Every cloud has a silver lining, they say – and for those of us at Beauty Bible, it is seeing how everyone’s gone au naturel, in the past few weeks. Google ‘bare-faced celebrity’ and you can marvel at an unrecognisable Drew Barrymore (we spot a grey hair at that parting, along with the manicure-free nails), an equally low-key (yet so pretty) Kate Hudson, and – our favourite – Jessica Chastain, without a single swipe of make-up and looking more beautiful (and definitely more relaxed) than we’ve ever seen her. Away from the red carpet, in the comfort of their own bedrooms or living rooms or kitchens, they’ve been free to let their hair down. (Roots ‘n’ all.)
Part of that, of course, is simply that actresses can’t rock up to their derms for Botox jabs, models are suddenly required do their own make-up/hair (and probably don’t know how), and everyone (including us) is mourning regular hairdressing appointments. But we think it goes deeper than that: an actual seismic shift which comes down to: ‘I’m happy to be alive. That’s more important than looking flawless.’
It had to happen. And we’ve been patiently waiting. Because over the past few years there has been a trend – really quite worrying, for us – for perfectly made-up, filtered perfection across social media. It’s a fact, of course, that magazines always used airbrushing – literally done with an airbrush back in the day, but digitally tweaked nowadays to erase a wrinkle here, a bra-bulge there. But as Instagram filters became available, it felt like every other person jumped at the opportunity to make themselves look smoother-skinned and younger, and then share the results with the world. And the knock-on impact? To make a lot of other women feel less-than-fabulous about themselves, by comparison. We won’t go into the territory of eating disorders here, or other forms of dysmorphia, but we’ve barely met a woman in all our years of chatting to Beauty Bible readers who felt completely happy in her own skin – and we think it’s partly because everywhere they looked, they were confronted by images of perfection.
We’ve always tried to reassure women that in reality, nobody looks like that. Jo, for instance, has worked with several of the supermodels in her time – and even Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford didn’t in real life look as great as they did on the cover of a glossy magazine. In the case of Linda Evangelista, who Jo had flown to interview when she was the ‘face’ of Yardley (oh, those were the days!), the assembled crew were waiting when a slightly pudgy-looking, make-up free young woman slouched into the studio. You would literally have walked past her in the street. ‘Hi, Linda DARLING!’ went Kevyn Aucoin. (Yup. THAT Kevyn Aucoin, who Yardley had recruited as their in-house make-up spokesman for a short-lived cosmetics range.)
After a couple of hours in hair and make-up, still not exactly looking like someone who didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day, this surprisingly Plain Jane was somewhat transformed. But the magic really happened as she duly sat in front of the camera, whereupon she turned her head to a particular angle and Jo marvelled as this model ‘became’ Linda Evanglista by basically ‘zipping up’ her face. Cheekbones appeared, casting exquisitely sculpted shadows on her (by then) ivory complexion. A sharp jaw-line manifested. Linda’s eyebrows elevated, revealing perfect, almond-shaped and twinkling eyes. And the minute the photographer stopped to change his film? (Back when that was A Thing.) Her face relaxed again, like someone floomf-ing on a sofa after a hard day. This, Jo realised, was why Linda Evangelista was a ‘super’, worth every penny. Because the minute the film was loaded, Linda zipped herself up again. Flash, bang, wallop – WHAT a picture!
Back in make-up, Jo challenged the cover girl about this extraordinary ability to transform herself in front of the camera. ‘Yes, it’s kinda sick,’ Ms. Evangelista agreed. ‘I can literally control every muscle in my face, independently.’ And ever since then, we have been on a mission to reassure normal women that even supermodels don’t look like supermodels – except for a fleeting moment, via a particular, well-practised camera angle. But in the age of the perfect ‘selfie’, we met more and more women whose confidence was to a greater or lesser extent somewhat dented by the images of perfection appearing increasingly across social (and other forms of) media. Real beauty, we’ve always tried to reassure them, comes from within – not a light-reflecting primer or a line-blurring pen, never mind an iPhone filter. Real beauty is flawed, and real, with every laugh-line etched by smiles, every grey hair a badge of maturity and wisdom.
But then just like that, ‘poof!’ The spell was broken. And it was achieved by tiny, invisible virus, smaller than an atom of Botox. In a world in which everyone has been worried, and scared for themselves and their loved ones, it clearly hasn’t felt right for those who use social media as an important pillar of publicising their careers to focus on the surface stuff. So: for the empathetic ones, it’s been out with the trowelled-on slap, in with natural-looking complexions. Goodbye to bouncy professional blow-drys, hello to air-dried curls. Farewell, faux nails – because now we all need bare nails, and short with it, so that we can check that scrub with the nailbrush got them scrupulously clean. (And you just can’t do that with shellacs, honey.) These women didn’t hide behind the sofa simply because they couldn’t present their usual flawless version of themselves; we’ve a hunch they realised that the best thing they could do when we all needed to feel ‘we’re all in this together’ is to show that they’re normal and human, too. (What they’ve probably also discovered is that they’ve got more time on their hands, living a more low-maintenance existence. That it’s more pleasurable to sit in the sunshine with a coffee and a book, or hang out with their kids, than belt across Hollywood for a pedicure or a laser facial.)
So here’s to the Age of Imperfection. In this whole, weird pause, as our fringes droop, our waistlines relax and our roots grow out, this permission to be ourselves is literally a ‘silver’ lining to the cloud cast on our lives by the virus.
And it’s long overdue.