Welcome to another installment of My Beauty Identity—a new series set to explore the intertwining worlds of beauty and identity. We’ll be investigating how people from all walks of life use their beauty routine to empower and uplift and asking them to define beauty in the modern age. This week, we spoke to Karla Garcia, aka @karlitacosita, one of the most skilled and creative makeup artists to ever pop up on our Explore page. Here, she tells Byrdie UK about how makeup has become her rawest form of self-expression and why she thinks we shouldn’t be so quick to judge “silly” makeup trends.
You evidently love to experiment with makeup. Where does this urge to create come from?
Honestly, I feel like I’ve always been a very expressive person, and I’ve always loved creating things. When I was younger, whether it was through clothes or in art class, I was always making things and making sure people knew I was creative. I’ve always been that way.
Throughout high school, when I first got into makeup around six years ago, I would wear it fairly toned down. But when I got to my senior year, I started to get way more confident, and I was more comfortable with myself. I started to branch out and wear things a little different like pink eye shadow. I’ve just always been someone who likes to push the limits to see how far I can go with it before it gets too whack, I guess.
Although not a lot of people did what I did or wore their makeup like me, I’ve always been comfortable pushing the boundaries and being different on my own terms. I had my own style, and I was never looked down upon or bullied. I was accepted. I would even get compliments from random guys who would say my makeup was really cool.
What is the purpose of makeup for you?
I wouldn’t say that I use makeup to perfect my features. My biggest insecurity would probably be my nose but I never feel the desire to contour that part of my face. For me, makeup is my creative outlet. I don’t consider myself a makeup artist. I think I’m just an artist and my face is my canvas.
I was never awful at art; I would get an A in my classes. But I don’t think I’m exceptional, so I don’t like to spotlight it. I used to write a lot, especially poetry. I used to have an app on my phone in 10th grade, and I would write all my poetry in there. I would have around 100 poems in there separate from my notes.
My phone got updated, and it got erased, so I don’t have it anymore. Every art form I choose to do is very vulnerable to me—my art, my poems, my makeup. My style and the way I do my makeup is like my most vulnerable form. It’s truest to my essence.
And are you self-trained?
Yes. When I first started getting into makeup in high school, I would just watch YouTube videos and try things out. But it was more like natural beauty looks. I loved Samantha Ravandahl—hers was the first channel I really loved, and I would constantly watch her. But it wasn’t exactly abstract stuff. As I started to get more into it, I couldn’t just do a regular eye look anymore.
I was getting too used to spending an hour and a half to perfect my makeup every single day. And that’s when I realized I had to do something with makeup. So then I decided to go into school for aesthetics. My course was four months, and at the end, I got my license, but they didn’t go over that much makeup; it was more about skincare. I still really love the skincare part, but as far as makeup goes, I’ve never really had any schooling.
How would you define your aesthetic?
Abstract and raw.
What's your biggest gripe with the beauty industry right now?
I just hate when people tell each other what to do within beauty. Take the whole squiggly brow trend, for example. I would see people on Twitter saying things like “Ugh, girl, don’t do that.” And I think how different is that squiggly brow to something like my nose makeup? They’re both silly. I don’t take makeup seriously, and neither does she, so why is she being scrutinized? It’s not like it looks bad. The eyebrow is groomed well, applied well—obviously it’s squiggly so it’s a bit silly, but I don’t think that means it’s ugly or should be judged.
I also feel like bigger influencers should be more accepting because they have a following, and if their followers see them scrutinizing someone for challenging norms, stepping outside of the box or doing something different, or simply not taking makeup seriously, they might be dissuaded from doing the same. I hope they would have a mind of their own, but I just want more people to feel comfortable to challenge the norm. It’s unproductive—we’re not challenging what can be done or what can be socially acceptable, so what’s the point?
Where do you look for beauty inspiration?
I find inspiration in almost everything. I’m looking at a red-brick wall right now, and feeling really inspired by all the patterns and the colors. I find inspiration in all of the little color schemes around me. I even find inspiration in TV shows or music. I honestly find it everywhere. I don’t think I necessarily go looking for inspiration, as I feel like when it’s forced, you can become jaded.
You must have an encyclopedic knowledge of makeup products. Which are your favorites?
I couldn’t go without brow gel for sure. Right now, I’m using NYX Control Freak Eye Brow Gel ($6), but I’m also really missing my Ready, Set, Brow Gel (now called 24-Hour Brow Setter, $24) from Benefit because that fixes your brow hairs so well.
I would also have to mention Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector($41). I only just discovered it, but I really like it because it makes my skin look super natural and gives it a really nice sheen. For eye shadows, I really like Sugarpill Cosmetics because the brand has a lot of amazing colors. I also love Makeup Geek—people were talking about that brand for a while, and then they seemed to stop, but I don’t know why, because I’ve loved every shadow I’ve ever bought from them. And then I guess there’s also my favorite eyeliner—I love Suva Beauty Hydra Liners—they’re water-activated and brilliant.
And which tools and brushes do you use the most?
Definitely Smith Cosmetics—it’s a brand that’s so near and dear to me. I went to IMATS last year, and I forgot to let my bank know I was going to NYC. So when I went to the Smith Cosmetics stand, my card froze and I couldn’t get hold of my bank, and it was awful. But then I met Giselle from the social media team there, and she let me take the brushes because she saw so much potential in me. I really hold them near and dear. I love that brand.
And finally, what would be your advice for anyone starting to really experiment with their makeup?
Be confident in yourself first—that’s so important. It helps to have a security blanket in your mind. Whenever I wear bold makeup, my security blanket is thinking, You know I tried way too hard on this makeup. I spent an hour on it—I’m not about to take it all off. I’m not wasting this makeup on a makeup wipe. Be proud of what you do and what you put out there, and that will really build your confidence and make it easier to explore that side of your makeup and, in turn, that side of you.