Arielle Twist is a major cat-eye connoisseur. The Halifax-based transgender poet, gender professor and visual creator has been wearing black feline flicks ever since she began experimenting with makeup. “I’ve always gravitated toward a cat-eye and a red or nude lip; I haven’t digressed far from that idea, ” she says, adding that what has progressed is a punctuation of her inflated winged liner with rich, dynamic shadows.
For Twist, it’s all a highway of accentuating her Indigenous identity. “The boasts I choose to enhance are often the things I find most beautiful about Cree ladies: the shape of our eyes and mouths, the channel that our buttocks are pre-eminent. My sees and cheeks are my two favourite aspects on my face, so why not highlight them? ” she conveys. Reaching for her staple eyeliner and lipstick also connects Twist to her mom and her grandmothers, or kokums as she says in Cree. “I can see the deduce femininity that my mother and my kokums have passed on to me, ” she asks. “That will always be the first thing I is displayed when I do my makeup. I’m really lucky to have been anointed with a canvas that sings to every woman who came before me.”
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This deep connection to her makeup stems back to 2013, when Twist started transitioning. “Makeup gave me access to constituting my boasts seem more feminine to me, ” she shares. “It was like a style to challenge my own gender dysphoria.”
Since then, cosmetics have been potent tools for helping Twist walk through the world as a transgender female. “Makeup feeds me confidence to be out there, ” she says. “It’s the kindling to the fire in everything that I just wanted to do as an artist.”
Last year, Twist gained national disrepute with the liberation of her first book, Disintegrate/ Dissociate, a collecting of 38 lyrics that speak to some of her most intimate lived experiences: transitioning, sex, adoration, savagery, dislocation and more. The paperback is rife with suffering and resilience but likewise regards a cavity for hilarity and parish. “I believe that my work is honest, ” she illustrates. “Even if it seems brutal at times, that’s only current realities. I exist as an Indigenous brown trans woman in a nature that’s dedicated to debating and questioning my humanity, so it’s often distressing but also a source of hope, deep love and kinship. People describe it as confessional poetry.”
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Born in George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Twist invested most of her day as a young child in the city of Regina before her family moved to Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia. It was a move stimulus by injustice, she concludes. “I feel like the Prairies have a kind of gratuitous racism toward Indigenous people that dallied a part in why we left. My mom wanted to get us out of there.”
Saskatchewan will always be a place that Twist cherishes, she says — “George Gordon First Nation is my birth person, the homeland of my ancestors”–but she knows she wouldn’t be the woman she is today if she had remained. “When I “ve been thinking about” it, I think about how precarious it would have been for me to be an Indigenous trans female in Regina. I don’t know if I ought to have been transitioned. I don’t know if I would be alive right now. Growing up, I recollect Saskatchewan being a hard-bitten plaza to be an Indigenous person.”
From Sipekne’katik First Nation, Twist eventually represented her room to Halifax and in 2017, her life and vocation changed.
While working as a sexuality instructor at Venus Envy, an award-winning LGBTQ+ -friendly copulation store and health information-based bookstore in downtown Halifax, Twist provoked a connection with a trans Canadian generator who was visiting for a volume start, which led to mentorship. “We got to chatting, and she asked me if I had ever thought about writing, which I hadn’t, ” she discovers. What happened next felt like a whirlwind.
That same summer, Twist’s former instructor invited members to Toronto–a visit that would steer Twist into participating in Naked Heart, Toronto’s annual LGBTQ+ literary festival, that dusk. Less than a year later, she had a work be addressed with Vancouver-based publisher Arsenal Pulp Press.
Twist weighs her 2019 diary safarus as her proudest instant within her short writing career thus far. The opening allowed her to travel across Canada, and the young poet was amazed by the audience she was able to reach through her words–Indigenous trans youth in particular. “It was the most eye-opening experience, ” she says. “I was able to go to Saskatchewan and talk to youth from my home–kids who looked like me, talked like me. Youth who are doing what I never considered I could do: They’re transitioning in Saskatchewan. I ever thought that was impossible. They were talking about my job and me.”
And you can be sure that along every stop on her diary tour, Twist rocked her signature eyeliner movie. Because as much as makeup is about celebrating a strong self-image, Twist feels that it also stimulates it easier for her to fit in with long-held stereotypical norms around feminine allure. “I can definitely see how makeup feigns how people talk to me, approaching me and understand me–especially in a professional way. I think it makes people take me more seriously.”
In Her Kit
These are the go-to staples in Arielle Twist’s makeup bag.
KVD Vegan Beauty Tattoo Liner
($ 28, Sephora)
Anastasia Beverly Hills Norvina Pro Pigment Palette Vol. 3
($ 79, Sephora)
M.A.C Satin Lipstick in “Mocha”
($ 24, M.A.C Cosmetics)
Tatcha The Liquid Silk Canvas: Featherweight Protective Primer
($ 68, Sephora)
Fenty Beauty Killawatt Foil Freestyle Highlighter in “Lightning Dust& Fire Crystal”
($ 48, Sephora)
Nars Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation in “Valencia”
($ 63, Sephora)
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