Because you’re worth it? A tale of two sisters.

By Emmy James

L’Oréal, Because you’re worth it!

How many times have you heard this catch phrase on TV? As a teenager, I didn’t bother much with make-up. My sister, on the other hand, was a model. I was proud of her, my guy friends would ask me for her number, my girl friends would implore me to get her to teach me how to do my make-up—I’d be so “hot” they said. But it just made me laugh.

Firstly, that wasn’t me and not why they liked me. My friends liked me because I was “cute” and slightly oblivious, I don’t know how they’d feel if I were “hot” or “sexy”. Secondly, I secretly felt that nobody knew just how clever and cool my big sister really was or how incredibly beautiful she was without make-up. For me, she was this amazing ocean of beauty & kindness, a wealth of knowledge and original thought—what they saw was only the surface. Also, none of them knew that the manicured and glamourous model they saw had been a hardcore tom boy just two years before they all met her.

So, does make-up make people treat you differently?

In 2015, my sister was doing really well at university and, at the time, was what our Dad might call a “glamour girl”. That is, she dressed in well fitted button-up shirts, skinny jeans and, often, heels. She had shoulder-length hair, did beautifully subtle eye make-up in bronzy shades and often wore red lipstick. After interacting with a university official, she described the way he spoke to her as respectful, admiring, and, in general, nice.
By the following year, a lot had changed. Following the discovery of what make-up testing does to animals, she’d completely stopped wearing make-up, she’d also stopped wearing her six inch high-heels. She had to see the same university official again, this time because of difficult personal and academic circumstances. He actually criticised her for dressing like and looking like an ‘18-year-old’ (at the time, she was 24).

It was as if people perceived her as sophisticated and an adult when she conformed to the ideals of femininity, and when she rebelled, she was spoken to like a child again. Could this suggest the connotations we connect to people who wear make-up: that they’re sophisticated, elegant, and conscientious?

After nearly 10 years (age 16-24) of make-up and mainstream femininity, my sister has not worn make-up for almost 2 years. She says: “For me, not wearing make-up has forced me to come to terms with my (natural) appearance and to accept myself on a deeper level. It’s definitely been very positive for me psychologically in that I no longer feel “incomplete”, “ill-kempt”, or “ugly” without make-up on, which is how I suspect a lot of girls secretly feel, whether or not they admit to it. And I’ve been forced to stop conceptualising my identity in terms of external rituals in service of ‘self expression’ . Now my identity lies more in my relationships, my experiences, my philosophies and my choices, than in the way I adorn myself.”

At the end of day, it comes down to where you place your worth—it’s wonderful to feel pretty, but it’s even more valuable to make others feel loved and beautiful, which is what my sister always did for me, no make-up needed. #LetsMakeSomeoneElseFeelWorthIt!

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