they are mine and I love them no matter what.

Three sisters are a lot! But they are mine and I love them no matter what.

When I was a child, my mother used to give me haircuts in our salon-styled basement. We didn’t have a lot, but my parents made sure to make the best of what we did have. 

We couldn’t afford weekly trips to the barbershop, and I remember hating the fact that she even had to give me a haircut. It’s my mom! My cousins and friends around the neighborhood always had a cool fade, while I was only allowed what she could do for me. I have textured curly hair, so my mother had to learn which razors and blades worked best for my hair. As much of a master as she was at doing hair for women and having a fan base that would constantly return for more of her artistry and expertise, my mother really tried her best and eventually learned how to cut my hair. 

As I got older, those haircuts became a weekly event. Soon, she was cutting my father’s hair as well as mine, and my aunt got in on it for her sons, too. When the time came for me to go to college, I took the reins and learned from her and began to cut my own hair. 

Today, I have the luxury of being able to get my hair cut at my go-to barbershop here in Brooklyn, but I don’t want to forget what I learned from my mother, and I still go through the whole process of cutting my hair myself.

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When Christine asked me to write something my mother taught me about beauty (I read all my sisters articles and support her 150%), I said to her “How does this involve me?” I really had to think. I've learned an abundance of life lessons from my mom: lessons about love, lessons I learned just being around four women in my house and seeing what they go through, lessons I learned observing my parents and the family they raised, etc. But I can honestly say that the beauty lesson of her showing me how to cut my own hair is one I will never forget. 

Looking back, I should've been more appreciative of my mother for taking the time to teach me and having the patience along the way to cut my hair once a week on top of everything else she did. Today, I'm very thankful to her for not only being an amazing mother and doing this for me, but also for the fact that she tried for her son when we didn't have a lot means even more. I love my mom.

What do you think? Did my mom teach me well?

What do you think? Did my mom teach me well?

SARAH

Growing up, I always felt like the ugly duckling in comparison to my two sisters and brother. They each had the perfect smile, the perfect skin, the perfect everything! I, on the other hand, felt plagued with imperfections: a gap in my smile, eczema all over my body, and bowlegs as a child that led to teasing and being called Forrest Gump by heartless children (and adults) since I was confined to corrective leg braces to help correct my condition. 

Although the constant ridicule of my peers caused tears to fall, my mother was there to wipe every one of them by continuously reminding me of the beauty of my spirit, assuring me that I have the ability to uplift anyone in my orbit.

I hadn't realized the impact my mother’s words had in my life until I reflected and accepted what God gave me, accepted who I was, and learned to embrace it. It was because of my mother’s love, words, and constant reassurance that I learned of the aura of my inner beauty, channeling it to those around me in my walk through life. This is the best beauty advice my mother has ever given me. Hands down. 

Not only is she a wise woman to put courage and strength in me when I was at my lowest, she also taught me how to save money when we had none and was the pioneer in our house for bargain beauty shopping. I went to an all-girls school, just like my sisters, and while most girls around me drove BMWs while wearing expensive makeup and clothing, we didn’t have the luxury. So when I started wearing makeup, my mother taught me beauty tips that worked for me: taking care of my skin condition and owning it (a freakum dress is always welcome, eczema be damned), always have your hair and nails done, etc. 

Another important beauty lesson my mother taught me is that it's important to smile, because if you ever come across someone who feels that his or her world is crumbling, your smile is contagious.

A dentist just recently asked me after a routine check-up to fix the gap in my tooth and my response was “No, thank you.” I love my smile! I love my spirit and my personality. I accept my flaws and will do nothing to change them. The gap in my tooth is what makes me who I am and I love it. So with this gap toothed smile, I always make it a point to make sure my lips are hooked up and poppin'. 

I smile all the time, even if I don’t know what is going on.

I smile all the time, even if I don’t know what is going on.

I'm a teacher in a public school in Brooklyn, and I use the lessons my mother taught me as a child and to this day on my own students, reminding them of the beauty they have inside. It’s not about what you want or desire; it’s about what you have and what to make of it. 

So for combining both the inner beauty lessons and my affordable beauty tips, thanks to my dope mom.

CASSANDRA

Being the youngest, I always looked up to my older siblings in so many ways. I learned from them just like I learned from the adults around me. I am thankful to have so many different teachers and mentors in my family. 

My siblings were smart, pretty, popular and talented in many ways that I wasn’t. They had academic scholarships and played instruments, and sometimes I felt like the odd one out between the four of us. I didn’t do well in school as easily as they did. I felt I always had to work harder than they did, and it made me feel low. 

I might not have been the smartest, but my parents saw that my talents were different than my older brother and sisters, and they taught me how to channel my creative energy in different ways. 

One way was through gymnastics, where I received an opportunity to train with one of the best trainers in Brooklyn on a full scholarship from the ages 6 to 20. While working two jobs, my mother would pick me up from school to take me to gymnastics, only to then pick me up after her second job and take me home when the day was done. This just made me want to better at my craft, seeing the dedication she and my father put into getting me to do what I love and what I was good at.

One day, I was doodling in my notebook on the drive home and she saw I had a gift with colors and art. When she realized my talent, she taught me to embrace it and to put it to use. I couldn’t read music, but art was my outlet and as I got older, and doing makeup became a passion, too. 

Our dog Nya and the painting I did of her.

Our dog Nya and the painting I did of her.

My mom began to tell me stories of growing up in the '70s and she showed me tips and tricks for that time period that I love to use in my beauty regimen today. She taught me about beauty, how to use a palette, how to mix colors and how to use my gift with art in my working with makeup. 

After an injury last year, I am unable to do gymnastics until I fully recover, but my art and my makeup are my everything. I went from doodling to sketching and oil painting to being a self-taught makeup artist. I used the techniques my mother taught me, her words of inspiration and encouragement to turn a hobby into a job. 

It felt great to have girls come to me to get their makeup done for a date or for their prom. My older sisters and other women in my family are coming to me to get their makeup done, too! For once, they are learning from me! 

I will always be the youngest and may not be as vocal and out going as my older siblings, but my mother taught me that I always have a voice with the talents I was blessed with. 

When it comes to beauty, I am just like my mother when she was my age. Thanks to the encouraging words and support from my mother, my art will always be a part of me, and I can beat a face like nobody’s business.