This was it. The day was finally here. Ever since I won the tickets, I had been dreaming of this day. I remember it like it was yesterday, the sound of the phone ringing and the increase in my heart rate as I ran for it. I remember the look on my mother’s face when I almost knocked over her favorite vase and the sheer joy I felt when I finally picked up the ringing phone. When the husky voice on the phone said that I won, I was so excited I screamed. Me, of all the people who entered the nationwide contest to tour a makeup plant, it was me who was chosen.
That was almost a month ago. I had woken up this morning bursting at the seams with glee. I had stayed up way past my bedtime the night before choosing the perfect outfit for today. If a girl was going to tour an ever trendy cosmetics plant, she had to look her absolute best there was no question about it. I had tried on everything in my closet and made my mother watch as I paraded around like I was a model.
Ultimately I had settled on a cute white dress with a small but colorful floral pattern. I wanted to go sleeveless, as the dress was meant to be worn, but my mother insisted I wear something over my shoulders. After a few days of being mad at her; refusing to do my chores, speak to her, or come out of my room, I realized I wasn’t going to win this battle. I relented and agreed to wear a sparkly black, short sleeved, bolero over top of the dress.
I was up before the sun that morning. I spent two hours just working on my hair and then another 45 minutes doing my makeup. Today everything had to be perfect. I needed the perfect hair and makeup, to go with the perfect dress, for a perfect day touring my favorite makeup company. I grabbed a quick piece of fruit on my way out the door and headed to the bus stop.
When I won the tickets, I had hoped my mom would take me but she wasn’t able to get off work. Adults just don’t understand how important something like this is to a young girl like me. Apparently touring a makeup plant is not a legitimate reason to get the day off work.
After a lot of consideration I decided I would ride the bus, which my mother had so kindly offered to pay for. I decided I would get off a stop before the plant so no one would know I had taken the bus. Better they think I walked than rode public transit if you ask me.
When the bus finally arrived I felt like dancing. I fluttered up the steps, dropped in my money, and picked a seat near the front. I wanted to have the absolute best view of where we were going. After I sat down I found that I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I picked at my nails, played with my hair, and bounced my legs up and down.
Eventually, I had to force myself to stop for fear of wrecking my hair, smudging my makeup, or wrinkling my dress. I tried to focus on the buildings and the people we passed. I tried to recite the alphabet backwards and replace the words of my favorite song to make it funnier. Nothing worked. I tried everything I could think of to try and calm myself down and take my mind off my eagerness. I did not want to appear as a crazy person, but I was too excited. So I kept on fidgeting the whole way there.
As we neared the manufacturing plant I was shocked at how large the place was. It took up the whole block at least, possibly even more than that since I couldn’t see all the way to the back of the building. As I stared for a moment, trying to take in the massive sight, my eyes were drawn to a large crowd that was formed out front of the building.
I could tell even from the distance that they were all holding signs and walking in circles. I found this mildly curious but when the bus came to a stop I was so overwhelmingly excited to go get started that I brushed it off without much thought. Muttering a quick thank you as I passed the driver, I bounced down the steps of the bus and out the door.
It took less than five minutes to walk the rest of the block towards the plant. I became slightly distracted by the crowd of people as I neared them but was snapped instantly back to the awaiting tour when I saw the world famous makeup artist, Sarah, step out of the building. My heart instantly started to pound. It was so loud I could hear, as well as feel it all the way up into my ear. When she spoke it was with such power and confidence, the likes of which I could only dream of possessing.
I stared at her in awe only vaguely registering the words that she was giving voice to. I focused hard on trying to slow my heart rate for fear that someone would hear it. I could not believe that one of the best artists from the entire company was here to personally greet us and guide us through the tour.
Everyone started heading for the doors of the makeup manufacturing plant and I quickly followed along. When I stepped through the door my breath was taken away. The glorious clean and bright space was amazing. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I felt like I was dreaming. The walls were white and fresh, the ceiling high and dramatic, and the counter in the center was a stunning black marble that seemed to twinkle in the sunlight.
The whole group of us, a good twenty or thirty I would guess, took several minutes to soak up the beauty that surrounded us. Sarah was speaking again I realized quickly but I was too lost in the room to hear a single word. My eyes darted from one side to the other. I was trying to forever etch the memory into my brain. This would be a day I would never forget.
After everyone had been introduced and a few photos were snapped we were on the move and quickly being ushered down a long hallway. I did my best to take in every sight and sound as we went, carefully inspecting every room and peeking into every closed door.
As we walked, I trailed along towards the end of the group while we went from room to room down this hall and that. I found myself extremely surprised at the size of the building and couldn’t help feeling completely impressed. It really was a truly beautiful building, even if the outside did look like a regular dirty old processing plant.
We went through an endless parade of board rooms and meeting rooms. We even got to see the lunch room where Sarah herself ate lunch every day. Then finally we got to the more interesting stuff. We came upon a large room full of counters from end to end. Spread across each counter there were thousands of test tubes and glass beakers of all different shapes and sizes.
They were filled with powders that were every colour you could possible imagine. From red to pink, blue to green, purple to orange and every possible shade in between. It literally looked like a rainbow had exploded all over the place and someone had scooped up the goo and powdered it.
We stopped and Sarah began talking. We spent more time here than in any other room we had been in. It made sense to me as this was where the magic happened. I found myself becoming oddly restless as my eyes were drawn towards a big steel door at the very back of the room. I made my way around the crowd to get as close as I could without actually pulling away from them.
The door had no windows but it did have huge signs on it warning that no one was to enter without permission. It was a restricted area Sarah told us sternly when she noticed I had wandered over to it. She refused to elaborate on the subject and I found myself wondering why, after everything we had seen, after everything they had already shown us, there was a restricted room right in the middle of the most interesting part of the whole tour.
Suddenly I felt an undeniable urge to find out what was behind that door. If Sarah wouldn’t tell me I would just have to find out for myself. I walked around the room a few times; keeping my eyes peeled for somewhere I could hide and wait for the door to be opened. With all the lights and keypads around it I knew there was no way I was getting in on my own and knew I would have to wait for the perfect opportunity to sneak inside.
After three laps around the room I noticed a table that was covered with a big black cloth. I thought it was be the perfect place to hide as I would have a direct line right into the room when the door opened. I glanced around to make sure everyone was engaged by Sarah and not watching the potentially illegal thing I was about to do. When I was confident no one would see I quickly ducked under the table as quietly as I could. I held my breath for as long as I possibly could just waiting for someone to come grab me and throw me out of the building. No one did however and I slowly let my breath out.
It took me a while to settle into a position that seemed somewhat comfortable. The space under the table was low and forced me into a half laying half sitting position. I had no idea how long I would have to wait. It seemed like hours passed before the voices from group began to fade away and I could tell the room was emptying.
It was hard to tell exactly when they left with it being so dark under the table. I wondered to myself how long it would take for the mysterious door to be opened and silently scolded myself for being so stupid to try such a reckless thing.
As I waited in the silence I tried to entertain myself several ways. I started by making up stories in my head. I tried to guess what was behind the door. I imagined all sorts of things, from a top secret colour that no one had seen before, to the next big thing for their most famous line, and even a completely new type of foundation that rolled all the layers of makeup application into one process. When I got bored with that and could some up with no more sensible scenarios I played with my hair, twisting and braiding and untwisting and re-braiding it until my fingers were sore.
A clutter above startled me and I froze instantly. I had been so distracted by my hair I hadn’t heard the footsteps or the faint rattling of glass jars on the table above me. I hoped that this was it and the wait would be over. I feared whoever was above me would hear my panicked breath and discover me. I forced myself to relax.
Please let someone be about to open the door I prayed. I couldn’t take much more of this silent waiting as the lower half of my body was asleep and tingly. Even with how determined I was feeling, I was more uncomfortable than I had ever been in m entire life. I could hear light footsteps getting closer to my hiding spot and my body went tense and rigid.
Suddenly I could hear faint beeping noises as the buttons on the keypad for the steel door were being pushed. I thought I could hear the whimper of a small animal but assumed I was not hearing the sound right due to the uncomfortable position I had been laying in. I took a deep breath and rushed out from under the table the minute I heard the door click.
I bolted right towards the door and barreled right into the person opening the door. We fell into the room with a crash. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the suddenly blinding light after being in the dark under the table for so long. The woman I knocked over screamed as my sight began to clear and I was able to get a good look around.
I was horrified at what I saw. The room was lined with cages upon cages full of small animals. Inside was everything from mice and bunnies to squirrels and even small cats. In the middle there were counters similar to the ones in the room I had just come from but these counters were not lined with colourful glass beakers.
Instead they had animals strapped down on them, several bunnies, two cats, and what I thought was a mouse. His eyes were red and puffy, with crusty yellow stuff around them, and nearly all of his fur had fallen off so it was difficult to tell for sure. All the animals had crusty yellow goop surrounding their eyes, mouths, and noses.
My heart ached in my chest and I felt tears start to sting my eyes. All the animals on the table had wires attached to several places on their small bodies. The ones who still had fur had patches missing all over and several of them had big gaping wounds.
My eyes were drawn further down the counter where several bunnies were strapped into an odd looking block of sorts. They were cramped together with only their heads sticking out. It reminded me of a movie I once saw where someone was punished for stealing by being sent to the stocks and having rotten fruit and vegetables thrown at them as a form of humiliation. It broke my heart.
I doubled over and retched right there on the floor. The bombardment of smells and the awful noises coming from the cages was too much for me to handle. I ran from the room, once again knocking over the woman who had opened the door. She was frantically screaming into a phone, I assumed to security, as I plowed past her. I ran and ran and ran until I could run no more.
However, the place was too big and I was too lost to find my way out. I sank to the floor, cradled my head on my knees and sobbed. I couldn’t believe it. How could one of the biggest makeup companies in the world participate in animal testing? How could they be so cruel? How was it possible for them to be able to cover it up so well?
I had loved this makeup since I was old enough to know what makeup was. I had raved about it to anyone and everyone who would listen. There would be no more of that, my faith in the brand forever lost and tainted.
Slowly the tears began to dry up and I could cry no more. Now that I was able to think a bit more clearly I was angry. I was angrier than I had ever felt in my entire life. I looked around hoping for some indication of where I was in this massive torturing plant when I heard firm voices coming from the end of the hallway.
I was suddenly reminded of the group of people I had seen on my way in. I carefully stood up, wiped the tears from my cheeks, and brushed the dirt from my clothes. I started jogging down the hall, being mindful of the signs, towards the exit.
When I finally reached the exit I rushed out the doors and marched directly over to the group of protesters. Everything was suddenly starting to make sense. People did know their dirty little secret and those people were working hard to put an end to it.
I was reading some of their signs, lost in my own thoughts of how I could help to make a difference, when the protesters noticed me. An older lady was first to notice that I had been crying and was desperately trying to hold the new round of tears back. She came over to me and gave me the biggest hug I had ever received.
When I pulled away from her, she let her arms linger on my shoulders. She looked me right in the eyes and held my gaze for several moments before dropping her arms, heaving her sign back onto her shoulder, and returning to the circle. Before I even l knew what I was doing, I walked over to the fence surrounding the plant, picked up a sign, and joined the protest.