Pippa Evans begins her no makeup project on a remote island. Is this cheating? The cows aren’t fussed, but a trip to a fancy restaurant tests her mettle.
During my month at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, restaurant-owner Jeanette Cutlack saw my show, Loretta Maine: Strong Independent Woman (Unless I Am Very Tired). She approached me afterwards and prompted this polite exchange:
“If you’re ever in the Isle of Mull, please do come to my restaurant! I’ll give you a free meal!”
“Well, funnily enough, we are there next week.”
“What? Really?” (Let me translate: ”OH BALLS!”)
Having just finished the Edinburgh Festival, performing three shows a day, drinking a little bit – hence the visit to the Isle of Mull where I slept for a week and celebrated my newly acquired debt.
It was delightful. Silence (apart from one pretty angry cow outside our window. Udderly ridiculous. Sorry), sunshine and no keeping up appearances. Let’s be honest: to go makeup-free in front of your husband/partner/spouse is no biggy. My beloved has seen me looking all varying degrees of hotness from beautiful bride to vomiting drunkard, and if our relationship was based on looks, it would have ended the day I decided to spend dressed as him. Y’know, for fun.
My makeup-free face bothered me not a jot.
“This is easy!” I cried, running around the fields laughing. “Aberdeen Angus cows have no interest in my blemishes, so neither do I!”
And then we went out for dinner at Jeanette’s Ballygown restaurant. (Where we had no intention of getting a free meal. If there’s one thing I have learnt from Masterchef and a long obsession with that sexpot Michel Roux Jnr, it’s how horrific it is to work in the restaurant industry. Approximately 7million restaurants close down every half hour (my estimate).)
I suddenly felt self-conscious: this lady saw me in “stage mode” and now I’d be at her restaurant looking like a spotty, sleep-deprived hag who hadn’t dressed up for dinner. I imagined she’d fail to recognise me and then recoil in horror when she realised who I was, asking me to sit by the bins at the back people wouldn’t be put off their dinner. Our order would be taken via text message to reduce the amount of time spent looking at my face and I wouldn’t be allowed near dairy products, lest I curdle them. I would try to make up for my face by making jokes about how we were near Ulva. “It sounds like Vulva!” I would say, but being distracted by my horrible visage she would miss the joke and say “What?” and I would repeat “Vulva” over and over until the restaurant was silent and everyone was staring at the floor because staring at me hurt their eyes.
Of course, in reality, Jeanette was overjoyed we had actually come to her restaurant and we had a really nice meal (we compromised at pudding on the house). Without a face full of Clinique, I could get butter down my chin without worrying about streaking my face. Have you ever tried eating langoustines daintily? I think sucking their brains out is much easier to do when not worrying about your lip gloss.
Yet if I’m honest, I did miss my makeup that night. The ritual of putting makeup on is, for me, part of the fun of going out. The pots and brushes. Covering up blemishes. Lengthening eyelashes. Feeling the excitement of revealing yourself as a vision of beauty so that your partner can say, “You look lovely!” and you can enjoy the compliment. It adds to the sense of occasion. It felt like putting on a pretty dress then slipping on a pair of Crocs. Something wasn’t quite right.
It made me think: is this experiment simply about not wearing makeup or about attempting to be presentable without? To find a way to recreate that same feeling of ritual without the use of face paint? It feels like this is part ly an endurance test and partly a way of seeing if it’s possible to feel as glamorous without makeup as with it.
Biscuit I most resembled this week: pink wafer
Time I spent actually worrying about not wearing makeup: 24 hours (two visits to restaurants and then seeing family)
How many people have asked if I am ok/ill/tired: 0 – I am surprised by this!
Next week: Would Peter Andre be friends with someone without makeup on? I audition for the part to find out.
Pippa Evans is a comedian, improviser and the co-founder of Sunday Assembly. She lives in London.