5 things to do after you’ve posted your #nomakeupselfie

nomakeupselfieSo I did it. I joined the thousands of people up and down the country who have taken over your newsfeeds with their barenaked faces – all in the name of beating cancer. I knew the nominations from my friends would come eventually – especially since the ‘body image/beauty thing’ is what I spend most of my time talking about these days.

But as I watched more and more friends being ‘brave’ and bearing all on social media, a million thoughts and questions rattled through my head. Ordinarily I would have been one of the first to jump on the bandwagon and succumb to the peer pressure. I’m also a sucker for feeling involved in a ‘movement’ that’s doing good – like raising over £1 million for Cancer Research, for example.

But my questions included: what’s not wearing make-up got to do with beating cancer? Why is showing our mask-free faces seen as bravery? Why is it the norm that women should paint themselves in their attempts to chase that ever-elusive beauty standard? Why was I even hesitating when – regardless of the arbitrary links between beauty and cancer – it was doing good and could go a long way towards curing cancer for generations to come?

And then came the insecure thoughts. What if people think my face sans make-up is… well, minging? What if no one ‘likes’ it? That overwhelming need for affirmation in the beauty stakes. The crippling need that so many women feel to be seen as beautiful: loved, of value, of worth.

I’ve written in my book and blogged previously about my relationship with make-up. It’s a security blanket I’ve worn since I was 16 years old. When writing the book, I deliberately went without make-up to work on one occasion and also posted a barefaced pic of myself for an Adios Barbie campaign. I wrote about the internal struggle that preceded both of these things and the sheer fear of being seen in public bare-faced. I also wrote about that time when I arrived in Israel and realised I had forgotten my foundation. Night. Mare.

So here’s why I did a #nomakeupselfie: because – regardless of the questions, the insecurity, and not wanting to clog up people’s newsfeeds – there is good coming from it. If by doing this we become more ok with our natural bodies and faces, then that’s a good thing. If we happen to raise a lot of money towards eradicating cancer then, that’s even better.

But there is more we could do. The world’s a bit rubbish sometimes. There’s a lot of brokenness. There are causes we can support – and in so doing – we can grow as individuals and learn more about what it is to be human.

So here are just a few thoughts on what you can do after you’ve posted your #nomakeupselfie:

1)    Sign up for Race for Life

I’ve done this Cancer Research fundraising event a few times – most recently running 10k on Blackheath with lots of other women. Most of us were running in memory of loved ones who had died from cancer. It’s a spine-tinglingly amazing event to be part of. What’s running got to do with beating cancer? Not a lot – but if you have to get fit and join in solidarity with many other women to raise money towards funding research to beat it, then so be it.

Find out more about Race for Life here.

2)    Do something that seems impossible

Last night, I watched the amazing Davina McCall’s story of running, cycling and swimming from Edinburgh to London in just seven days in aid of Sport Relief. That’s 500 miles. She was following in the footsteps of celebrities including Eddie Izzard who once ran 43 marathons in 51 days, and comedian David Walliams’ 140-mile swim down the Thames for the charity. “There is not one piece of me that had ever thought I wanted to do some crazy endurance challenge,” Davina told The Guardian. “Not one… But you just say yes.” It was heartbreaking and joyous viewing. It makes you realise how much humans can achieve if they just set their minds on it.

Find out more about Sport Relief.

3)    Challenge the Beauty Myth  

This is a biggie. But increasingly there is a groundswell of rebellion against this idea that women should be judged on what they look like in a way that men have not been (although men are increasingly being objectified and we need to challenge that too). And that a woman’s highest calling in life is to be hot. Germaine Greer writes in The Whole Woman: “Every woman knows that, regardless of all her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful.” Once you start to notice how much the beauty myth pervades our society, it becomes overwhelming. But there are small changes we can make, like watching the words we say to little girls and our grown-up female friends. Sometimes talking about weight loss, make-up and beauty issues is a way in which women bond with each other. But let’s talk about changing the world too.

Here’s my list of Beauty Myth Fighters on Twitter that you might want to follow.

4)    Rethink that manicure

When we hear about human trafficking, we think: that’s awful. And then we get on with our day. But what if you come face-to-face with a woman who’s been trafficked every time you get your nails done? To think that the woman beautifying your nails could be living in a desperate situation brings it all home and reminds us of the need to fight this. In the past five years, at least 90 nail bars have employed 150 illegal immigrants and been fined almost £700,000. The government is cracking down on this through the Modern Slavery Bill currently going through parliament.

Read more about manicures and human trafficking here.

5)    Sign the No More Page 3 petition

So let’s say that in the future we’ve bared our faces, we’ve done the impossible, we’ve killed the beauty myth, we’ve ended modern slavery, we’ve raised millions for the fight against cancer… And then we pick up The Sun and see a naked young woman on page three. Really? Enough of that please. Boobs aren’t news.

Sign the No More Page 3 petition.

PS: Also, check out this hilarious parody of Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ – “I woke up like this. I got morning face.”

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My bare-faced week in the Middle East

I recently went on a trip to Israel with Christian Aid. After a long day of travelling from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv and then jumping in a taxi – which incidentally broke down on the dual carriageway on our way to East Jerusalem – we finally arrived at our hotel. It was late in the evening when I got into my hotel room and I decided I would unpack for the week.

Swimming around my head were thoughts of the adventure that we were going to have; the surreal nature of the fact that I was in the Holy Land. I was also bracing myself for what promised to be an extremely emotive week, walking where Jesus walked but also witnessing the suffering experienced by those affected by the ongoing conflict in the region.

And then suddenly I had a thought; a thought which at that moment seemed far more upsetting than anything else I was preparing to see – more tangible than the scenes of human suffering I was sure to witness in the coming days: ‘I forgot to pack my foundation.’

Panic.

Surely I could not have been so stupid. Surely I could not have forgotten my most important item. But, sure enough, I unzipped my make-up bag – my only travel essential – and opened it up to find an empty hole where my Mac Studio Fix Fluid should have been. My mind flashed back to my dresser in my room in Greenwich, south-east London, where a few hours before I had been doing my make-up, ready for the journey ahead. I had forgotten to pack it.

I’m not sure how I can get across to you how much of a panic I was spiralled into upon realising this catastrophe. Some pretty crazy thoughts rushed through my head. [I won’t go into detail here about the difficulties of finding good foundation for black skin in London, let alone the Middle East – that is for another blog!] I momentarily wondered how much it would cost for me to fly back home first thing in the morning, pick up my foundation, and fly back to meet the party I was travelling with in the evening. I quickly started up my laptop, connected to the Wi-Fi and Googled whether there was a Mac store in Jerusalem – or anywhere in Israel. There was one – only two miles away from where we were staying. I started plotting how on earth I could leave the group I was with, learn the Arabic or Hebrew for ‘Taxi driver, get me to the Mac store!’

For someone who daren’t leave the house without her face on, this oversight was a tragedy of epic proportions. How could I show my bare face? Maybe I could get away with not washing off the make-up I was already wearing and seeing if it would stay on for a week?

Foundation has been my best friend for many, many years. For me, it’s a way to mask some insecurities and flaws.

I love make-up. It’s perhaps a bit of a comfort blanket – something which I feel I can’t live without. But after getting over my ridiculous state of panic and getting a bit of perspective from that still small voice and the voice of reason aka my little sister; I soon forgot all about the foundation. I decided I would take up the challenge of a week without it.

Although I did still have eyeliner, mascara and a shimmer brick, so it really wasn’t all that bad…

I was clearly the only person who noticed I didn’t have my foundation. There were no screams of horror upon seeing my foundation-less face when I met the rest of the group for breakfast in the morning.

It seems that I’m not the only one who clings on to cosmetics. Today’s Stylist magazine included a feature on the psychology of make-up, the snap judgments we make based on what people look like and the vast number of us who feel that it’s only with make-up on that we can be confident in the workplace.

Apparently women spend 10 working days a year getting ready for work, while 70 per cent of us feel ill-equipped without our faces on.

A survey cited in Stylist found that “a tide-mark of foundation indicates lack of attention to detail, heavily pencilled brows suggest cockiness and no mascara points to a potential emotional wreck”, Stylist reports. We are judged on how pristinely we apply our make-up.

Ever since I started writing this book, I’ve planned to go into work one day without make-up on. But I haven’t quite worked up the courage. How ridiculous is that?

Maybe seeing Stylist’s Samantha Flowers writing about her bare-faced week will give me the push to finally do it.

But not tomorrow though… I have a meeting.