BY ISABELLA STRAZZABOSCO
Going into 2018, I knew without a doubt that my biggest goal for the year was confidence. A lofty goal for someone who spends hours agonizing over brief conversations, delivered texts, and most embarrassingly of all, Instagram counts. After deleting the latter altogether, I know that all I did was put a band-aid over a larger issue. Confidence is a fleeting thing for me, and six months after moving to New York City, I’m not able to pretend like it isn't something essential for survival here.
Other than the cliché "fake it till you make it" mentality, it’s hard to find a how-to guide for confidence, especially within a consumerist society that profits off a lack of it. On New Years, trapped in my grandparents’ Floridian subdivision, I found an old college-lined notebook and began to write a list of the people I wanted to invoke for confidence. It included the obvious, like Bowie and Kim Gordon, but without thinking twice the first name I wrote was Cookie Mueller.
Partner in crime and collaborator to other heroes of mine such as John Waters, Nan Goldin, and Glenn O’Brien, Cookie’s life and legacy is the stuff of myth. Starting out in John Waters’ films, she quickly became his muse and the epitome of the don’t-give-a-fuck-glam that embodies his work. He described her as "a writer, a mother, an outlaw, an actress, a fashion designer, a go-go dancer, a witch doctor, an art-hag, and above all, a goddess." Halfway through my eighteenth year, I am constantly asked what I want to be. I think from now on I’m going to start repeating that quote.
I just finished her incredible memoir, Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, written in 1989 shortly before she died at age 40 of AIDS related illness. In an introduction that is so utterly Cookie, the first line in the book is "I had two lovers, and I wasn’t ashamed." She goes on to recount stories of evading Manson, kidnappers, human sacrifice and shipwrecks, to dancing through the streets of New York and Provincetown, to feeding LSD to Jim Morrison, to having a baby, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, facing death. The last chapter is jarring and painful, causing me to wonder how someone so truly alive could be so suddenly taken from this world. She faced her death like she did her life, with honesty, glamor, and love.
With her lisp, tattooed fingers, and wild hair, Cookie hardly fit the beauty norm, but it is undeniable that she was always one of the most beautiful people in the room. Her policy of being no one except herself and being truly unashamed is something I try to hold with me always.
It might be the fact that I’m a true-to form Gemini, but my love for makeup comes from the power to transform yourself into someone different. Not just someone without pimples or bags, but an alter ego, a persona, a chance to reinvent yourself as something different every day. Like carrying rose quartz to bring love, I believe that by emulating your heroes through your outward appearance you are able to channel them into yourselves. So for the days you need the strength to overcome the voices that tell you that you’re not good enough, pretty enough, or strong enough, just to turn yourself into Cookie.
Start out with clean, moisturized skin. No foundation necessary here folks! Cookie never shied away from showing a wrinkle or a pimple, and neither are we. Feel free, however, to add as much glitter as you like.
Cookie was a fan of the ultra-bold, and often sported bright, exaggerated cheeks. I used the blush from the NARS Debbie Harry palette from their Andy Warhol collection (still available on Amazon for cheap!). Not only is this color great for dramatic disco looks, it’s just generally a great contour shade for pale and pink-toned folks such as myself. Load up your brush, suck in your cheeks, and blend away. You can also use a dewy highlighter to make it look like you’ve been dancing all night and worked up a very glamorous sweat.
If you had to pick one thing to really scream Cookie Mueller, it would be her eyeliner. Messy, extravagant, and dramatic (me in three words), she was never seen without it. It reminds me a lot of the looks worn by Julie and Julie in the 1966 Czechoslovakian film Daisies is an extended cat eye that leans towards raccoonish. For this, you’re going to cover your entire eyelid up to the brow bone with a shimmery white shadow, and then draw an outline of the shape with eyeliner before filling it in.
You can either clean it up with a q-tip and call it a day, or add black eyeshadow over the basic shape and blending out for a softer look. Add a super-shiny lip gloss, throw on a monkey fur coat, and go run wild through the streets.
Isabella Strazzabosco is an artist, witch, and triple air sign from Chicago. She currently resides in New York City, where she is studying visual and global studies at The New School. Isabella has been an artistic associate and core creative at Free Street Theater since 2014, and a member of the Goodman Theater slam poetry team in the 2016-2017 season. Isabella loves Nick Cave, Gemini season, and the strawberry cheesecake pancakes from IHOP. You can view her art at isabellastrazzabosco.tumblr.com, and follow her on instagram at @fleshworld5