Who needs surgery? Kim Kardashian has made a bid to do something ‘useful’ with her fame, and taught us how to completely remodel our faces without a scalpel in sight. It’s possible that I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t already know about the fabled Highlighting and Contouring trick (or at least didn’t know how far you can take it). But I feel it’s worth a few words anyway.
So, when you’re next going to a red carpet event, this is apparently what you do. Foundation is not, in fact, the… foundation of konstructed beauty, but is several steps down the line after plastering and refitting. By which I mean geometric white and brown paint slathered on the skin to create a trompe l’oeil set of cheekbones and jaw definition. Amazing!
Do you think she does this every day?
I wonder if the kind of men who feel ‘tricked’ when they see women without makeup (WHAT? She doesn’t actually look like Lara Croft?!) consider themselves vindicated by this proof that women are deceptive sirens who hide their hideous human normality under makeup in order to trap innocent men.
It hardly needs saying that the idea of beauty we revere is a construction, a hybrid monster standard comprising paint, porn and performance. But although most of us know this, it is still surprising to see the construction process laid bare gleefully on Instagram. Presumably Kim has gone beyond the notion that beauty should strive to appear natural, and finds some kind of – what? Triumph, revelation, attention-seeking? – in displaying all the tricks that produce her much-peddled pictures.
It is almost as if she considers her public image to be separate from herself, and is inviting us to share the magic of her transformation without being precious over the authenticity of her beauty. For someone who is famous for nothing else, this is kind of impressive. Perhaps it is a rebellion of sorts, challenging our obsession with beauty or highlighting its absurdity. Perhaps Kim Kardashian is a feminist. Then again, perhaps she didn’t think about it at all and posted the pictures because she didn’t have anything else to put on Instagram and Twitter that morning.
A funny thing: whilst vaguely researching this I typed ‘beauty construction makeup’ into Google and the top result was Kardashian Beauty Makeup at feelunique.com.
Over at the Guardian, Emma Brockes has usefully given voice to how sick everyone is with retouching, and its over-use – in this case, Mario Testino’s cover shot of Kate Winslet for Vogue. Brockes’ use of the term ‘laminated’ is particularly appropriate, as the 38-year-old Winslet is Photoshopped far into the realm of plastic.
This may be the only kind of publicity the Vogue cover will get from mainstream platforms like the Guardian, and it is becoming the norm. Three cheers! It’s just a shame that women’s (and men’s) magazines don’t seem to be listening, caught in a cycle where perfection is required by the industry and increasingly rejected by the public.
However, as so much noise is being made on the subject, I have faith that eventually the magazines might get the message. And stick it above the editor’s desk. Laminated.
The world just got very slightly better:
Jezebel have brought to my attention Christian Louboutin’s new range of nude shoes, which come in five different shades of ‘nude’ rather than the traditional ‘white-person nude’ shade that has dominated fashion… forever. Hurrah. This is the latest in an emerging trend of more inclusive fashion – foundation now comes in more than one non-white shade (though the split is still woefully unequal) and I swear the women’s magazines here in the UK (and their advertisers) have begun to use more non-white models. As in, more than one per issue.
My ‘hurrah’ didn’t quite get an exclamation mark because I am reluctant to whole-heartedly endorse shoes that cost £390.
Or shoes that don’t actually have diversity as their rationale, but instead are intended to elongate the wearer’s stumpy and inadequate legs by blending invisibly into them, according to the Daily Mail (I may have paraphrased).
The shades also have names like ‘Fair Blush’ and ‘Rich Chestnut’, which may not be surprising but continues to be offensive. These saccharine euphemisms always raise the question of why black people have to be ‘chocolate’ etc., either by their own definition or someone else’s, in order to embrace blackness as a good thing. Are we really still having to justify that black can be beautiful?
Finally, when I searched for ‘nude’ on Christian Louboutin’s website, I had to scroll through like, a million ‘white-person nude’ shoes before I found the three lonely brown ones.
Might have to replace that ‘hurrah’ with a small, wry smile.
Because we need something funny once in a while…
There has been a lot of discussion about Rick Owen’s step-dancing runway show at Paris Fashion Week, and I particularly like Threadbared‘s take on it, even though they disagree with my last post (which was essentially a long-winded ‘Hurrah!’).
Threadbared were not so impressed with Owen’s show for a number of reasons, and expanded their argument to include the Diversity Coalition (founded by black models Naomi Campbell, Bethann Hardison and Chanel Iman) and their open letter to the fashion industry. Their piece is well worth reading in full, but here are some of the main points they raised:
- Headline-grabbing shows like Owens’ still present black people as a spectacle
- The ‘fierce’ and ‘curvy’ step dance team ain’t breaking any stereotypes
- All the credit for the show goes to the white designer, not the dancers
- The power relations and hierarchies of race therefore remain unchanged
- Within these structures, race is still categorised in ridiculous ways, so that the Diversity Coalition fail to consider Asian models as black, although they aren’t white either. Threadbared call out the idea of Asian models as ‘honorary whites’ when they get pretty much the same number of castings as black models.
This is all true. Particularly the power structure in which a white designer gets credit for his ‘diversity’ when he uses black people as an exotic spectacle. But I’m not sure that takes all value away from Owens’ show. It might not be real diversity, but it does get people talking about it, and where that should eventually end up is with runways sprinkled evenly with models of various colours, and we can go back to talking about their weight (!).
What I really wonder is whether there is an alternative way of achieving this than shock tactics. OK, legislation would be a good start, but for that we need lots of people making noise about it… Which they have started doing.
Threadbared are absolutely right. It’s not good enough. Yet.