When I heard that People Magazine was doing a photo spread of a number of A-list actresses without any makeup on, I was intrigued. It's not that photos of beautiful celebs without makeup are hard to find, just open any gossip rag, or do a Google search for "celebrities without makeup" and you'll see that these images are a dime a dozen. Of course, all of these pictures were taken (we can assume) without the celebrity's approval, who are usually caught by paparazzi as they're leaving the gym or buying groceries. And in most cases, the resulting pictures are not very flattering to say the least.
So I was curious to see how far these women were willing to go to show their "natural" selves. It turns out, most of them didn't do much at all. Sure, no one looked as drop dead gorgeous as usual, but aside from a few freckles, I didn't see any visible imperfections. Am I supposed to believe that these women all have perfectly even skin tone, no bags or circles under their eyes, no breakouts or dry patches, NOTHING?
Eva Longoria, paparazzi photo
The most frustrating part of the spread was the comments attached to each actress's photograph, each talking about how much they love looking natural, how they don't feel a need to impress anyone, how they've embraced all of their flaws. If that were true, why do they obviously go to such great lengths to look perfect the rest of the time? Why get so heavily made up for every occasion, why diet and exercise obsessively to stay ultra thin, why spend money on plastic surgery, $800 haircuts, stylists and image consultants if you're so happy with who you are, and have no desire to impress anyone else?
And if you're so comfortable with yourself, flaws and all, why not insist that the photographer take the picture of you as you really are, no fancy lighting or Photoshop touch-ups?
It frustrates me that our society pretends that we're so embracing of "natural" beauty, from images like these to the Dove commercials, which, as admirable as they are for showing the beauty of women of different sizes and shapes, were still created to sell you cellulite cream. Mixed messages abound, and it's hard to know what exactly we're supposed to accept (no makeup is alright, but you still need Photoshop, or being curvy is great as long as you have a beautiful face and no cellulite). And what is natural beauty anyway? If I stop going to the gym, shaving my legs and applying prescription skin creams, am I still beautiful? Was it wrong for my orthodontist to force me to wear braces, or my hairstylist to dye my hair?
I think this is something that our society is going to be grappling with for a long time, and I certainly don't know the answers myself. Feel free to give your $0.02 in the comments, I'd love to hear what your take is on all of this.