‘Natural’ beauty demands hard labour to appear effortlessly beautiful and blemish-free. Brash, flamboyant, over-the-top makeup and clothes can let us reclaim our image, argues Shona McCombes
Recently I had the misfortune to catch an episode of a programme called Snog, Marry, Avoid.
You might have heard of it; as a trailblazing champion of ‘natural beauty’, it delivers a smug weekly package of body-policing wrapped up in tasteful matching colours. A young woman takes us on a tour of her wardrobe and beauty routines, usually involving copious amounts of fake tan, eyeliner and sequins (occasionally, in the interest of diversity, the show features a camp man). She or he meets Pod, a snarky robot who proceeds to explain why every aspect of their taste and style is tacky, fake and disgusting, backed up by members of the public opining on just how grossly undesirable and slaggy they look.
This is followed by an extensive make-under, designed, supposedly, to reveal its object’s natural beauty under all that gunk, transforming the women into an image of demure femininity more palatable to the public taste.
The ultimate purpose of the project seems to be to assure women that, if only they’d present themselves nicely, some anonymous men on the street might be generous enough to marry them. Which, as we all know, is every girl’s dream.
In capitalism’s ever-evolving vocabulary of domination over our bodies, the make-under is an clever little piece of marketing: “I was never here,” it whispers. “I only want to help you uncover your natural self,” it promises. And you certainly wouldn’t want to go around looking unnatural, would you?
Image of a make-up artist applying make-up to a model taken from Wikimedia Commons