Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Stars Without Makeup...Right...

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, without makeup in this week's issue

Eva Longoria, paparazzi photo

I believe People when they say that they did not use makeup on the women. But as any perceptive person knows, photographs lie. Lighting, posing and blurring are easy ways to hide flaws and make anyone look more attractive, without applying a drop of concealer. Upload the shot onto Photoshop, and with a few clicks of the mouse, you can entirely change someone's appearance. After all that, we're expected to valorize these women who have the "guts to take it off," "who dare to go bare?"

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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Meg, that was very well put. Celebrities bank on their face's money in the bank literally. So why not show them in "natural looking" poses that are supposed to make us, the reading public, feel like it's okay to not be as glamorous as they usually appear in these magazines. It's a psychology trick...aimed at creating an identifying factor for women outside the arena of mass fame. In other words, if Eva Longoria can express a more casual side of herself without worrying that the public will find her less glamorous or Hollywood-worthy... then you too should live by a standard that celebrates the core person you are. We don't know these stars personally, so their touched-up natural looking photos will have to convince you of the idea.

sparkler said...

Well said.

I looked at those pictures and thought for a second what I would look like photographed without makeup, and become unable to really buy it. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if "no makeup" meant "no enhancing makeup," with allowances made for foundation and such. Because aside from Drew Barrymore I really don't think any of them have skin that perfect. Who does?!

And as someone who just this year accepted my hair in it's naturally curly state and stopped straightening... it is a weird dichotomy. Because I still use gel and a diffuser everyday, lest my hair get *too* natural (read: frizzy), and I still hide my blonde eyelashes with mascara, etc. The whole "natural beauty" thing is only half-honest, even to non-celebrities.

Jenn said...

I agree with much of what you said in your entry, along with the comments some others have made. I've recently tried to cut back on my daily make-up routine, hoping I'd become more comfortable with looking natural but the more I see these "natural" photos and commercials, the more disappointed I get with my own results (and the more ice cream I tend to eat!)

Basically, I think these natural beauty campaigns have the opposite effect. It further propogates the idea that celebrities are somehow different and better than the rest of us, because after all, look how flawless they are even without make-up (spare me.)

MLE said...

My fiance and I were talking about something related to this recently. He's an artist and a graphic design major and currently taking a couple of digital art classes (learning to use photoshop, illustrator, etc.) And I realized during the discussion that I just don't trust any photos anymore - at all. Even the Dove ones. Because there aren't ANY photos pubished anymore that aren't retouched or photoshopped in some way, and I don't know that the general public realizes this. Even without makeup, of COURSE the magazine is going to gussy up the photos - because that's what sells magazines, "perfect" photos of perfect celebrities. I really think that's a major contributor to our recent fixation on plastic surgery and why so many people have variations on eating/body dysmorphic disorders - the people we see in the movies, on TV, and in magazines, aren't REAL because of the ability to retouch and photoshop, but we think they're real, and there's just no way most of us are ever going to look like that, makeup or no.

Jess said...


You hit the nail on the head. If only the article had been called, "Stars Without Makeup AND Photoshop." :-)

I shoot & retouch for a living and MLE, I can confirm--there is not a single photograph in the commercial sphere that hasn't been highly stylized with PS.

Sad, but true.

Not even the models look like the models.

lisa said...

I agree with most of what has been said about perfect images being able to sell more. However, by making the celebrities look more flawless than they actually are through Photoshop, People magazine plays on the magazine-consumer dynamic as well as the magazine-celebrity dynamic. When you actually pick up an issue, it's a sycophantic publication that extols the virtues of the celebs inside and is always careful not to overstep boundaries and do anything that can be construed as libel. Unlike the tabloids, by playing it safe, People magazine ensures it keeps good relationships with the celebs portrayed inside, which in turn ensures that it has access to juicy stories in the future.

Oh Meg, by the way, I love your blog! I discovered it about a month ago and can't stop reading. =)

Libby said...

As a makeup artist, people are ALWAYS asking me for the "natural" look. In the begining I thought that meant, "not a lot of makeup." But I soon came to understand, it means "blend the makeup well, so you can't tell I was sitting at the makeup artists place for 45 minutes getting drop dead gorgeous."

The Mommanista said...

Oh yeah, they all have perfectly flawless naturally shine free skin with no powder or air-brushing!! Sure.

Well said Meg!!!

Ambs said...

It's that, and more... notice how some of the pictures are in black and white? Way to go to mask any imperfections. I really don't now why they bother.

knoxwhirled said...

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

Yeah, it always burns me when celebrities say stuff like this. It's not enough that they have endless $$$ and staff to look perfect--they have to act like they don't really need it (physically or emotionally.) Utter crap.

Rapunzel said...

Meg, I'm very glad you are addressing this article. When I first read it, I actually thought back to the Eva Longoria Pic that you posted here of what she really looks like without makeup.

I was completely unimpressed with the photos of celebrities in the magazine. It was completely obvious how much had been changed and no one looked truly "natural". I don't care who you are. Unless you are completely made of plastic, you will have some sort of visible flaw. For instance, I have what people would call "flawless skin". I'm quite fond of it and love that I can run around wearing absolutely no foundation. However, I still get those under eye circles just like everyone else, and even at 21 with perfect skin; if you look closely enough you can still see tiny little lines. These "imperfections" are what make us real and not a dehumanized caricature of perfection.

The fact that there were black and white pictures also added to my dismay. One of the attributes of black and white photography is that it masks imperfections. If that's not "make up" I don't know what is. There's no sense in bearing it all unless you really bear it all. All this article did is convince me that there is nothing "natural" about the images of these women and if they really think that this is what they look like "naturally" then they are just as deluded as their photographs.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for articulating so brillantly what all of us 'normal' people thought when reading that article! When People magazine wants to do another feature on stars without makeup and PHOTOSHOPPING (is that a word?) maybe I will give them props. Until then, the props are all yours. <3

franki durbin said...

I thought the same thing when I thumbed through the photos. I workin Photoshop every day, and there is no end to the amount of post-shoot upgrades you can make to one's appearance. Lighting, angles, black and white photography - all black room secrets the pros know so well. Black and white does wonders to hide imperfections and skin irregularities.

Seeing the photos made me feel worse about my 'unmadeup' self. This is beauty the equivalent of stars/celebs telling us they eat In & Out burgers every day for lunch.

Emily said...

It's all about the money and often how they look is controlled by others. I have to wonder if loving the natural look has something to do with being under their own control.

Colleen said...

I hope next time someone takes a picture of me looking natural, there happens to be one of those giant fans around to make my hair look "just so".

Anonymous said...

You took the words out of my mouth.
I thought the same things when I saw those photos.
Some of the other stars are even more obvious than Eva (that they've had something or other done to enhance themselves).
It's simply degrading to the rest of us.

[a} said...

Yes, there ARE mixed messages, but I think we need to realize that a celebrity's beauty, natural or not, *aura,* etc., is a huge factor for a successful career. Actresses must project an unreal, fantastic beauty, for this purpose. Why get all riled up over Photoshopped, retouched, airbrushed, falsely flawless pictures? It is all part of Hollywood's illusion.

This is why it's pointless to compare ourselves to those prettified illusions within magazines.

Natural beauty is distinct & separate from anything stars may claim to. Yes, they are beautiful, but their physical selves have been enhanced to project that. I think the current obsession with celebrities is more harmful to us than anything. A whole culture has been created that is a wilderness of illusions & we can't get beyond that, it seems.

The job of these actresses--well, a small part of their job--is to keep up that entertainment, keep audiences interested...

The purpose of our "normal" lives is not to project an illusion, a fantasy. So why worry over the same things they must--eyelash extensions, liposuction, porcelain teeth, rhinoplasty, masks of makeup, etc--when it doesn't do as much for us?

[a} said...

Another thing I wanted to say is, as everyone knows:

even their "naturalness" is affected, artificial,

completely fake!

Anonymous said...

I remember reading this article and thinking "Yeah RIGHT, no makeup my a$$!" They are quite obviously airbrished and altered to look perfect with no makeup.

Just for fun, I took pictures of myself with and without makeup and played with them on photoshop...and in the photos I altered completely, blurring them and airbrushing my own skin as well as defining some lines and erasing all flaws...I looked almost as good as the celebrities do! Just goes to show how even a "plain, normal looking" woman such as myself can be that beautiful with enough help!

I think it's kind of horrible how these "natural beauty" campaigns trick women and even young girls into feeling even worse about ourselves, because these stars are quite obviously being made to look like they are naturally "perfect" when perfect doesn't even exist.