The Art Advisor Pole Dancing Her Way To Self-Acceptance


The #ITGTopShelfie interview series focuses on the beauty routines of Into The Gloss' lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Submit your own on Instagram—post your Top Shelfie (tag us @intothegloss!) and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie for a chance to be featured on ITG.

“Hi! My name is Kiara Cristina Ventura (@kiara_cristina). I’m a Dominican-American Afro-Latina curator, writer, and art advisor, and while I’m currently based in Brooklyn I was raised in the Bronx. Artsy Window is a platform I built to support the narratives of artists of color—it’s one part educational, one part curatorial, and one part art advising. Art advising is where you help collectors figure out what they’re going to purchase, and it’s a really important way to support the art markets of young, POC artists. That’s super exciting to me. I run my small business along with my wonderful intern, Abe. Before the pandemic, I focused on curating exhibitions and teaching about artists of color through a series I called AW Classroom. To stay safe during this time, I pivoted it to a podcast. I still teach virtual art history classes, but instead of curating real-life exhibitions I interview dope art world people. Right now I’m cooking up proposals for later this year because I’m getting the itch to curate.

My favorite thing about my job is going on studio visits (or virtual visits for now), connecting with artists, and getting to having intimate conversations with them. I love that I get to be a part of sharing what they do with the world. Along with my peers, I feel like I have the opportunity to really mold contemporary movements and make an impact on art history. Because of all the research I’ve done, all the art I’ve seen, and all the artists I’ve met, I have a very expansive mindset around beauty. I can see the beauty in color, the way a line is drawn, the way a surface is textured, the way mediums interact with each other, and so forth. I can see the beauty in untraditional aesthetics and narratives that go against the grain. But in terms of my own beauty and body image, it took a minute to accept my features and find the power in how they make me unique. I feel like I have come a long way.

I started experimenting with beauty in middle school, after I switched from a private Catholic school to public school. I had more options in terms of how I could present myself to the world, and beauty and fashion were exciting. But growing up, I was bullied because of my unibrow, and shaved a lot (my brows, my back, my legs, down there) because I didn’t want to be judged. I would worry about my weight, and I’d also straighten my hair at least once a month. Shaving and straightening my hair takes a lot of time in the bathroom! We’re talking hours. At a certain point I realized I didn’t like doing those things, and started questioning why I was altering how I looked to, hopefully, please other people. My perspective really shifted when I stopped shaving my unibrow—I realized how beautiful my natural features are. Now I haven’t done my eyebrows in years, and only shave my body when I want to (which means fewer ingrown hairs). I haven’t touched a flat iron since 2014. Compared to how I used to feel in my body, there’s a sense of comfort I feel with myself. That comfort helps me navigate through the world.

I’m constantly inspired by those who are breaking barriers and not giving a fuck about what other people think of how they look. So that’s the goal. I've let go of that kind of overthinking, and now I’m trying to fully accept my outer appearance along with my internal feelings. Some days that process is harder than others, and that’s okay. I just try to approach beauty with a sense of awareness and spirituality. It’s great to save time on my routine and spend it serving my body in other ways, like pole dancing, meditating, and knitting. And it’s the days where I’m careless and keep my routine super simple that I think, ‘Wow! I feel so pretty.’

Growing up, my mom would order so many magazines to our apartment—I’d read Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue and Vogue, Marie Claire, Allure, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar. My mom loves beauty and jewelry, and I just loved seeing her step into herself as she did her makeup and picked out her outfit. Expressing herself that way made her instantly feel more confident. When she was ready to head out she would ask me if she looked good, and of course I would always say, ‘Okayyyy! Work it Mom!’ In addition to watching my mom, I also loved watching Michelle Phan, Andreaschoice, Bethany Mota, Sunkissalba, Beautycrush, and Kandee Johnson on YouTube. They’re the OGs and legends.

When doing my makeup, I like to focus on my eyes by drawing a curved black line right above my crease. It's super easy and quick to do… and a minimal-yet-bold look! I’ve been sticking to it for years. My favorite products to use are They’re Real mascara from Benefit and Sephora’s Felt Tip Liner in Little Black Dress. I don’t use any foundation, but I will go in with and Tarte Concealer in Tan Sand which is unfortunately running out because I use it so much! I tend to use a product till it’s finished—then I’ll either go ahead and buy another one, or switch it out. For my cheeks I use Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam or Milk’s Lip + Cheek in Werk. As a finishing touch, I use Glossier Boy Brow. I use it more to brush and keep my thick brow hairs in place than to fill them in. I would never try the E-girl eyebrow trend where people are basically shaving off half of their brows—my brows are too precious to me!

In the morning, I love to wash my face with the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bar. I get dry skin around this time of year, and that’s really gentle. Then I moisturize with a dab of Muji’s Moisturizing Milk and Unsun SPF 30 Sunscreen. At night, I water down some Dr. Bronner's Almond soap and use that to wash my face and body. I exfoliate my face once a week with the Formula 10.0.6 One Smooth Operator Pore Clearing Face Scrub—I also use it on my armpits to prevent ingrown hairs. And then for the rest of my body, I either use the body scrub from 11:11 Body Espiritu or coffee grinds. You should not throw your used coffee grinds in the garbage! If you use them in the shower as a body scrub, your skin will feel so clean and moisturized, and you’ll smell like coffee. You’re welcome! After showering, I wipe my face with Earth to Skin Tea Time Toner on a cotton pad to get off excess makeup and dead skin. Then I moisturize with the Earth to Skin Tea Time Night Cream and mist with Trader Joe's Rose Water. It smells so yummy! I also keep a sage spray from Water Bruja on my nightstand and mist myself and the bed for some extra energy cleansing and relaxation.

I have to wash my hair every three to four days because my scalp gets so dry and I have dandruff. Especially in the winter. Right now, I’m in the process of finding the right products to soothe my condition. I’m still looking for a scalp treatment, shampoo, and conditioner I love, so in the meantime I’ve been spraying my scalp with a mix of apple cider vinegar and water. I massage that in, and then wash and condition my hair. To style, I use water and Taliah Waajid’s Curly Curl Cream. Lastly, I use Urban Hydration Honey Pro Edge Control to lay my baby hairs down.

If I’m going to relax, I need to release my excess energy first. I love to pole dance—I approach my practice with lots of stretching and breathing throughout, even when I’m climbing and doing tricks. Then I go take a hot shower. I make sure the lights are dim, light a yummy candle, and set the intention for my cleansing ritual. While I shower, I like to listen to meditation music or my favorite astrology podcast, Ghost of a Podcast by Jessica Lanyadoo. After I get out I like to eat popcorn, knit, and watch Netflix with my partner. And if I feel that I’m in the right energy that day, I’ll meditate and read my tarot cards before I go to sleep. Otherwise I’ll just drink tea and scroll away on Tiktok.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author