I still remember the first time I heard Kanye Omari West. I was 15 and hunkered over the PC in our family's living room. This was in the days of MySpace, and when I clicked on someone's page to see what was up, the song that began auto-playing caught my attention. It was "Slow Jamz" by Kanye West — one of the first singles from his debut album, The College Dropout.
And that was the end of that. I've been a fan ever since.
Over time, my love and respect for Kanye, his body of work, his talent, and his personality has only grown stronger. He intrigues me more than maybe any other living artist. I know some of y'all will scoff when reading this (why did you even click on this?), but I consider Kanye an artistic genius, beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Is he the most skilled rapper of all time? No, that's Jay. (Yes, the Jay Z whose career was revitalized by producer Kanye West.) Is he the most innovative fashion designer of all time? Probably not, but he's showed twice now at NYFW and has designed some of the most popular sneakers of all time. All. Time. Is he the eloquent, polite, and humbly soft-spoken (Caucasian) person our society has been trained to respect and admire for artistic ability? Absolutely not.
But Kanye, whether you like it or not, is an icon. He is an innovator. He's gotten his hands dirty in nearly every artistic medium out there.
Growing up, young West dabbled in poetry, music and the visual arts. After high school, he received a scholarship to study painting at Chicago's American Academy of Art, later transferring to Chicago State to study English before dropping out completely to pursue music. (Hence, The College Dropout.)
It sounds silly but Kanye gets me through a lot. Kanye's been getting me through a lot for 10 years. His music means so much to me. His purposefully inflated public ego, which is a very obviously constructed front, is often misunderstood and overshadows his talent.
Kanye has rapped so many times about the fact that he's insecure, that he turns to bravado for bravery, yet people still dismiss him as an egomaniac or an idiot. That frustrates me, but it's fine. Kanye isn't for everyone. I mean, Kanye will be there when you need him. Like he told us long ago, to believe in Kanye West means to believe in yourself.
Kanye's music has given me, and countless others, a lesson in confidence. And as any good beauty writer knows, confidence is the only true secret to pulling off any look on this planet.
I could go through Kanye's discography, track by track, telling you which lines and lyrics have inspired me to start working out ("The New Workout Plan"), run faster ("Stronger"), to believe in love again ("Bound 2"), but I won't. Because I can explain my Kanye-inspired beauty philosophy with just this one singular meme:
I don't really know where I found this image (if you know the source, holler!) and I'm not sure this is, verbatim, a quote Kanye has ever said. Though, it wouldn't be at all out of the ordinary, right?
Those who know me best, like my closest friends and my literal mom and dad (not my imaginary mom and dad, Kimye, who do not actually know me at all), have been listening to me petulantly declare this phrase for most of my life.
Because I really do not ever want to be told what to do. This made me a literal nightmare of a teenage daughter to raise (sorry, family!) and it makes me difficult in relationships (sorry ex-boyfriends!), but I've always maintained a fiercely independent streak, and it's gotten me where I am. (Ye and I are both Geminis. We can't help the way we are.)
"Don't tell me what to do" is a powerful mantra to adopt. It's clearly been my go-to inner monologue for most of my life, and I must insist you adopt it as well. It plays nicely with all the other mantras I've adopted throughout this life, from last year when I would constantly say to myself, "I'm the cake boss!" in times of self-doubt to this year, where my motto of "I can fly anything" has already brought me more success than I've known yet in this life.
I am great at choosing mantras, so let me tell you what to do just this once, okay? You need to adopt, "Don't tell me what to do."
And when it comes to your beauty/makeup life, I can't think of a better mentality to adopt than this. Just think of the possibilities:
Your mother: Don't you think it's time to pluck those eyebrows?
You: Don't tell me what to do.
Rude coworker: Wow, that's a... bold lipstick.
You: Don't tell me what to do.
*Your cat stares judgmentally as you cut your own bangs over the bathroom sink*
You: Don't tell me what to do.
It's magical! I think no other phrase could better encapsulate both the confidence and autonomy Kayne wants for you and the angst and attitude your teenage self wants for you.
Really though, it's 2016. Stop letting traditional beauty standards dictate what you do. This is one thing I love about Kanye. He never just does what he's told. In fact, when told he can't do something, that's when he really does something. It's the true entrepreneurial spirit that makes America great!
So if someone tells you that you can't pull off hot-pink lipstick, you know what to tell them! Shout, "Don't tell me what to do" and get thee to Sephora. "Don't tell me what to do" is also occasionally a useful thing to tell your own brain. Think you can't pull off hot pink lipstick? C'mon, go 'head, switch your style up. Feather your hair. Your life is dope and you do dope sh*t!
There's so many arbitrary, old-fashioned, prescriptive, and unnecessary beauty "rules" out there trying to tell you what to do with your face and your life, but ignore them. They can't block your shine.
So this year, embrace your inner Kanye and remember that no one can tell you what to do. You're the flyest, the dopest, and the greatest artist alive. All your mama ever made was trophies. The devil can't stop us.
I leave you with this one last final gif. Thank you and you're welcome. (Yes, I own that book.)
- Let's talk about Kanye.
- I guess we can also talk about beauty rules we're not gonna abide by anymore.
- But mostly let's talk about Nori.
- Who's excited for So Help Me God/SWISH/Waves/#Wizwearscoolpants to drop on February 11?