‘Stars Without Makeup,’ Or How To Make Working Women Feel Terrible About Themselves
3:30 pm, January 29th | by Colette McIntyre
Stars — we love them; we hate them; we want them to be just like us but also better than us, the brand name product to our Kirkland Signature. Our relationship with celebrity is twisted: the most popular gossip magazines often come off as part power-crazed Sigma Delta Tau presidents during Rush Week and part fanatical basement-dwelling mouth-breathers who want to wear Jennifer Aniston’s flesh as a suit. And no one suffers more at the fickle hand of entertainment media than famous women; take the Daily News’s most recent celeb-obsessed photo gallery.
At first, the Daily News is encouraging: Jessica Simpson is radiantly fresh; Lana Del Rey is freshly radiant. Everything is great! Then, suddenly, a dark storm cloud of judgment and preteen rage forms and the taunting begins: Sharon Osbourne “looks even scarier without makeup”; Kathy Griffin elicits a “yikes” since her face without makeup “is no laughing matter.” “Yes,” the Daily News gurgles, over a picture of a bare faced Tyra Banks. “Look at this top model. She isn’t on top anymore, is she?”
I suppose the desired effect is that I look into Tyra’s sunken eyes and think, “See? She’s not even that hot. Gross.” Surprisingly, the piece doesn’t come equipped with an Angry Mob-O-Meter, though it would be fitting, since Katie Holmes “daring” to sport “grey hair with a makeup-free face” ought to net about 4 Mobs and Half a Pitchfork. Burn the greying witch!
Even the Daily News’s praise is backhanded: Courtney Stodden is condemned for her usual “blanket of concealer,” formal makeup is referred to as “paint”, everyone “piles” and “cakes” eyeshadow and foundation on. So women shouldn’t wear makeup because it’s disgusting and makes them look like harlots — unless they are old or are mothers or have actual human skin, in which case put it back on before everyone throws up and dies, already. No wonder celebrities shave their heads and pierce their cheeks; I wouldn’t know what to do with all this conflicting information either!
What are these Casual Friday versions of our favorite celebrities supposed to mean for us? Are we supposed to feel closer to these women, see ourselves in them, or be repelled by them? Are they meant to satisfy our own insecurities or amplify them? Do we think that by encircling some actress’ cellulite in a magazine that they will retire to a cave and we will win forever and now get to be in all the movies and kiss Bradley Cooper, the end? Simultaneously celebratory and mocking, these pieces rarely have any kind of clear message attached to them. My issue with these “big reveals” is not that they taunt celebrities with sadistic glee (though that is disturbing) but that they control the way we talk about powerful women living in the public eye. By either defending them or joining in on the shaming, we affirm the idea that a women’s value is inextricably tied to her physical appearance. That’s more unacceptable than any overly made-up starlet or haggard celeb in sweats could ever be. Five Mobs for you, gender conventions!