Is it ever a good thing to be described as ‘unrecognisable’ without your makeup on? This week that’s how pop star Christina Aguilera has been labelled, as her bare faced cover for Paper magazine went viral. For nearly 20 years now, we’ve only ever seen Aguilera heavily coloured in, so this was quite a surprise, if not a welcome, departure.
For the first time we see her serious, pale blue eyes without any overpowering black eye-liner or lash extensions or smokey-eye techniques. We see a light sprinkling of freckles on her nose and cheekbones, no full coverage foundation or dark brown contouring. There’s no statement lip colour, no lip liner outside the lip line trickery. It’s all perfectly natural looking. She looks ethereal, like a little fairy.
“I’ve always been someone that obviously loves to experiment, loves theatrics, loves to create a storyline and play a character in a video or through stage,” the 38 year old mum of two told Paper Magazine. “I’m a performer, that’s who I am by nature. But I’m at the place, even musically, where it’s a liberating feeling to be able to strip it all back and appreciate who you are and your raw beauty.”
On the catwalk, designers like Simone Rocha are also opting for pared back beauty, no eyeliner, no enhanced brows, no strong lip colour – again, rather enchanting. Of course be under no doubt, there’s still make-up involved, it’s just less of a mask and more of a way to enhance your features.
So let’s clock up what we’re dealing with in the Fakery Department these days: Fake hair, fake tan, fake boobs, fake bums, fake nails, tattooed eyebrows, lash extensions, contouring everywhere, Botox, lip fillers and the latest, clip on veneers.
Let’s be clear, I’m not pointing the finger. I love a bit of fakery myself. After six years of broken sleep, concealer is my best friend. I adore the transformative magic of makeup. It’s just, you’d have to wonder why we’re compelled to go through such lengths to pretend we’re something we’re not. Are we insecure?
Dare I say it, but the porn industry has a lot to do with much of this paraphernalia and somehow it has seeped into popular culture thanks to beauty influencers like the Kardashians and their blow up doll aesthetic. As Amy Schumer said on Saturday Night Live: “Is that a great message for little girls? A whole family who take the faces they were born with as a light suggestion?”
So where’s the balance in all of this? Where do you balance the freedom to do whatever the hell you like with your face and body against the pressure to conform to a certain beauty ideal? Remember the reaction when Hillary Clinton decided to forgo her usual hair and makeup look in her first speech after being defeated by Donald Trump in November 2016.
Apart from the expected, ‘She looks crap’ brigade, there was strong support for this stance, which was widely seen as a middle finger to the patriarchy. Why didn’t she do this during the campaign? If anything, Donald Trump winning the race certainly ignited a new feminist mood and make-up, whether you like it or not, has become political too.