Exclusively for the Illamasqua blog, we have put together Empowered: This Is Me, a series of interviews with individuals who felt empowered to speak-up and tell their story after reading Illamasqua’s Anti-Fascism Pledge. Sara M. Highsmith tells us her story below…
Tell us a little bit about why you took the time to contact us after our Anti-Fascism pledge…
I wanted to thank you for standing up for people like me. To be honest, the first time I saw this pledge I cried. People like me need allies like you to give us a voice. Seeing Illamasqua’s Anti-Fascism pledge has inspired me to ask others for help so much more than you may ever know from the few words I speak here.
Since the recent US election the energy has been different, even in a city as liberal as San Francisco. There are people who I never thought twice about as being racist, ableist, sexist, or xenophobic have shown me otherwise in recent actions. On a greater scale, I refuse to believe or disguise predatory actions; such as locking up human beings (who are protecting clean water on their native land) as not wanting to pay taxes or “good business.” Again, thank you Illamasqua for reminding me there are still kind people out there.
Is there a particular part of our pledge, which resonates with you?
I was moved by the statement, “We refuse to remain silent while extreme right-wing populism gains momentum… wherever it is happening.” There is something particular powerful when an international company says, “…Wherever it is happening.” To me, this shows just because anguish is not on your doorstep, it doesn’t mean you can’t care.
Yes, we must shed the light on issues that tear humanity apart as a whole. Yes, we must speak up and raise our words. Yes, we must never ever keep letting history with rhetoric of hate, bigotry, and silence to continue to happen again and again. We put on makeup to have our outside appearance reflect our inner beauty and express our souls. A cosmetic company is a perfect place to start an Anti-Fascism pledge.
Have you ever been victimised personally?
I didn’t speak up as a child when grown adults told me Thai people are only good for sex. I didn’t speak up as a teenager when my home was burnt down and gentrified a year later. I didn’t speak up in my early twenties when my nose was broken by a celebrated man.
I didn’t speak up at 26 years old when multiple people reached out repeatedly to call my best friend and brother, Billy and I awful names as I was caring for him on his deathbed. I didn’t speak up last spring when a (now former) lover stole my medication when I wanted to leave.
I didn’t speak up less than a year ago when I was called “Asian white trash” and threatened at my workplace.
I thought this was normal. I thought this was just life in “hard mode.”
I did not think twice until I saw it happen to others publicly more and more. I did not know my silence in itself would validate others to be treated this way. I don’t want these actions, this mind-set, or this anger to be normal. This is not okay, how did this become acceptable?
Now I shout to myself, I promise to never be silent again.
What one thing do you love about being you?
Despite everything I have been through, I refuse to let hatred consume me.
Do you think more brands should stand up & challenge extremist views?
Of course brands should stand up and challenge extremist views. The difficulty in this is that for many this rabbit hole runs deep. This is a test of value for capitalism in having enough and if that outweighs accepting others unlike Illamasqua.
For example, one way to challenge the values of many cosmetic brands is to start by stop testing cosmetics on animals. No living creature should suffer for the sole purpose of vanity. We do not need to rub shampoo or lipstick onto a bunny’s eye when we can use scientific models. Animal testing is simply out-dated and unnecessary. Yet at the same time, a brand will lose access to China’s billion-dollar market that requires animal testing for cosmetics.
Now when it comes to challenging extremist and bluntly hateful views, a brand may lose business but gain face with a legacy of respect. Likewise with brands that choose to openly discriminate, a brand that chooses openly to accept the beaten and damned will be rebranded and so will those who use their products. Every consumer is a brand ambassador. Who wouldn’t want their brand ambassadors to be known as kind-hearted and open-minded people?
If you could talk to everyone in the world for 5 minutes, what would you say?
“If hatred can burn the world down then imagine what love could do.” Those were words spoken by Billy in response to being harassed on his deathbed. Let that sink in for a bit. Now listen, we are not new to struggle. We can push through, and keep going together. We, as human beings must stand up against any rhetoric of hate, and in this stance we must not become hateful people in the process. To love is a choice and so is to hate, but people had to learn how to hate and with time it can be unlearnt.
Let education become your diplomacy. Understand that we all come from different backgrounds with different upbringings. We each have something to offer to our neighbour, to our planet, to our children, but first we must learn to listen. We never forgot how to love, we forgot how to listen. We must listen to understand. Did we forget we were not born with walls, but with the ability to break them down? We can do this and history has shown we have done this. It takes unity, strength, and a hell lot of saying “No.” As a professor from both my colleges taught me, “Find the people you need and convince them to help you.” If you feel you do not have anyone, know you have me.
Keep learning. Keep pushing. Keep going.
Tell us about your goals… where do you aspire to be in 5 years?
This question has always been difficult for me to answer. Five years ago I never thought I would be graduating with my fourth college degree with dreams aspiring toward law school. At the same time I never thought I would lose my best friend. Ten years ago, I just wanted to get through the day. Today, I hope at least by five years from this moment I will be in a small orphanage located just outside of Bangkok in Thailand. This will be the hardest goal I will have ever accomplished.
Do you have a favourite Illamasqua product?
My favourite Illamasqua product is the Skin Base Foundation. I wear it on my face and different parts over my body alongside Gleam highlighter in Aurora. It smoothes out my skin tone and softens the look of pores and blemishes. I feel confident having a healthy glow to take on what life throws at me.