Sask. Indigenous beauty influencers share their messages behind '#PassTheBrush Challenge'
Viral videos bring indigenous beauty gurus together and give a sense of community during COVID-19 pandemic
When April Moosomin, or 'April Dawn' as her clients know her, made her #PassTheBrush TikTok video she knew she wanted to do more than simply take part in a viral challenge. She wanted to send a message.
"Sometimes people just view makeup as a mask and how it's wrong for girls and women to wear makeup and trying to pretend to be something we're not," said Moosomin.
"But in reality, as a makeup artist, all we're trying to do is show our creativity and show our passion for something that we love," she said.
"In our eyes, makeup is art."
Moosomin said she was strict with who she included in her video. She said it was important that the women in the video show themselves in natural state first — or they would not be included.
"We were going to show off our 'before' videos and some girls didn't feel comfortable doing that — so they couldn't be in the video," Moosomin told CBC.
"But the women that were in the video; I let them know that you're really impacting girls and women because we are influencers in our community, and when they see us with no makeup and that we're comfortable with that? They're going to get inspired too."
She said the whole message behind doing the video was to inspire young Indigenous girls watching them on Instagram, Facebook and now TikTok.
"They'll know that we have flaws too, we're not perfect. But we do feel beautiful without makeup on."
She said the TikTok video she created included Mrs. Native America, Karen Gaudry, who competed in China for Mrs. Globe.
"When Indigenous women get together, magic happens."
"That was the magic of it all, was when we all bring in our different attitudes, our different ways of showing off what beauty means to us ... that was just amazing."
One of the participants was local photographer Elicia Munro. The Nehiyaw Iskwew/Anishnaabe/Metis woman just graduated with a Social Work degree from the First Nations University of Canada. She said that using makeup is a way for her, and others, to keep their mental health in check.
"It definitely helps," said Munro. "It's definitely therapeutic, also getting ready throughout your day that like ... it helps to prevent mental illness."
Doing the video was a chance for the mother of two to get dressed up after being in self-quarantine. She said she showcased many Indigenous artists who made her jewellery, along with plumes she was gifted. Munro said she likes the positivity of these videos Indigenous people are sharing during this time.
"The way that I've also seen [viral] videos, it's just really nice to see and have something else to get to see on your social media — instead of everything else that's on the news."
Beauty influencers on the rise in Saskatchewan
Another Indigenous woman taking part in the new viral video challenge is Delainee Antoine-Tootoosis. Antoine-Tootoosis is a university student and local beauty "influencer" — meaning she gets sponsored by major fashion and beauty companies like Anastasia Beverly Hills, plus has thousands of social media followers from all over the world.
However, her Instagram page is not just filled with pretty promo pictures. Antoine-Tootoosis chooses to use her makeup skills and platform to tell stories about her culture, body positivity and mental health awareness.
"I've grown to really want to be more than just esthetically beautiful," said Antoine-Tootoosis.
"I want to make art, but I also want to do beautiful things in the world — and I want people to see that they can do these things too."
Antoine-Tootoosis grew up on Poundmaker Cree Nation. She said growing up with an older brother and she didn't have someone to look up to makeup wise so she was left to practice on her own until she perfected her craft.
"I grew up on the rez'. I didn't really have any like really feminine, or like into makeup kind of influences in my life," she said.
"When I first started doing my makeup it was terrible and like my friends knew and I'd get like picked on and I kind of went through a lot of issues growing up."
Antoine-Tootoosis said although she was bullied for the way she looked in high school, she powered through.
"I just like kept pushing myself like, 'You're going to do something someday and you are going to have a purpose,'" she said.
"Makeup turned into a passion for me but it also turned in to something that helped me."
Antoine-Tootoosis said that she struggled with depression in university and it was makeup that helped her.
"Makeup was always kind of therapy for me. Like instead of laying in bed all day — I was doing makeup, at least I was doing something," she said.
Today, she is sponsored by beauty product companies like Milk and clothing companies like FashionNova. She was chosen to be an ambassador for the Indigenous owned-beauty product Cheekbone Beauty, and she has over 10,000 followers on Instagram.
Antoine-Tootoosis said whether it is taking part in a TikTok challenge or posting on Instagram, she will continue to speak her truth, share her story through makeup and encourage others to do the same.
"Having my little following ... I just want to keep inspiring young girls to like, don't give up, just do what you love," she said.
"Even if people put you down, if it's something you love — and you do it with love, it'll all create opportunities for you."