Last Sunday night I was half invested in the MTV video music awards that were on while I was washing the dishes and preparing lunches for Monday morning when I suddenly paused at seeing Alicia Keys walk on stage. Not because of a racy outfit choice or a controversial political rant - the kind of far out radical highlights we've come now to expect with such events, - but because something about her seemed to be radiating so much light from within I literally couldn't turn away. Yes, she's a beautiful woman and looks fabulous at every award show I've ever seen her at, yes she's stylish and talented beyond most, but this time, I couldn't put my finger on what it was that set her apart. My first thought was how fresh faced her makeup looked. The shine on her cheekbones illuminated, the glow of her dark eyes softly stunning. A scatter of gorgeous freckles I never knew were there amidst features so ripe they broke through the harsh light of a televised stage and proved somehow more titillating that even the skimpiest outfits in regular rotation that night competing for highest shock value.
Later, somewhere on the late night scours of social media I saw someone post a photo of Keys praising her for "finally doing what males on the red carpet have been doing now for ages." Being bare faced in front of the whole world at a major televised event. A stance some argue isn't necessarily something we should applaud. Because women have always had the right to wear makeup or not, but I would disagree. The standards of beauty have and continue to threaten to cheapen our strengths as women who might find ourselves struggling to secure a sense of confidence in an age of rampant botox, fillers, silicone and airbrushing that lead us to believe the act of aging itself is something to be shamed, fixed, fine tuned or adjusted. So yes, I think a celebrity of her status and exposure, facing the world without a stitch of makeup is brave and inspiring. Tilda Swan and Frances McDormand did it at the Oscars before her and were both ripped apart for looking tired and unkept. Criticized for showing up wearing their real faces just like every male actor has been praised and allowed to do so forever.
And then yesterday I came across a long standing teenage idol of mine looking nearly unrecognizable in a magazine after what I'm guessing has been a series of surgical procedures through the years that have stripped Mrs. Amos of just about every feature I grew up adoring. A face and talent I spent all those years admiring because of a confidence and uniqueness that set her apart from the rest. Who's face now looks just as tight, sculpted and taunt as every other well off Beverly Hills socialite on the scene trying to escape the marks of time. I miss the old Tori. Which is not to undercut the desire for plastic surgery. I get wanting to fix things we feel might help us feel more confident. By all means, o what makes you happy. What I don't understand is the media constantly making us feel like we aren't worth as much when we choose to expose ourselves with evidence of real age & flaw. To say that one version is more appealing than the other.
As for my own relationship with makeup -I've never been big on it. As a teenager, when the beauty routines of my friends grew more extravagant in product, layers and expertise, I remained mostly uninterested. The basis of my experimentation being a tube of dime store mascara and the quick occasional compact press to help soak up the oils of problematic teenage skin. (Although there was a brief (slightly gross) fling with body sparkles that I know at some point my sophmore year I was guilty of consistently abusing) But I saw the girls with the foundation caked like war paint and could never understand why anyone blessed with the good fortune of clear, vibrant skin (unlike my own) would want to cover it up with cheap orange tint of cover girl branded solutions. I was in the minority. In high school we wore makeup because we could. Because it made us feel grown up, and helped mask the pieces of our girlhood we were still trying our best to eclipse. Lips lined in Mac Spice, insecurities blotted by white powder applied and reapplied in thin hopes we could get closer to the women we wanted to be with each new layer we put on.
Through the years my interest in makeup has peaked and waned. Every couple of years or so I still get the urge to put on red lipstick simply because I like the idea of it. Because I like women in red lips but always end up feeling slightly paralysed when I try it. Meaning I can't ever seem to eat or talk like a regular person while wearing it. And so it tends to defeat the whole purpose for having it on in the first place. But I sure do applaud the ladies who can pull it off.
These days, for most part 90 percent of my time I spend bare faced with only a hint of mascara, brow filler and blush on the days I have something "Special" to do. But my morning routine is minimal partly because I just don't have the time to dedicate to such rituals, more because I like the way I feel when my skin is bare. More myself. Especially when I'm around people I love. Where I can trust that my flaws will be easily ignored. Where I can rest assured that that wit always outweighs the blemish, and honesty can usually override dark circles, and laughter speaks volumes over perfected eyeliner in the eyes of people who know me best. Where I can be myself and feel confident in the plain fact of being exposed. Where I can accept that I look tired because I am. I am in the trenches of raising four boys and any evidence of my exhaustion is real and hard earned. Every line on this face, whether I like it or not, it's part map of the life I've known so far. In heart ache, sickness, health, joy and love. Features passed down from a German / English heritage that I choose to cover up sometimes when I feel like it and bare naked other days when I don't.
Point being, let's embrace and support painted & bare faces the same. Regardless of what any major magazine or award show has to say about it.
Conversation followed up over on The Ma Books