Dare to be Bare

Within the past several months, countless photos have been posted of “stars” or “celebrities” without makeup.  Of course, with the exception of Alice Cooper, the photos are of women of various ages.  The most recent photos were posted from the NY Daily News, Pop Crush, Huffington Post and E-Online between July and October 2012.  Occasionally I’d view these casually, if at all, because I’m one of those women who looks quite different with and without makeup.  Mainly I click out of curiosity and after the third or fourth photo, I move on to a more interesting topic on the internet.  Going without makeup may not be a big deal to most but the concept of beauty and appearance had a big effect on me when I was young. (Photo: comedienne Kathy Griffin c/o www.huffingtonpost.com.)

 I recall wearing mascara in 8th grade; unacceptable in parochial school.  One of the nuns insisted I go to the bathroom and remove it.  Adamantly, I walked to the bathroom, waited several minutes and went back to class.  Needless to say the teacher wasn’t pleased and down to the principal’s office I went.  The point is, I felt naked without it because I was so fair-skinned and did not see the harm in wearing one tiny coat of mascara to school.  Truth be known, I had been teased quite a bit because of my fair-skin, red hair and buck teeth.  Additionally, I was one of the tallest girls in my grade and already fully developed.  How I detested puberty.

Embarrassed and harassed at school, my only choice was to start wearing a little makeup.  What was the big deal?  Has anyone seen the way young, I mean 5th grade girls, look now?  And my teacher thought a little mascara was a sin? 

The way I looked became critical to me.  I was less self-conscious if I wore a little makeup.  No longer did I feel like that pale, pasty-skinned girl anymore.  Makeup made me feel attractive.  Hindsight is 20-20 however.  Wearing makeup became a crutch for me; it was my mask.  After high school, I attended a modeling academy for 10 weeks.  Again, that exposure helped me create a false façade. 

Shortly thereafter, I was thrust into the limelight by some “well-meaning” co-workers who persuaded me to enter a local beauty contest, “The Long Island Search for Miss Universe.”  One associate, who claimed to be an amateur photographer, took numerous photos of me for a portfolio.  After being interviewed by the pageant coordinators, I was selected to participate.   Was I actually pretty enough to be a beauty contestant?  Wow, I was on Cloud 9.

Arriving at the catering hall where the pageant was being held, I was escorted into the contestant’s dressing room.  Armed with my makeup bag, hot rollers, lighted make-up mirror, bathing suit and gown (which I made myself); I found a chair and parked my belongings.  Scanning the room, I grew very anxious.  In my opinion, everyone competing was taller, thinner and prettier than me.  It was also evident these young women had competed before.  They boasted professional cosmetic trunks, hair products and pricey gowns.  With the exception of my homemade gown, my items were in a shopping bag.  I wanted to run and hide.  Although everyone was nice enough to me, I felt like an outsider.  What was I thinking; why was I here?  Surely I did not want to be a professional model.  How could I continue? 

Thankfully I mustered enough nerve and competed.  Actually, I had fun.  Winning Honorable Mention didn’t hurt but I vowed never to allow anyone to coerce me into a situation I was hesitant about from the beginning.  As luck would have it, the pageant officials wound up being charged with mismanagement and misrepresentation.  Luckily, the company that sponsored me was able to get their entry fee back. 

The experience taught me some valuable lessons; to trust my instincts and that I’m beautiful just the way I am – without makeup, curled hair or fancy clothes.  Therapy helped me overcome my self-consciousness.  I still enjoy putting on makeup, fixing my hair and wearing coordinated clothing,  but it no longer dictates who I am.

Let’s face it; women have been wearing makeup for centuries.  So too have men.  It’s a billion dollar industry.  I am grateful my daughter does not take after me with respect to makeup.  She goes bare and doesn’t care because she too, is beautiful just the way she is.  I try to make sure I tell her that often.  So hats off to those celebrities who dare to be bare.  Their confidence is beautiful enough.  Either that or they’re so popular they just don’t give a damn!

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

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