Image by Chris Johns.
The Tyra Banks Show was a photocopy of a photocopy of Oprah that was xeroxed on a copy machine smeared by years of butt cheek scans. From 2005 to 2010, Tyra used her talk show as a platform to imitate the Queen of Talk and exhibit her lack of self-awareness. Who can forget when Tyra pretended to have contracted rabies from a dog for no discernable reason other than a love of rolling around on the floor? Or the time she wore a prosthetic nose for an exposé on the lives of strippers because heterosexual strip club patrons would totally recognize the host of America’s Next Top Model?
My all time favorite Tyra moment was Tyra's take on Oprah's iconic “You get a car! You get a car!” give-a-way. With the enthusiasm of the Mighty O, Tyra told her studio audience they would go home with a jar of Tyra’s “eye and anything cream,” the beauty secret that made her the hottest supermodel on the planet—a jar of Vaseline bedazzled in $100 worth of Swarovski crystals.
In between throwing jars of Vaseline at the crowd, Tyra shrieked, rolled across the ground, and screamed about rubbing petroleum jelly on random body parts of her body, such as her shoulders. At the time, I viewed this historic television event as a publicity stunt, but over the years Tyra’s suggestion has haunted me like a ghost in an Oprah Book Club Selection I have never read. Is Vaseline really a miracle product? Could I actually beautify myself with just one jar? Would a jar of Vaseline transform me into Tyra Banks? I decided to cover my body in Vaseline to find out.
Rubbing Vaseline on my skin was more complicated than Tyra made it out to be. As an Armenian, my pores basically secrete Vaseline—dabbing Tyra’s magic jelly on my face like a teenager about to throw down in an acrylic nail scratch-fight was not going to cut it. I needed to take Tyra’s Vaseline ritual to the next level. I googled Vaseline makeup tutorials and discovered a blog post listing 22 different ways to use Vaseline to create jailbreak beauty products. Apparently, girls mix Vaseline with their makeup to make their beauty supply last longer—which is weird considering makeup is as cheap as fried chicken. To justifiably say you’re so poor you have to extend your eye shadow with Vaseline, you have to be subsisting off individual corn kernels like the pilgrims during the first Plymouth winter.
But we are all victims of this economy, so I decided to be a good sport. I mixed Vaseline with my eye shadow and smeared it over my lids, morphing a sophisticated shade of olive into a tone I call “swamp boogers.” I mixed the petroleum goo with brow powder, fixed my brows into place, and contoured my cheekbones with a Vaseline and bronzer. When I finished, I was feeling myself. My eyelashes looked twice as thick, I glowed like a pregnant chick, and my cheekbones stuck out so much, I wondered if people would ask if I had gotten my jaw unwired.
Sadly, this would not last.
I had shit to do besides stare in the mirror, and I live in a house in Boston without air conditioning. Within 40 seconds, the Vaseline started to melt.
My eyebrows and mascara crawled down my face like they were trying to enter my mouth, and my eyes felt so heavy, I squinted like Rob Lowe in Behind the Candelabra. I looked like a melting chicken—40 minutes later there was no way to stop all the makeup from mixing until I looked like the lead singer of a Misfits cover band. So I gave up. I removed the Vaseline from my face and accepted I could never relish in a bedazzled jar of petroleum jelly like Tyra Banks—she can get away with smearing herself with Vaseline, because she’s a supermodel, a genetic freak. I’m a five-foot-zero Middle Eastern hybrid who would probably look like a Monchhichi doll if I lost my razor.
But when I woke up, I no longer looked like Rob Lowe. I looked like Tyra in the made-for-television movie Life-Size, when she teaches a young Lindsay Lohan that you don’t need a mom if you have a life-size doll named Eve—my face was so smooth. One hour with dirty Vaseline on my face had given me the skin women pay hundreds of dollars for. I smeared refined petrochemicals on my face on the advice of a woman who once instructed an entire nation to kiss her fat ass, and I won.
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