This week Pippa Evans has taken her no makeup experiment a step further, vetoing makeup even when performing. That’s right, she’s gone extreme biscuit.
As experiments go, this isn’t the most controlled. If it was a real test of the effect of no makeup on me, Pippa Evans, we would need something quantifiable to measure, some kind of control and someone in a lab coat nodding while prodding me once a week. Instead, all we have to go on are those difficult-to-measure little beans called “feelings”.
This week I went pretty extreme with the biscuit challenge. Having realised I had been sneaking makeup, I vowed this week not to wear any – even when on stage. That’s been the bit that leads to the cheating. Furthermore, as punishment for the cheating, this week I have only one choice of outfit and can’t do any more than brush my hair.
The week started well. I laid out one outfit (of which I have multiple copies. BO is not something that I think anyone should aspire to) and climbed into it, daily: black leggings, black dress, boots and a big jumper. Generic. But me. That’s what I am: individually generic. You meet me, you feel like you know me, but something’s not quite right. Like David Cameron (ooh, political).
On the Monday night I had a gig in Hemel Hempstead and decided I would perform Loretta Maine without makeup. She normally looks like this:
But tonight she looked like this:
A sort of prog-rock Rod Hull. Spot the difference?
That’s right, the difference is he’s smiling.
It was interesting to go on without the eyeliner smears, because that makeup tells the audience something. It says: ”This woman is not happy. She is a rock chick. She has been crying. You probably need to be scared.” Loretta is you on that night out when everything went wrong, you lost your friends and ended up eating chicken nuggets at 2am, weeping in an alley with a kindly homeless man holding your hair back while you chucked them back up again.
Without the make up, it’s just a woman with big hair. A sort of female Milton Jones with a guitar and lots of anger. (I realise now that I did style my hair – it didn’t even occur to me that this was cheating in this context. SEE HOW EASY IT IS TO DO.)
It’s a different message. And I felt a bit naked, actually. A bit odd doing this character I’ve been doing for 7 years without the face paint. It took the audience a little bit longer to get into it because they had to figure out a lot more by themselves. It’s strange, how that eyeliner can tell them so much. That’s when makeup feels necessary: when it tells a story. Perhaps it always tells a story.
“I am professional”
“I am a 50s siren”
“I am really tired, please don’t notice.”
That last one was this week. The joy of being freelance is that you don’t have to do 9 to 5, five days a week, but the pain is you often get all your work at once, leaving you exhausted but unable to cancel because next week there might be NOTHING.
By Tuesday I was really starting to feel it, knowing I had too many deadlines to juggle. Feeling a little overwhelmed by it all was showing on my face. I was tired. My skin started breaking out again and my face was telling me what I knew: ”You need to go to bed, young lady!” (My skin talks like my Mum, who talks like the Queen, so it’s quite compelling.)
But I couldn’t go to bed. Then I got wrapped up in the fact that I couldn’t. Thus began a spiral of sadness and feeling like I was doing too much and therefore not doing it well. Down and down and down.
If you’re feeling down, some people recommend picking yourself up, getting dolled up and getting the hell out of there. When living by near Amish rules, this can be tricky. Even more so, when in the company of drag queens. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Ru Paul’s Drag Race? Not seen it? WATCH IT NOW! It’s the best show ever – like America’s Next Top Model but for drag queens.
One of the season winners was in town doing a show so myself and fellow comedians Sarah Campbell, Suzi Ruffell and Tom Allen went to see Sharon Needles. Sarah did eye makeup so great that VICE magazine took a picture of her. We spied Stuart Goldsmith in full drag on the other side of the room. And yet there I was: plain-faced, plain-clothed, surrounded by epic, exaggerated beauty and I felt so BORING. I mean, where else could you get away with massive eyelashes and crazy-ass hair other than TOWIE? Frustration central. WHEN WILL THIS PROJECT END, BITCHES?!
So yeah, it’s been a tricky week. I don’t think extreme bisucit caused my sadness, but I don’t think it helped. Also, hanging out with drag queens without makeup is of course fine, but it’s like doing Halloween without any face paint. Oh wait… Yep, I did that too. You will never feel more like a party pooper than being the only girl in the room not to have made even minimal sexy cat effort.
What I am realising, though, is that I’m paying attention to what my face is telling me a lot more. When my skin’s bad, instead of covering it up, I think, ”Have I been drinking water? Am I sleeping enough?” When my eyes are black with circles I think, “Have I been drinking water? Am I sleeping enough?” And when my skin is sallow AND my eyes are black AND my skin is breaking out I think, “I don’t need Halloween makeup: I look like the undead anyway. Score!”
Biscuit I most resembled this week: Boaster – lumpy and bumpy.
Hours spent thinking about makeup: A couple of hours, ie the couple of hours spent with fabulous drag queens.
Enquiries into my health? Still no one has asked if I’m ill.
Next week: Biscuit lessons learned so far.
Pippa Evans is a comedian, improviser and the co-founder of Sunday Assembly. She lives in London.