For Writer Arielle Twist, Eyeliner is a Source of Strength and Expression

  • Fashion
  • For Writer Arielle Twist, Eyeliner is a Source of Strength and Expression

Photograph by Tenille Campbell. Design by Danielle Campbell.

Welcome to My Story, our series dedicated to creatives of colour and their paths to success. By championing these diverse stories and backgrounds, we hope that our understanding of the cultural conversations around beauty and fashion will expand and that respect for our differences will flourish.



Arielle Twist is a major cat-eye connoisseur. The Halifax-based transgender poet, sex educator and visual artist 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 strayed far from that blueprint,” she says, adding that what has evolved is a punctuation of her exaggerated winged liner with rich, dynamic shadows.

For Twist, it’s all a way of accentuating her Indigenous identity. “The features I choose to enhance are often the things I find most beautiful about Cree women: the shape of our eyes and mouths, the way that our cheeks are prominent. My eyes and lips are my two favourite features on my face, so why not highlight them?” she expresses. Reaching for her staple eyeliner and lipstick also connects Twist to her mother and her grandmothers, or kokums as she says in Cree. “I can see the divine femininity that my mother and my kokums have passed on to me,” she explains. “That will always be the first thing I see when I do my makeup. I’m really lucky to have been blessed with a canvas that sings to all the women who came before me.”

This deep connection to her makeup stems back to 2013, when Twist started transitioning. “Makeup gave me access to making my features look more feminine to me,” she shares. “It was like a way to challenge my own gender dysphoria.”

Since then, cosmetics have been powerful tools for helping Twist walk through the world as a transgender woman. “Makeup feeds me confidence to be out there,” she says. “It’s the kindling to the fire in everything that I want to do as an artist.”

Last year, Twist gained national notoriety with the release of her first book, Disintegrate/Dissociate, a collection of 38 poems that speak to some of her most intimate lived experiences: transitioning, sex, love, violence, displacement and more. The paperback is rife with grief and resilience but also holds a space for joy and community. “I believe that my work is honest,” she explains. “Even if it seems brutal at times, that’s just the reality. I exist as an Indigenous brown trans woman in a world that’s dedicated to debating and questioning my humanity, so it’s often painful but also a source of hope, deep love and kinship. People describe it as confessional poetry.”

Born in George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Twist spent most of her time 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 spurred by bigotry, she believes. “I feel like the Prairies have a kind of gratuitous racism toward Indigenous people that played 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 nation, the homeland of my ancestors”—but she knows she wouldn’t be the woman she is today if she had stayed. “When I think about it, I think about how precarious it would have been for me to be an Indigenous trans woman in Regina. I don’t know if I would have transitioned. I don’t know if I would be alive right now. Growing up, I remember Saskatchewan being a hard place to be an Indigenous person.”

From Sipekne’katik First Nation, Twist eventually made her way to Halifax and in 2017, her life and career changed.

While working as a sex educator at Venus Envy, an award-winning LGBTQ+-friendly sex shop and health information-based bookstore in downtown Halifax, Twist sparked a connection with a trans Canadian author who was visiting for a book launch, which led to mentorship. “We got to chatting, and she asked me if I had ever thought about writing, which I hadn’t,” she reveals. What happened next felt like a whirlwind.

That same summer, Twist’s former mentor invited her to Toronto—a visit that would steer Twist into participating in Naked Heart, Toronto’s annual LGBTQ+ literary festival, that fall. Less than a year later, she had a book deal with Vancouver-based publisher Arsenal Pulp Press.

Twist counts her 2019 book tour as her proudest moment within her short writing career thus far. The opportunity 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 thought I could do: They’re transitioning in Saskatchewan. I always thought that was impossible. They were talking about my work and me.”

And you can be sure that along every stop on her book tour, Twist rocked her signature eyeliner flick. Because as much as makeup is about celebrating a strong self-image, Twist feels that it also makes it easier for her to fit in with long-held stereotypical norms around feminine beauty. “I can definitely see how makeup affects how people talk to me, approach me and see 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.

From The S3 News Community

Check out posts from our own content writers


Here's the latest news

Judge Barrett’s connection to the small and relatively obscure Christian group People of Praise also attracted attention after a report in 2017 that she and her husband were members. The group grew out of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement that...

To Conservatives, Barrett Has ‘Perfect Combination’ of Attributes for Supreme Court

"If our kid doesn't want to play soccer and he or she wants to do something else, we're fine with that," Orlando Pride forward Leroux declared in a 2015 editions of MLS Insider. "I mean, they will play soccer." Considering Mom and...

Check Out These Sports Couples Who Leave Us Cheering For More

The injuries started early and didn't seem to stop on Sunday. Saquon Barkley's season-ending knee injury is obviously the biggest news, but Christian McCaffrey, Cam Akers, Drew Lock, Jimmy Garoppolo, Courtland Sutton, Davante Adams, and Raheem Mostert were just some of the...

Best Fantasy Week 3 Waiver Pickups: Saquon Barkley, Cam Akers, Christian McCaffrey injuries open doors for handcuff RBs

Donors gave more than $100 million over the weekend after her passing.Before the latest presidential disclosures were filed, some Republicans were questioning how a Trump campaign that has raised $1.3 billion since the beginning of 2019 with the Republican National...

Biden Has $466 Million in Bank, and a Huge Financial Edge on Trump

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton proved he could still dominate a bottom-tier team last weekend in a win over the Dolphins, but his matchup with the Seahawks on Sunday night should provide a better outlook on what to expect from him...

Patriots vs. Seahawks live score, updates, highlights from NFL 'Sunday Night Football' game
Load More
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap