by Rose Miyonga
It’s been over three years since I stopped wearing make-up regularly. I still wear it sometimes for the odd photo shoot, or, if the mood strikes me, I might brush a little glitter over my eyelids or slick on a bit of lipstick, but day-to-day, I don’t wear make-up.
Don’t get me wrong, I think make-up is awesome.
When it’s done by someone skilled, it is a true art. However, I apparently lack the motor skills needed to apply it properly, and my daily attempts at it often drove me to frustration and despair, and sometimes inflicted physical pain – I can’t be the only one who has poked their still-sleepy eye with a mascara brush in the morning.
I have been asked so many times why I have chosen to opt out as if not wearing make-up is something so unnatural. The answer is pretty simple: for the moment, I just prefer being bare-faced.
As a woman, and especially a woman of colour, my body is too often the battleground on which issues of gender and race are fought, and the use of makeup is a prime example. It is as though I am denied the freedom to let my personal choice be just that: personal. It is so often assumed that my decision not to wear make-up is a ‘stand’ that I am taking for my intersectional feminist agenda, but it is not.
Sure, I do reject the idea of policing of women’s bodies and telling them how they should or shouldn’t look. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where I was taught to question preconceived ideas of what it means to be a beautiful woman, and learned to look at my face in the mirror with love and acceptance. This, for me, right now, doesn’t involve make-up every day.
Recently, both Alicia Keys and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie made bold statements about make-up. I admire both women immensely, and I don’t think their ideas are contradictory, although Keys has chosen not to wear make-up and Adichie is the new face of a make-up brand. Both are rejecting the prescription of beauty standards and redefining beauty from themselves.
My not wearing make-up is not because I think it is frivolous or unimportant. Far from it! Make-up can be magical, empowering and transformative. I take pride in my appearance, and I don’t think it’s somehow un-feminist to do so. As Adichie puts it, “I think it’s time to really stop that ridiculous idea that somehow if you’re a serious woman you can’t and should not care about how you look.”
I choose not to wear make-up (or sometimes to do so) because I hope that I am part of the first generation of women of colour whose personal choices do not have to be held up to a political ideal, but can instead follow whims, moods and fancies without judgement or moralisation.
Thandie was walking in her local neighborhood recently and chanced upon the lovely Amy Lynch, whose unique face caught her eye. We asked her to write something for us.
Amy is an up and coming actress and model. After graduating from Brighton Institute of Modern music, Amy stepped into the world of modelling using it as a gateway to pursue her real passion for acting and performance. After securing campaigns for the likes of The NBA and gracing the cover of several magazines, Amy continues to chip away at her acting career and hopes to land a recurring role in a TV show in the near future.
In a world of contoured cheekbones and plumped up pouts are we brave enough to embrace our natural selves?
I am sure I am not the only one who spends hours on end, scrolling through Instagram, marvelling at the perfectly-preened, super-enhanced stars of ‘the gram!’
The Internet, TV and streets alike are filled with extensions, fake nails, whitened teeth and make up that would have previously been considered as face paint. All these factors come at a cost, financially and mentally our unrealistic beauty expectations are having a massively detrimental effect on our well-being.
As much as I admire the many perfect people I scroll across, I find myself frequently sporting a bare face and a hairdo that takes all of five minutes to produce. Yet I can’t seem to don this look though without comment… ‘You are so brave; I could never leave the house without at least wearing foundation and a little mascara!’
But is it bravery? For me, it is certainly partly due to laziness, coupled with my inability, in my opinion, to apply a decent looking face. I know deep down a big part of me aspires to be an Insta-perfect belle, but I know this is purely due to the fact that I am constantly told by the world around me that FAKE = BEAUTY!
The world of social media would have us believe it’s a perfectly proportioned body, long luxurious locks and make up so ‘on fleek’ that you can’t help but hit the ‘like’ button. But is this really what we should be focused on? And let’s face it, the people we are emulating haven’t exactly managed their look without the help of a few pumps of Botox, a dab hand on Photoshop and maybe even a surgeon’s artistic flair.
How is this a healthy aspiration to have our hearts set on? Surely we should be focusing on the beauty we were born with, not the beauty we can squeeze out of a bottle? But the harsh reality is that when it feels like the whole world’s eyes upon us, though the medium of social media, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of us strive to achieve this so called ‘perfection’.
Courage is needed to show others that natural can be beautiful and that self-acceptance is infinitely more important than what brand of eyelashes you can afford.
I am not saying that make-up is the enemy – it’s not – but we should make sure it doesn’t mask our individuality.
Of course, I have to admit that for me it’s somewhat easy to go barefaced, as I (luckily) have a fairly even skin tone, but embracing my Afro hair, for example, and wearing it in its natural state was one of the hardest challenges I ever had to face.
After 17 years of hiding my true-self behind a ponytail, the thought of letting my hair down filled me with anxiety and dread, but after meeting a fellow Afro-d sister, who’s hair was out and proud, I slowly managed to gain the inner security to do the same myself. Now I can proudly say my curly mane is one of my favourite features.
So when it comes to beauty products, I am by no means saying ‘CUT THIS CRAP OUT OF YOUR LIFE!!!’ I completely understand that people have blemishes that require a small touch-up. And indeed this is exactly what make up is made for. We just need to be strong and show future generations that it’s okay.
It’s okay to have the thinner lips we cried about growing up; it’s okay to have the slightly wider nose that once kept us up at night; it’s okay not to be ‘perfect’. It’s our differences that make us ‘US’ and what makes us beautiful.
As far as I can see, many a celebrity has succumbed to the pressure of ‘Kardashian Kulture’, and as these people become our ‘role models’ there is no surprise that we end up following suit.
So which public figures are paving the way for us to embrace our natural selves and love our face for what it is, NOT what it could be?
J-Law frequently talks about society’s pressure to be perfect – perfect hair, face, body…but I think she is doing a pretty good job at being perfectly her and looking fabulous while she’s at it.
Our current idea of FaceTuned perfection is honestly unattainable, but being our perfect selves really isn’t.
From the stress of not feeling good enough, to the stress our perfection obsession puts on our bank accounts, we clearly cannot keep this ‘standards’ up. It’s time to follow the lead of the few and be strong, be natural, be you!