Vancouver Queer Film Festival short explores makeups power to transform

I Am Me, showing in The Coast is Queer program at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival at York Theatre in Vancouver, Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $14, queerfilmfestival.ca/film/the-coast-is-queer-2019.

Jazmine Smith knows about the transformative powers of makeup.

Growing up as a trans woman in Flying Dust First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, Smith felt different from the other kids. While boys her age were busy roughing it out in the mud with their action figures, she remained preoccupied with the finer details of makeup and its ability to enhance, hide or reveal. She may have outwardly passed as male at the time, but she wasn’t.

“I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t like everyone else,” states Smith, in a scene from her short film, I Am Me, showing at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival next week. She would end up discovering later on that her passion for makeup was the inspiration she needed to truly, fully transition – and in the process become the person she knew she already was.

Now residing in North Vancouver with her husband, Smith is triumphant when talking about her own personal journey and excited to share her story with others when her four-minute film shows as part of the festival’s local shorts program, The Coast Is Queer, on Aug. 22.

 “When I came up with the idea of the film it was because I wanted other people to know and hear about my story.”

After moving to Saskatoon as a teenager and attending hair school, Smith then took her beauty talents across the country to Calgary – and that’s when she started transitioning, she explains.

“It was definitely a struggle because people looked at you and treated you differently. I was already used to it. … I was always picked on.”

But after experimenting with makeup she realized she had a knack for it. “People were saying, ‘Wow, you look really good. You should keep doing this.”

She went to makeup school in Calgary and started her own business, Transendence Beauty. At first the business had no clear direction – she was essentially a freelance makeup artist — but eventually she gained a reputation for doing makeup for transgender women and drag queens. She had discovered her purpose.

“I started opening it up to the LGBTQ community and then a lot of trans people started coming to me,” says Smith. “It felt really good to know that I wasn’t only just helping them feel good about themselves. Some of them would message me on my Facebook page or my Instagram and ask for advice.”

She also helps run a jewelry and apparel business called Grizzly Turtle Jewelry and Art with her husband.

With Smith’s film, which was created with support by Wapikoni Mobile, a non-profit organization that hosts educational workshops and film screenings to raise awareness and educate the public about Indigenous cultures, she hopes to impart a greater sense of understanding when it comes to the experience of trans women. The film shows Smith sounding off on her life story while applying makeup to another person interspersed with scenes of domestic bliss between her and her husband.

As she states near the end of her film: “I want to encourage transgender people to never give up. Find your passion, live your truth. And love yourself.”