Counter Culture: Christina J. Saunders At The Brooklyn Heights MAC Cosmetics Store

Counter Culture is a new series devoted to story submissions from readers about local sales associates at makeup counters/stores who are really fantastic and/or helpful. It’s kind of like The New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary section. But about beauty, obv. 

The adorable Mares getting made up by MAC’s Christina J. Saunders in Brooklyn. Credit: Berta
The inaugural Counter Culture submission is from my former coworker Berta, about her 6 year-old daughter Mares‘ excellent experience with makeup artist Christina J. Saunders at the MAC Cosmetics store in Brooklyn Heights after a sleepwalking incident left her with a huge hematoma right before picture day at school. Here’s the story, in Berta’s words.

Years ago, when I was in college, I remember going to the west village MAC store on Gay Street and being just totally amazed at the work they did on men who were transitioning to female identities. I’d never seen anything like it. I was amazed at how much makeup could do, and also the lack of bullsh*t in the store. Not your typical makeup counter, I realized. I was new to NYC. I was barely 18. I used to go there with my little rich girl roommate and she’d walk out with $500 of makeup and I’d buy a tube of lipstick for $17 and think it was at least a step up from Wet n’ Wild. 

Anyway, fast forward 20 years. Two days before first grade picture day, my girl was sleepwalking and cracked her forehead against a wall. She hit it HARD. Immediately, a huge hematoma formed, size of a golf ball, in the center of her forehead. She looked in the mirror and was devastated by her appearance. I had no idea she cared so much about her looks, but what she said broke my heart, “I used to look so beautiful, mommy, and I ruined my face, and now I look like a monster!” I stayed up all night—I mean ALL DAMN NIGHT, holding a cold pack to her head, praying the damage wouldn’t last. By morning, it was much better, but a small cut and vertical bruise remained visible. And I knew it would mess with her head if it appeared in a photo. Of course, I knew the photographer would fix it with photoshop for a fee, but the day of, when she looked in the mirror, I knew she would go to school feeling like shit, despite all my body-positive brainwashing.

So, I called the MAC Cosmetics store in Brooklyn Heights. I was lucky to chance upon a woman named Christina Saunders on the phone, and she was patient enough to listen to my little story. And I felt so guilty, thinking of covering up my baby’s face with makeup. I didn’t know what else to do with pictures coming up the next day. And I voiced this to Christina, “I’m a horrible mom, right?” And she told me a story of when she was 6, her mom had pressed her hair for the first time the night before picture day. Feeling particularly nice, she went and looked at herself in the shiny toaster, and even kissed her own reflection, not knowing the toaster had just been used, and was hot. She sustained second-degree burns to her lips. And her mom took her to the ER, had her treated, and in the morning, let her use some lipstick to cover the trauma for a picture, explaining it was a special day. Interesting, I think, that the woman grew up to be a makeup artist.

So, we get there just before closing the night before picture day. The store was packed. And yet, Christina was so amazingly supportive and used the most sensitive language you could imagine with Mares. That was most of the work—most of the magic. Then, she matched Mares’ shade perfectly with concealer, and also gave me a setting powder. The bruise and small cut were made invisible. She even helped Mares pick out a new lip gloss from the special “princess rack” of lipglosses. Now, you know I don’t give two shits about cosmetics [Ed. note: This is true, we sat next to each other at my last full-time financial gig and we used to get in a fight a week about her refusal to give up the ’90s ghost on MAC Fetish. A beautiful shade, but not so much in 2008], but what this woman did for my Mares had nothing to do with covering up, or with makeup. It was about empowering Mares and helping her move her appearance back into the background, so that Mares could focus again on things a little girl should get to focus on. Christina made Mares’ injury a non-issue.

By the time we walked out, my baby didn’t feel like a monster. I asked Christina for her card, and of course left a note for her boss. It was a really special and human element of beauty products—reconstruction and empowerment—that enabled Christina to bring her gift to Mares. I was really touched by the way she did it, and imagined that this was going to be a memory that really was going to “stick” for my baby girl.

Anyway, RU [We call each other Ru, short for RuPaul and also Rue MacLanahan. It actually is a nickname that means rude, but it stuck.]  I thought of you. I know I crap all over beauty and cosmetics usually, but now I feel another way. This woman, Christina Saunders, is doing good things for that brand. If I were CEO, I’d break my neck to recognize her incredible way with people. I watched her with several folks, all in different stages of beauty or lack thereof, while I was there. This woman has a gift besides whatever cosmetics can offer. Really special.

Have you ever in your lifestyle read a nicer story? Definitely visit Christina if you’re in Brooklyn. I’m hoping she’s recognized for kindness and her wonderful work.  Please share other tales of amazing sales associates, Sephora cast members and beauty employees with me by emailing me at beautybloggingjunkie AT gmail. 

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