My Brazilian beauty rituals are part of my immigration story

My mom and I are each other’s best friends. We really grew close together over those 10 years because of the beauty rituals we’d do together. We’d wax each other. We’d straighten each other’s hair. We’d dye each other’s hair. And it was [during] these intimate one-on-one moments where we are sitting together for a while that we can talk about boy drama, friendship gossip, goals in life, just like you would at a salon

When we moved, I was really embarrassed about my at-home beauty practices, especially because at the time they weren’t in style. Especially in the town that I [was living in], I had no one to relate to. I would lie all the time like, ‘Oh, I got this done at a salon.’ But I definitely did it [myself].

“I wanted to have these small elements in the photos that capture how we foster our heritage, and our heritage has so much links to our religion,” says Maia of the figures placed on the vanity above.

Photography by Ares Maia

Brazilian beauty is high maintenance, but it’s also about being close to nature. When I was in high school [around 2013], super cakey makeup using expensive Sephora products was trending on Instagram. It wasn’t until college, when the natural look became in style, that I started to really embrace the beauty practices that I grew up with. For example, when I remove my makeup, to this day, I use jojoba oil or coconut oil. I use old T-shirts cut up into small squares, then just throw them in the laundry. My grandma actually taught me to make my own tanning lotion with carrot, beetroot, and coconut oil. You put everything into a cloth and you squeeze and it leaves you with a very beautiful golden tan.

I moved to New York five years ago, to study communication design at Parsons. This is my second zine. The first one was all about the struggles of immigrating to the U.S. and dealing with shame and guilt. When I was doing research for this one, [I found that] there’s just not enough stories about beauty and immigration, and I think it stems from the fact that there’s so much shame behind it — [and] a lot of people don’t want to talk about their shame. I believe that this story is going to touch the hearts of people that don’t usually talk about it.


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