Brooke Blurton, AJ Clementine and Dom Skii get real about mental health & why there’s zero shame in sharing
Meet the digital creators dropping the real-life filter
Editor / May 07 2023
Embracing their roles as the faces of Maybelline’s Brave Together initiative, Brooke Blurton, AJ Clementine and Dominic Porras front our Spring ‘22 issue. As three of Australia’s brightest creator talents, here they share their personal journeys with mental health and how they take care of themselves both in the spotlight and behind closed doors.
Life in 2022 is tough; there’s no way around it. The pressure we face to stay ‘positive’ while dealing with a million daily stressors can feel insurmountable. Add a social media presence and fan base who genuinely follow your every move into the mix and the pressure only builds.
But our generation is done pretending that pressure doesn’t sometimes feel like it could break us. And so are our cover stars. Because suppressing feelings never helped anyone, crying only behind closed doors isn’t realistic, and there’s no need to put a glossy filter over the fact that everything isn’t perfect all the time.
We all know our own struggles, and so we understand that the people around us are experiencing the same feelings. The ‘embarrassment factor’ that once came along with admitting that your mental health is subject to suffering is being (rightfully) obliterated; hello, you’re human! There’s zero shame in sharing. In fact, opening up is often the only thing that holds the power to make a real and lasting positive impact.
Blurton, Clementine and Porras are at the forefront of this shift, banding together as the faces of Maybelline’s Brave Together initiative. It’s a powerful movement created in partnership with ReachOut, aiming to destigmatise the notions around anxiety and depression by encouraging brave conversations.
They’re talking the literal talk, too, having committed to one of those exact open, honest and real conversations with BEAUTYcrew, right here, right now…
DOMINIC PORRAS (AKA @DOM.SKII)
Porras vividly remembers the moment he introduced his makeup artistry to the world. “It was scary! Posting my first makeup photo gave me a sense of relief but also a feeling of the unknown,” he explains. “Putting something so vulnerable and special to me out there in the social media space opened up the possibilities of hate and discrimination. Luckily, I had such a great social media community surrounding me which boosted my confidence to keep sharing my art and make space for people like me in the industry.”
And while nobody is more deserving of said space than Porras himself, there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t feel incredibly lucky. “I’m so happy to be able to wake up every day and call my passion my job,” he says. And the passion definitely shows, with his Instagram and TikTok showcasing everything from floral face paint to Harley Quinn how-tos. “Makeup has always been such a big part of my life and being able to have a platform and know that there is someone out there who feels represented in the work that I do makes my heart so full,” he says.
“People will always be there to listen”
Needless to say, social media isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. And when asked if he ever struggles, the response is resounding: “Yes, yes and yes,” he admits. “It can really take a toll on your mental health the longer you are immersed in it. Moderation is key.”
Porras takes the responsibility of his platform seriously too, making his time online as positive as he can by filtering out negative and hateful comments on his page. “[It] not only protects me and my mental health, but also the young people that follow me.”
As for nurturing his self-worth and protecting his mental health IRL, Porras has a mantra: Pause and process. “The way I reignite confidence in myself is to pause, especially when my emotions get the best of me or self-doubt starts to have the upper hand. Pausing and processing my feelings and acknowledging where my negative emotions are coming from [is important],” he shares.
A more ‘zoomed out’ perspective can work wonders too: “I also reach out to family and friends to seek advice and look for their insight into my situation,” he adds. “I feel like every time I talk about my feelings with someone I feel safe around, it's almost kind of a release and a reminder that at the end of the day no matter what happens, people will always be there to listen and remind you that you are worthy and loved.”
“We are strong individually but we are even stronger as one”
Porras is committed to being a safe space for others as well, tailoring his approach to each individual person. “My favourite way to show up for loved ones when they are struggling is to give them all of the love languages as best I can, especially words of affirmation and acts of service. These two love languages alone, in my opinion, show that I am there and present and [serve as] a constant reminder that they are surrounded by people who love them. Sometimes being present alone is such a big help when it comes to helping someone who is struggling mental health wise.”
He wholeheartedly believes in the power of the words ‘Brave Together’, too: “We are strong individually but we are even stronger as one,” he says. “Reaching out and providing safe spaces for each other fosters spaces in our communities where we are more confident to be ourselves. [It also encourages us to] be open about aspects of life that can be scary, especially mental health.”
Practicing what he preaches, Porras shares that a recent conversation with his mum helped to ease his self-doubt. “I was expressing to her that I feel like I'm not doing enough and that I should be achieving more at where I am in life. She told me to listen and listen well, and she said ‘Do you realise how proud little Dom would be of you right now? You've come so far and the opportunities you have been a part of are amazing. The only person you should compare yourself to is your past self. Then you will be unstoppable'. That really snapped me out of feeling behind and not worthy.”
Blurton’s rise to fame (as The Bachelorette’s first bisexual and Indigenous lead) was swift and intense, a change that would challenge anyone’s mental health. But while she admits that it was a process, she’s now come to terms with her newfound career in the Aussie spotlight. “I don’t even know how I do it or how I did it,” she admits when breaking down how she handled the shift. “TV wasn’t something I thought I would be in but I feel like I’ve now learnt to love it."
“It’s now my job and every day I get to make people smile and show that they can live their authentic life. I want a life for everyone where they feel accepted, loved and seen. If I can do that in my lifetime, it doesn’t really feel like a job now does it?” Saying Blurton has ‘a job’ is playing it down, too; as a host, creator and TV personality (who’s also on the cusp of releasing her memoir, BIG LOVE), it’s clear that she’s making the most of her opportunity to reach others.
“Some things might feel big now, but you will not worry about them in 10 years”
It can be easy for the lines between your career and your life to become blurred when you love what you do — a lesson Blurton learnt the hard way. “I think there have been points in my career when social media felt very overwhelming and demanding but then I learnt about having boundaries, meaning that I now treat it like a business. I invest my time into it when I need to and when I don’t, I don't. I take my own personal time. It's called balance, and it's really important to have boundaries.”
It’s easy to give in to a ‘bad day’ after a bad hour or so, but Blurton is committed to calling time on negativity and pressing refresh, even if it means a midday ‘restart’ rinse. “If I’m having a bad day, I will have a shower and reset and start again,” she shares. “I find immersing myself into water: the shower, the ocean or the pool, always helps me re-energise. I grew up in the ocean, so for me it's how I start my day and it’s how I end my day: feeling refreshed, energised for a new start.”
And hey, even if it doesn’t do the trick and you feel the bad feelings building, try and remember that negative emotions can be temporary, and you won’t necessarily feel this way forever. “[An important lesson for me was] realising things pass,” Blurton explains. “I was once told that by a teacher and it made me think about how some things might feel big now, but you will not worry about them in 10 years. So I try to incorporate that into my life.”
“It’s okay to be a mess”
That’s not to say she pushes feelings away, though, even if they do feel negative. “I also try to validate my feelings. If I feel sad or feel tired, allowing my body to tell me what it needs [is key]. [I try] listening to it and returning the favour it has asked, meaning maybe taking a sneaky nap if needed.” Smart; on top of the fact that a tired brain makes every emotion feel more overwhelming, naps are damn delightful and a great way to hopefully wake up with a little bit of a refreshed perspective.
At the end of the day, Blurton wants to remind you to give yourself some grace. Forcing yourself to be ‘strong’ (or what we’ve been taught it looks like) actually isn’t that strong at all, and Blurton wishes she could let her younger self know that. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” she would tell her. “I always felt like I needed to have my sh** together constantly and it's okay to be a mess.” That’s exactly what ‘Brave Together’ means to her – it’s all about redefining the outdated ideas of ‘brave’. “It’s about showing up for yourself and for others. It’s being courageous. It's knowing what you are capable of and breaking the glass ceiling.”
The way that she shows up for others? “Making them laugh,” she shares. “I love seeing them smile and have fun, so if any of my loved ones are feeling down, I’ll organise a fun activity where we can distract ourselves and be present. I will always bring out the dad jokes to make it even more corny. I think my other way is also just going for a massive walk and letting them talk their feelings out.”
For Clementine, she’s most proud of the positive progress she’s been able to help build, especially for the trans community. She describes the experience of showcasing her true (and stunning) self on social media for the first time as “exhilarating”.
“There was very little positive visibility in mainstream media, and people were so surprised to learn about a trans person’s experiences,” she shares. Since then, she’s gone on to expand her presence tenfold, flourishing as a cross-platform creator, cultivating the ultimate Disney Princess wardrobe, and even penning Girl, Transcending, a beautifully raw and honest autobiography.
“I keep my energy protected and positive”
Of course, there can be an underbelly of anything, and it’s important to shield your own mental health from negativity where possible. “Social media can get really toxic for me when I get too caught up in it,” Clementine explains, naming creativity as one of her escapes. “Making sure I’m creative on my own terms and staying true to who I am is the way I keep my energy protected and positive.”
“Since then, I feel like it’s getting much better. There’s still work to be done but I’m glad I won’t have to do it alone,” she adds. It’s that theme – of not doing it alone – that defines the ‘Brave Together’ movement for Clementine. “It means to surround yourself with a good support system, people who uplift you and are the chosen family who make you feel divine,” she says.
She reciprocates that feeling, too, providing support to her friends and family whenever needed. “My love language is acts of service, so the way I show love is by helping them out with anything they need. I find joy in giving them a break and taking any pressure off their shoulders” — something she wishes she could also go back and do for her younger self. “[If I could, I’d] tell them who I am so I wouldn’t have to struggle with trying to understand my identity.”
“My dreams are achievable even if no one else believes in them”
Blessedly, it’s her support system and the relationships she nurtures that Clementine finds her own comfort and happiness in. “Surrounding myself with the people I love [brings me joy],” she shares. “They never fail to pull me out of a slump and cheer me up.” And when she needs a little extra serotonin boost, she spends time in other worlds, enjoying a stint of healthy escapism. “[I also turn to] my favourite films,” she adds. “I love how they make me feel and I can always rely on them to bring me joy.”
Another form of escapism that can prove quite powerful? Visualising the future you want to build — a lesson Clementine learnt through an honest and reflective conversation with a beloved family member. “My ate (aunty) Zeny told me that my dreams are achievable even if no one else believes in them. She has always reminded me of who I am and even though she lives in the Philippines, she continues to give me strength.” See what opening up a dialogue can do? Magic.
Delaney Loane is BEAUTYcrew's Editor (and resident cateye connoisseur). An expert in everything from sensitive skin solutions to lip oil options that won't leave your hair permanently attached to your face, her words have also appeared across mastheads such as ELLE and marie claire.