Rita Lynn Lester is a makeup artist and video blogger who gives makeup tutorials on Facebook Live. And while she does them, she talks about her past as a domestic abuse survivor.
But for many years, no one knew what was really going on.
She told Dearly that because of the control the abuser had over her life, she used makeup to cover her bruises and to cover for him. People in her life didn’t even know that she was undergoing the abuse.realritalynn/Facebook
“Outside of my relatives and his relatives, no one knew because I had gotten so good at hiding it. I had gotten so good at faking… I got so good at living in the shadow, I got so good at lying about it, it just flowed very naturally. Nobody knew. And I hated that about myself.”
Based in Dallas, Texas, Lester met her partner at the age of 15 and would stay with him for the next 13 years. Throughout that time, he physically abused her, the intensity of the abuse escalating with every passing year.
In an interview with NBC 5, Lester explained how it developed over time:
“It started out small. Maybe he would raise his voice, or he went from raising his voice to slapping me or choking me. And it went from choking to punching and kicking, and then restraining. And then there were hospital visits, a couple of miscarriages. It got pretty bad.”
Not only was she physically abused, the power and control that her partner exerted over her took a toll on her mentally and emotionally. Lester told Dearly:
“Pieces of me slipped away each year I stayed with him. I didn’t even know who I was, and who I was without him because he had so much control over me and my feelings… Because for so long, when I was with him, I almost felt invisible… I didn’t know how to exist without him. I almost felt like his shadow. People don’t understand that when you’re that low… It’s like walking around in limbo.”
The last straw for her was when her partner hit her so hard, she was knocked unconscious and her infant daughter flew out of her arms. There were many reasons for her leaving her partner but according to Rita, it came down to protecting her three children.
She did leave him and even after a month apart from him, she could already feel a tremendous difference. For the first time in 13 years, she did not have a bruise on her face. And makeup took on new meaning for her, especially using vividly-colored makeup.
“The minute you leave, things just look different. They smell different… You have this air about you, it just feels so good, and I think that’s what makeup is for me… I want to say it was like dying and coming to life all over again. The colors even looked different… it looks like life. It’s like after you’ve been living in the dark… for so long and you have these bright colors that just speak to you… That’s why I really love makeup, I’ve seen makeup be death for me, but I’ve also seen makeup be life.”
Lester met her current husband Brandon, who’s a photographer, when she was searching on Facebook for someone to make a portrait of her then 10-month-old daughter’s portrait. The two hit it off, dated, and eventually got married.realritalynn/Facebook
Things were starting to look up for her, but because of trauma from the abuse, she suffered from night terrors.
“It was so bad to the point I’d be crying in my sleep or I might be fighting in my sleep, or have a dream and I’d wake up screaming, and then my husband would be screaming, then the kids would be screaming. It had this really bad trickle down effect.”
Brandon told her that she needed to seek professional help, but Lester was hesitant about speaking to a therapist. Instead, she opted to use Facebook Live as a platform to share her story for the first time and decided to combine it with one of her passions— makeup.realritalynn/Facebookrealritalynn/Facebook
The response to her videos has been overwhelmingly positive; Rita found that the more she shared with others, the more views she got, which by now are in the thousands. She has the uncanny ability to invite viewers into an intimate space that is both personal and safe, creating an environment where women can talk about their abuse free of judgment.
Domestic abuse survivors have reached out to her and shared their own experiences, and women still dealing with abuse started asking her for advice. Lester realized that not only were her videos helping her heal, but they were also helping others change their lives.
Lester did receive some criticism for speaking out about her abuse, but she wasn’t going to let it stop her. What she was doing was too important.
Lester talked about that with Dearly:
“Not everyone receives it well. Some people say it’s not the time and place to talk about it. I want to make people so uncomfortable that they have no choice but to say something.”
Authenticity has become a foundation for her brand, which is why she calls herself “Real Rita Lynn.” Whereas in the past Lester used makeup to cover her bruises and hide the shame she felt, she now uses it as an outlet to empower herself and the women around her.realritalynn/Facebook
“You should be able to look in the mirror and see you and know who you are. And now I can talk about it and … I’m genuinely, one-hundred-percent, authentically being me.”
You can follow Lester on Facebook and other social media platforms under the name “realritalynn.”