Real beauty, self-love, and the media's influence are all such important topics in today's society. Maura Sheedy of "Make Muse" discusses her launch of this makeup-less movement and empowering women to feel strong and beautiful in their skin.
Q: How old are you?
A: I am a twenty-year-old college sophomore.
Q: Where were you born and where do you currently live?
A: I currently reside in New York, New York and live in The Bronx, attending college at Fordham University
Q: Can you talk about the background of “Make Muse”?
A: Make Muse is a culmination and furthering of so many of my past experiences. It all started three-and-a-half years ago when I was a high-school junior in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was walking home with some of my friends to get ready for a football game that we were attending that night together. The entire conversation on the way revolved around our hair, outfits, and of course the makeup that we wanted to do that night. I had an aha moment that conversations like this made up a great majority of what my friends and I discussed- and we were all smart, involved girls. The idea hit me. I blurted out to my friends, “What if I went a year without makeup?”
They all immediately doubted that I could do it for an entire year. I’m naturally someone who likes to prove people wrong, so their doubt made me want to do the project even more. I told them I was serious and within minutes they were supporting me. One friend threw out the name “Makeupless Maura” and suggested I document the experience. The following Monday- September 1, 2014- @makeuplessmaura launched on Instagram and my makeup-free year commenced.
During that year, I posted a no-makeup picture every day on the account and looked into a wide range of existent beauty issues for women. I would post about my own experience and discussed topics such as real beauty, self-love, the media’s influence, and so forth. It was a mini-personal research project. I lived a day-to-day life makeup-free and even attended homecoming and took my senior portrait for the yearbook without makeup.
After the experience, I knew that makeup was a small part of the problem; it came down to the standards that society places on women to look a certain way. Over the next two years, as I went through my senior year and began college, this message was reinforced even more strongly- not just in beauty, but in politics, in careers, art, and so forth. The overarching message was that females are expected to have a certain place in society that dissuades them from running for office, being in STEM or finance, not weighing one-hundred pounds, and more. I wanted to continue Makeupless Maura and since writing has always been one of my passions, a media site seemed like a perfect fit. I dove into creating the first site this past October and began to rejuvenate Makeupless Maura first as MAKE by makeupless as we transitioned and now Make Muse.
Make is a derivative from makeupless and speaks to our mission of encouraging others to actually go out there and DO something. We added Muse to speak to the fact that not only do we encourage action, but we give you the inspiration and catalyst to it with media, designs, and features. The new name Make Muse is a play-off of “make music” and an emblem of one of my favorite poems “Ode” by Arthur O'Shaughnessy- in the poem is a line about music makers and an overall message of making the world a place that you want it to be.
Q: You are doing something so empowering on your website by getting rid of the societal standards for females in regards to beauty, the workplace and leadership- In today’s society do you feel that there has been an improvement of this or do you think there is still lots to be changed in terms of these societal standards?
A: I think there has been so much progress and the momentum cannot be lost for all aspects of promoting female equality and eradicating societal gender standards. We’ve seen more and more people go makeup-free, including celebrities like Alicia Keys. I see a growing skin-positivity movement as well, which promotes baring your natural skin, no matter its color, amount of blemishes, and structure. We saw a woman run for U.S. President, we’ve seen more women address sexual harassment with #MeToo and #TimesUp, and we saw women across the globe participate in the Women’s March as it has grown to become an international walk of solidary. Progress is brewing and we need inspiration, community, and updated news to continue this mission. Gender is just as much a topic for news as subjects like the economy, politics, or tech. Make Muse supplies this kind of content to continue the female force making a change in our world.
Q: How do you set yourself apart from other sites promoting female empowerment?
A: We’re a new source and network that amplifies voices and stories of gender expectations and female equality. Rather than projecting our own direct voice, we curate a collection of experiences of feminism. We highlight articles on the broad range of feminist topics (body, career, leadership, art, life, activism, and fashion), post submissions of writing, photos, of art received related to our umbrella theme of gender and feminism, and showcase monthly muses- those living life with a mission of promoting female equality. Blending art and activism, our site is about inspiring others to see feminism in a new light and giving them the information to identify as a feminist themselves.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A: In 5 years, I’ll be 25. I see myself still banging away on my keyboard while sipping my Americano at coffee shops in the city. I’m passionate about blending technology, storytelling, community, and spreading a message and I intend to take these aspects to my career, ideally working as the head of Make Muse. I would love to have this be my full-time career where I’ll be developing the site and brand further and speaking about my no-makeup experience and entrepreneurial role. Some of my long-terms goals include finishing a book detailing my no-makeup experience and how that led to Make Muse as well as doing something rad enough to be named on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List. Wherever I am at that time, I hope to be making a difference and following my passions.
Q: Can you talk about some of the campaigns you have started and how these developed?
A: One of our main source of growth is through our campaigns, which is when we feature those who live a life with a mission to change societal standards in various ways. In each of campaigns, we have a theme or topic that our features are related to and invite them to take over our Instagram story for one day each. Our first campaign launched in December and was called “12 Days of Make,” and featured a wide range of females who were activists, entrepreneurs, leaders, and writers leading up to Christmas. Our second campaign “The Make Generation” highlighted another wave of young girl bosses and go-getters who are a part of Generation Z to showcase youth’s interest in social issues, including gender and feminism, in our world and culture. Our most recent campaign, “Make Love Not Hate” in February addressed beauty and body standards for females and promoted a culture of self-love We featured an entrepreneur who started a self-care-focused business, two eating disorder warriors who had survived binge eating disorder and anorexia, a disabled beauty blogger, and the founder of a campus real-beauty initiative. Coming in March is a women-in-film focused campaign that we’re so excited about! In the coming months, not only will our “muses” take over our Instagram story to share their day and projects or businesses, but be interviewed to share exclusive content on our website expanding upon their awesome work in greater detail.
Q: Who is the target audience of your website?
A: I like to consider those in the 16-30 age-range and identify as a female as the target audience range for Make Muse. We produce visual content and creative writing and attract an artistic following notably from females who also live the experience of dealing with societal standards daily. However, we are truly open to anyone. As Make Muse amplifies so many voices, I believe that anyone- any gender, any age- can take away something from our site, whether it is a new perspective or a nuance realization.
Q: Describe your perfect day?
A: My favorite days are when I’m busy and inspired. I love lingering on coffee dates with friends and then spending hours on my MacBook writing, working on the website, and creating new content for our social media. I love going to pop-up events- which fortunately happen so often in the city- or to museums or other attractions. My sister and I are obsessed with afternoon tea, so I’d probably fit that in at some point. Dinner with friends is a must and then hanging out and dancing until the wee hours of the morning tops off a perfect day.
Q: Who are some female influencers or entrepreneurs that inspire you?
A: SO many. The ones that resonate with me most deeply, however, are those that I’ve connected with, whether in person or over social media. Larissa May, founder of Half the Story, inspires me daily to be authentic and positive on social media and with my own content. Sapphire Rutter, Founder of the Coven Girl Gang, is such a badass and female-focused creative and entrepreneur who has produced an entire girl-gang following of wannabee and budding entrepreneurs. Emily Raleigh, founder of Spire and Co, is the sweetest person and has given me much insight into the media world. I just met the founder of Making it in Manhattan, Caroline Vazzana, who preached genuinity and radiated so much interest in everyday life. Some other amazing women I look up to are Tavi Gevinson (I actually met her at a tag tale this past Fall eek!), Sophia Amuroso, and Sallie Krawcheck. There’s plenty more, but these are my favorites of the moment.
Q: What are your personal thoughts about makeup and the beauty industry and are you against makeup completely or do you feel there is a middle ground?
A: Middle ground. 100%. I’m not the “makeup police”- I even wear makeup now. However, my view on makeup has shifted since my experience spending a year makeup-free. I use makeup lightly- often just clear mascara, moisturizer, and maybe eyeliner if any at all. I believe that makeup can be an artistic tool and if it makes you feel confident or helps you curate your look then, by all means, wear it. However, where the problem starts is when anyone feels that they need to wear makeup to cover up their imperfections (imperfections do not exist), hate the way they look without it, or feel that because of their gender, they have to wear it. Then makeup becomes unhealthy and feeds into the negative societal message. My account and experience was to fight these kind of makeup uses and touched on topics that correlated with them- real beauty, self-love, skin and body positivity, the media industry, Photoshop, retouching, and the like. Wear makeup for yourself, not for anyone else.
Q: Do you have anything else you want people to know about you?
A: I love what I do and I love all that I’m experiencing developing Make Muse @makemuse. This is my passion and I’d love to continue working on it, no matter what happens in the future. I’m working on a book about my no-makeup experience and how that led to Make Muse. Stay tuned! I’m also hoping to turn our website content- which anyone is invited and encouraged to submit to (our mission is to amply voices and we depend upon submissions)- into a digital or print editorial-style collection as Make Muse grows.
Some other random facts about me:
I did dance for 16 years and was a competitive dancer. I also love yoga and skiing!
I love poetry and have even written quite a bit of it myself. (Funnily enough, the only test I actually failed in high school was analyzing a sonnet, yet 3 years later I had one of my poems published in a national magazine).
I’m passionate about Fair Trade and am the treasurer of the Students for Fair Trade club at my school, Fordham.
I’m a huge fan of EDM style music and live for events like Daybreaker.
I strongly identify with my zodiac sign, Capricorn.
I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 3 years and love trying unique and healthy food.