When an audition brings intrepid biscuit Pippa Evans out in a (face) rash, she finds out whether Peter Andre can be friends with a pasty Brit.
Being a biscuit can take its toll on a girl. Rich Tea, I can take, but this week has been particularly tough as my chin is like a Fruit Shortie, breaking out around the jaw almost constantly. Apparently this is hormonal so I am really looking forward to the menopause.
It was promised that when I got to my 30s, my face would sort itself out. Well, thank you Mr Doctor for your LIES. I was on the contraceptive pill from the age of 19 to help my skin, which would break out into huge, angry spots, as if I’d eaten a tube of pink Smarties and ended up with most of them stuck to my face. It was not only unattractive but hugely painful; my face would throb like I’d been punched, which made me hyperaware and probably means now, 13 years later, I’m still incredibly sensitive when it comes to breakouts.
I had to come off the pill about a year ago (no, Mother, not because I want to have a baby), meaning the spots returned – and so did my face paranoia. I feel like everyone is looking at me. Everyone whispering, “32 and she can’t even wash her face properly.”
And yet as a 12-year-old girl I yearned for spots! Desperate for the teenage markers to prove I was no longer a child. I used Clearasil on my chubby, porcelain face (Botticelli would have loved me) to show the cool kids that I had prevented the beasts. Like that old joke about the elephants.
Occasionally, in my 20s, I would convince myself that my spots weren’t as bad as they seemed, until one morning I woke up to find my then-boyfriend looming over me, looking deeply concerned.
“What’s the matter?” I said sleepily.
“It’s just… they look so painful.”
Well thanks, Dicko! What a way to start the day: ”Your face looks horrific! Coffee?”
As a performer, my face is part of my sell. Auditioning is generally face first, body a close second, talent preferable. It’s a pain in my big butt, but I get it. We WATCH television. We WATCH theatre. What we see gives us information about the character due to our assumptions about the way they present themselves (although wouldn’t life be more interesting if those assumptions were challenged, as Marek Larwood put so beautifully in this article).
And then the phone rang. Now, Peter Andre is not my dream partner in crime, if only because his bemuscled torso frightens me. But when said phone call was an invitation to audition to be his friend in an advert, I couldn’t help but be excited. Advertising a certain brand of prawn ring (I’d expect no less from Peter) while pretending to be his friend? It’s so lame, it makes it not lame!
But what would Peter Andre’s friends look like? He’s pretty snazzy, as my Dad would say. I imagine he would have pretty snazzy friends. And if we’re going by most adverts involving “friends just hanging out” (you know – usually all crushed into a car having THE TIME OF THEIR LIFE. WHY AREN’T YOU HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE? BUY THIS CAR AND FIND OUT YOU HAVEN’T ENOUGH FRIENDS TO FILL IT!), this is going to be the United Colours of Benetton version of Andre’s pals: one person of every single race, all laughing together like the perfectly integrated country we are. This means I would be representing White Girl. What does White Girl look like? Probably hot but in a non-threatening way (just incase Katy Price shows up and starts pelting Peter’s new friend with mini Yorkshire puds). This sounds like the old no-makeup makeup look. But I’m going to go literally no makeup. Is this career suicide?
It may sound like nothing, but it’s the equivalent of going to a job interview at Apple and whipping out a tatty old PC saying, “I’m just not materialistic”. Our first impression is our outward appearance: we judge people on it, even if we don’t want to admit it.
Without makeup, I was instantly far more nervous than normal. However, the great thing is that at any commercial casting, everyone is really unfriendly anyway, so you can’t tell if they are not responding to you because you have a spotty face, or if they are just being cool. Judging by the receptionist’s ironic granny glasses, it was probably the latter. The audition went by without so much as a “what the hell is wrong with your face??!!” and then, as is traditional with commercial castings, I heard nothing. Then I bumped into the casting director at another casting and asked her if she had noticed that I wasn’t wearing makeup that day and she said, “I’m sorry; who are you?”
No she didn’t say that. It just makes a better punchline. What she actually said was that she didn’t notice I wasn’t wearing makeup and that it would only be inappropriate to not wear makeup if the part was for “pretty wife” or “hot girlfriend” or such. Interesting…
It’s been 14 days that I have been makeup-less and so far it seems that all my preconceptions about my face are in my head. The main difference is how my personal confidence is affected in certain situations, which makes it hard to gauge a change in people’s reactions as I am behaving differently. If you act like you don’t deserve or want someone’s attention, then people will believe that and react accordingly. Has anyone treated me differently? No. Have I felt different? Yes. Makeup is a booster for me. Makes me feel a million dollars when perhaps my brain is telling me different.
I did not get to play Peter Andre’s friend, although I would have liked to have been his mysterious girl. Sitting there, prawn ring in lap, having the best time ever. Maybe, in lieu of makeup, I should have put some frozen chicken fillets in my bra. I know for next time.
Biscuit I most resembled this week: Fruit Shortie
Time I spent actually worrying about not wearing makeup: 72 hours (just couldn’t stop worrying about the audition)
How many people have asked if I am ok/ill/tired: Still no one.
Next week: Explaining why this isn’t about sex to a man on a train.
Pippa Evans is a comedian, improviser and the co-founder of Sunday Assembly. She lives in London.