Millions of beauty enthusiasts have learned how to copy the makeup of their favorite stars, give themselves complex nail art, and yes, master the elusive and sultry smoky eye look through the vanguard of YouTube: makeup tutorials. Yet, a quick glance at social media over the past few days would suggest that political commentators have watched few, if any, of them.
Over the weekend, comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner with a scathing routine that targeted Trump and his administration, with copious barbs reserved for other conservatives, Congress at large, and the media itself. In one of her jokes, Wolf compared White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia, a brutal enabler of the fascist, anti-woman regime in The Handmaid’s Tale, and joked about how resourceful she is: “She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye.”
Beyond the inevitable outrage from conservatives about Wolf being disrespectful to the sensitive, innocent flower that is President Trump, came an even odder reaction: the idea that Wolf had attacked Sanders for her “physical appearance.” Many on Twitter — including Wolf, who noted “all these jokes were about her despicable behavior” — were baffled by this interpretation. Sanders certainly took some body blows, but trying to find the affront to her looks felt like squinting at a magic eye poster, waiting for the insult to pop out and seeing nothing but ruthless attacks on her character. There are a lot of things to criticize Huckabee for, but her genuinely solid makeup game is not one of them. The blowback was so bizarrely out of sync with Wolf’s jokes (and reality) that it’s hard not to wonder: do the people getting heated about this… know what a smoky eye is?
This may come as a surprise, but it does not mean that Sanders applied eyeshadow to herself like a 19th century chimney sweep rubbing her eyes. A smoky eye is a complex, elegant makeup technique that is difficult to execute well without copious practice, and saying that someone nailed it is no small compliment. Fortunately for the uninitiated, there are many, many YouTube tutorials from beauty experts that can help explain it in more detail! After reviewing a few of my favorites, I’ve put together a quick guide on how to achieve the classic look that Sanders so often wears to press briefings:
STEP 1: PRIMER
While it might be tempting to skip this step, primer ensures that your smoky eye will stay locked in and won’t smear or settle into fine lines as the day or night wears on. It’s always important to lay a solid foundation for your work — by carefully patting primer over your lids and under your eyes, or consistently eroding the basic notion of truth — before moving into the next steps of this process.
STEP 2: CONCEALER
Nobody’s skin or personal integrity is perfect, and we all have imperfections that we’d like to conceal. To hide those dark circles and your complicity in enabling a president who has called white supremacists “some very fine people,” use a finger to gently pat the concealer into the delicate skin under your eyes as you pivot from a reporter’s question about police violence against black people to a speech about the importance of border security and the economy.
STEP 3: LIGHTER SHADOW
Start by applying a medium-toned eyeshadow all over the lid, out to the edge of the eye, and up to the crease. This won’t seem very dramatic at first, but that’s the point. This is a transition tone, like falsely claiming that diversity visa immigrants are not vetted, which will segue gradually into something much darker, such as defending misleading Islamophobic videos tweeted by Trump and claiming that it “doesn’t matter” if they’re real because they “elevate the conversation.”
STEP 4: DARKER SHADOW
Now it’s time to layer. You’ll want to select a darker shadow, typically dark brown or dark gray, but if you’re feeling colorful, it could also be plum, navy, dark green, or lies. Apply out to the edge of the lashes and up to the crease, then use an angled brush to layer more along the lower lash line.
STEP 5: BLENDING
The smoky eye is, above all, a blended look, so you don’t want there to be any obvious demarcated lines between the various shades, or between the truth and outright falsehood. Using a medium-sized fluffy brush or a contempt for journalism and reality in general, carefully blend, obfuscate, and claim that multiple media outlets reported that Barack Obama ordered wiretapping on Trump until you achieve a smooth, gradient fade from light to dark, and truth to unadulterated fiction.
STEP 6: BLACK EYELINER
Here is where it gets dramatic. Using a black eye pencil and your preference for “alternative facts,” line your top and bottom lids and say with a straight face that a president who repeatedly encouraged people at his campaign rallies to assault protesters and even promised to pay their legal fees “in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted violence.” This will really make your eyes pop!
STEP 7: HIGHLIGHTER
To intensify that smoky eye look, remember: contrast is everything. Using a shimmery highlighter or your own internalized misogyny, lighten the area above your cheekbones and when asked about the president’s vicious attack on the appearance of another woman, be sure to respond, “What about the constant attacks that he receives?” (Don’t forget to add some highlighter in the corners of your eyes, or call the female House minority leader bitter and tell her to “smile a lot more.”)
STEP 8: MASCARA
Forgetting the mascara would be like not mentioning Barack Obama: why give up the opportunity to take this sultry look from good to scapegoating-the-first-black-president? Starting at the base of your lash lines, carefully comb your mascara wand (waterproof, if possible — don’t want that absolute void of integrity to run!) through your upper and lower lashes, and blame Obama for Russian interference because that makes sense, thereby completing your smoky eye look.
Now you’re ready to hit the town, head to work, or be a mouthpiece for an allegedly corrupt administration!