I Peer Into: Anna, Blogger at This Last Moment
I'm incredibly excited to feature one of my favorite bloggers today, Anna from This Last Moment. UK based, Anna is a lifestyle blogger and YouTuber who focuses on minimalism, mindfulness, and womanhood. Her posts are incredibly thoughtful and eloquently written, and her videos refreshingly creative in a space that can sometimes feel repetitive and hackneyed.
I've known Anna on the blogosphere for over a year, so when she told me she was coming to New York we immediately made plans to hang out. I asked her if she would be willing to do this interview, and the result is one of the most insightful conversations I've had in a long time, so much so that we completely forgot to talk about her makeup (despite asking her to spill over the contents of her makeup bag on a park bench in the middle of NYC.) I'm usually good at condensing the interviews, but there was little I could bring myself to take out. I don't think you'll mind.
Conflicted Beauty: How do you define beauty?
Ana: I think while much of Western culture focuses on external beauty. As I get older, I appreciate more and more a person’s internal beauty and I almost think it sort of outweighs the physical.
To define beauty, I suppose it’s just something that you naturally gravitate towards. That’s the simplest way I think of it. For some reason an object or a person or whatever it is has a pull to you, and for me it’s never something I couldn't quite put my finger on, that’s the closest I can come to a dictionary definition.
CB: Do you think your understanding of beauty has evolved?
A: Definitely. Growing up, I think like most teenagers, my standards of beauty were wholly defined by current society’s expectations and I didn’t realize how much of an influence our culture has on our thinking. So I really had this very very limited view of what was beautiful.
But I think things like going to uni, the more people that you meet, the older you get...you realize that you want to think about things on your own terms, and that includes beauty, and that includes finding your own standards of whatever it is and how you define it. So for me it’s much less about people being a certain weight, a certain color, a certain age; I think there’s something in everyone, but it’s up to you to find it.
Do you feel pressured to be beautiful?
Yes, I do, but I’m quite lucky that I can have the flexibility that I can push back a little bit on like certain standards. So like this summer, I’m going to be working with kids but I’m going to have no makeup on, I'm not going to have anything fashionable on my body whatsoever, and I think that in a way will be quite liberating. But for the most part, I think there definitely is a pressure and expectation, especially on young women, to look a certain way.
When did you start to realize that pressure?
I think I started feeling it throughout my teens, but I didn’t know it was there until I was probably about 18 to 20 years old. But up until then it was literally a case of you absorb these opinions and these rules or whatever, and you’re not necessarily aware that that’s not you thinking that, that's not necessarily what the whole world thinks, either.
When did that realization hit [that society plays a big role]?
The first thing that springs to mind was I did a feminism module in my first semester at uni, and it felt like someone had taken a cloth from over my eyes. It was so groundbreaking. Having that information that wasn’t considered important or focused on in my secondary education was a big realization for me.
Do you identify as a feminist?
Wholeheartedly. But it was weird, I had a U-curve of feeling feminist. So when I first heard about it I was very young, I was probably about 12 or 13, had a young understanding of it and was like "oh my god of course this is amazing I’m totally in favor of women’s rights blah blah blah."
But I think what’s really sad about going through your teenage years as a young woman is that so much of your time and your energy gets taken over by all these voices sort of critiquing you, and you don’t even know that you’re listening to them. So for me it very quickly became obvious that women’s rights were seen as stupid, that it wasn’t a cool thing, and then I felt a real push back like "no, I don’t want to be a feminist." I felt like it had to do with rejecting men, and so for a while I didn't want to be part of it, and then it literally came back to going to uni and having someone tell me “what you thought of feminism was what someone else was wrongly thinking about feminism. This is what it is.” so yeah, that was really eye-opening.
When did you start wearing makeup?
Probably around 12 or 13. And I remember that there was a specific incident that made me wear makeup.
What was the incident?
I was getting changed in PE and one of the most popular girls in our year came up to me and said “why don’t you wear makeup?” and I was like “uhhh I don’t have any.” 12 year old me was so naive. And then she was like “oh, is it because you think you’re pretty?” and the implication was that either you’re hideous and you need makeup or you think you’re too good for it, and that really hit home uncomfortably.
I’m not the kind of person that if you tell me I should do something I’ll do it, but that was something that changed my mindset ever so slightly. So then I started wearing brown mascara because that was the most natural version of makeup I could find, and then that started to transition to a little bit of blusher and a little bit of lippie, and then endless lip gloss because it was 2005 and no one had enough lip gloss.
So how do you reconcile the fact that you wear or like makeup and call yourself a feminist?
Where I’m at at the moment is that if feminism is a celebration of women’s choices, then wearing makeup is a choice that women should be able to make. And I think we’ve had enough of people having very black and white and hard and fast rules so for me to say to another woman “oh you shouldn’t be wearing makeup” or equally, “oh my god what are you doing you should be put some on now.” I think that’s a step backwards in my mind and I think what brings us forward is less about what we look like but more about moving on to things like how we relate to each other and what’s expected of us and what we can strive for.
How often do you wear makeup?
When I was working in a shop, I would wear it everyday for work, but everyday that I had off all of us just dressed like total slobs, it was amazing. No makeup in sight - since started uni I've been more and more comfortable not wearing makeup, which is great because around 16 onward that was so not the case.
I’m comfortable. I don’t find it weird. But at the same time sometimes I think “oh if I had on some mascara I would be more comfortable right now." Or, "I’m going to do something work-related I need to put some makeup on.” There’s still a lot of that in my brain.
What do you like about makeup?
I’m super into the drag scene at the moment, I think loads of people seem to be as well, but what’s amazing about drag and any kind of makeup is the transformative aspect of it. All kinds of tribal ceremonies include makeup of some form, and there’s this idea that if you change your appearance you change your state of mind, that’s not unique to Western culture, that’s not unique to makeup, so I don’t think we should necessarily look at it as inherently negative. What I do find problematic is that we celebrate a woman’s made-up face, we celebrate a man’s unmade up face, but that’s it, those are the two options we have. I think it’s important to have the full spectrum.
When was the first time you became aware of your appearance?
I have memories from my childhood of looking in the mirror and thinking i was absolutely gorgeous. Being 5 or 6 and being so confident that i was the cutest thing on two legs. I have such clear memories of feeling really great, but then that really really turned off big time. Like it almost when the other extreme. So I’ve been on a bit of journey. It’s really tragic, that we all feel that way. Like when you turn 16, everyone feels that insecurity and that vulnerability about their appearance.
So to change gears a little bit, I’d like to focus on your blog in general - what made you want to blog specifically about lifestyle, and before that, beauty?
It’s a funny one to pin down because I started out with beauty partly because that was one of the first successful channels I found with women, and I think that was a mold that I thought I needed to step into to join. But the transition from beauty to lifestyle is less a rejection of beauty and more of a “oh I don’t have to limit myself if I don’t want to.” So I’m still interested in makeup, but it’s nice that makeup has allowed me to move onto other things and has brought back my love of writing. It gave me the scope to be creative and confident and I’ve taken that creativity and confidence into other areas.
That’s why I get so frustrated with people bashing beauty bloggers - even though that’s not what I blog about anymore, I still think of all the hard work that goes into it, and also love that it is such a female-dominated thing, there’s so few opportunities like that.
What do you hope your readers see or get from reading your blog?
I think a lot of blogging tends to be about aspiration and what you don’t have, and what I try to do is that we all have these vulnerabilities. I don’t want to be a super polished version of myself. In some ways I try to be an antidote to the clean, crisp image of “this is what we should be like”. I like that on my blog I can show how to be a woman, written by a woman, when we’ve had men tell us how to be for so long. It’s nice to celebrate inherently female spaces and start our own agendas.