This Makeup Artist Went Through Hell — & Came Out Even Stronger

Photo: Courtesy of Lily Morales.
Beauty is most often cast as fun, frivolous, and vain. And though in the larger picture, things like mascara, blush, and lipstick indeed seem lighthearted — it is the business of appearances, after all — there’s also something remarkably potent about beauty. While the conversation has been dominated (and rightly so) about the changing representations of beauty, we rarely hear about the therapeutic and, yes, sometimes life-changing effect it can have. You’ll find their stories are far from superficial.

All this week, we'll be bringing you such inspiring tales of remarkable women who have used the power of beauty to cope, empower, heal, and survive. Today, meet Lily Morales a domestic abuse survivor who turned her pain into something positive by becoming a makeup artist.


While it’s easy to say beauty comes from the inside, many women won’t ever have to come to terms with the idea. But for Manhattan-based makeup artist Lily Morales, 35, a life-changing event in her 20s has changed her entire outlook on the topic. Hear her story, below.

“When I was 23, I was in a relationship with this person. He was older than me and from another country. There wasn’t anything violent in the relationship that would have warned me anything else could happen. Looking back, there was definitely signs but I didn’t see clearly then. I was in the relationship for three years and I decided to end it. There were controlling issues and jealousy. It was just not a good relationship. We’ve had our fights before and we would get back together. This time was different and I think he could sense that.

"This was 2005. After the breakup, he came to my house and I just let him in. I thought we were just going to talk. He had a knife hidden in his socks. He stabbed me so many times and slashed me. Fortunately, at the time, my mom was living with me. She was sick and had a person who was taking care of her. That person was able to call for help.

"He was arrested. He actually never left the apartment and was waiting for the police when they came.

"I was really injured. I was in a coma for a month and a half. I went through several surgeries. My face was slashed. My teeth were broken. It was a huge process of recovery. My hands, I had used them as a shield and they were also really, really damaged.

I didn’t feel like I was a human being or a woman or anything. I was just this damaged person.

Lily Morales
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"With time and more surgeries, little by little, I did come back on my own. But my face was not the same. I was disfigured. I had no real movement through my arms and my hands.

"After the attack, I spent over three years in limbo. I didn’t know what to do. I gained weight from staying in, because I didn’t want to go out. Of course, people react to you. I felt like I was being looked at as a strange thing. People had so many questions. I didn’t feel like I was a human being or a woman or anything. I was just this really, really damaged person.

"I was going through all these treatments and surgeries. I didn’t know where to go and who to ask for advice. I didn’t know any other survivors of an attack like this. It was really hard for me to find somebody to relate [to].

"But eventually, I did find one woman who helped me apply for programs where doctors volunteer their time. I didn’t really know there were people out there before. I thought everything had to come from my pocket and there was no way I could get back to the way I looked like.

"She was able to connect me to a cosmetic dentist who was willing to fix my smile. I was so embarrassed by my smile, even more than my scars. Then I was able to find a plastic surgeon who helped with the scars. I finally thought, Maybe, I can go back to my life and live it. I did it little by little.

"But beauty and makeup was something I always loved before this happened. At the time, I was blogging about beauty and watching what was going on on YouTube and Instagram. I loved to do makeup on myself, but since I damaged my hands and the nerves in them, I didn’t think I would even be able to paint my own face again. But then, slowly, I started to do it and blogging about the experience.
"Before the attack, I never sought to learn more than what I knew. It was more of a hobby. Now, I am constantly learning. I learned how to camouflage scars and use makeup to draw and focus attention to my other features.

Now whenever somebody asks, I’ll explain to her and be very honest about what happened. When I can, I also take that opportunity to speak about domestic violence

Lily Morales
"People started reaching out to me, asking me to do it professionally. I was scared, because it was going to be with strangers. I felt like I had to always explain myself [and] why I had all these scars. At the time, I was thinking about it and decided, This is my new normal right now and I need to do something with my life and do something I really like. I should just try it.

"This was six years ago. I’m a full-time makeup artist now. I work mainly with the Latino community — everyday women. Through this experience, a lot of people know about my story and I have women who follow me through social media because of my makeup and also what happened. Some of them ask me to help them with their own scarring. It’s usually from different reasons, like cancer, and not from domestic violence.

"For me, makeup artistry is not just a superficial thing. I have a sense of community with the women that follow me. Now, whenever somebody asks, I’ll explain to her and be very honest about what happened. When I can, I also take that opportunity to speak about domestic violence.”

Here are some more inspiring stories of beauty saving lives:
How Makeup Helped This Trans Woman Learn To Be Herself
The Heartbreaking Reason This YouTube Star Got Into Beauty
This Is The Most Empowering Story About Eyebrows You'll Read Today
How A Vicious Burn Attack Taught This Woman About Inner Beauty
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