For 100 days, Pippa Evans embraced the (biscuity) face that nature gave her and didn’t wear makeup. In her final instalment, she shares what she learned.
100 days didn’t seem like a long amount of time in my head. 100 yards is not far to walk, 100ml is not enough wine to get drunk on, another 100 people just got off of the train, or so Sondheim says. But if this was a movie (and I will sell the rights to an indie art house. Or mega conglomerate if they pay enough. And I will be played by Drew Barrymore. Or John Lithgow), the plot would see me face struggles along the way, but ultimately come to some brave conclusion not just about makeup, but about myself.
Well, call me Steven Spielberg, because I think that’s what’s happened.
This project all began because I started to reflect on a very simple sentence my mother said to me: “You must always wear mascara, otherwise you’ll look like a biscuit.”
A simple sentence. Not meant with malice – just motherly advice for her one and only daughter. But as I got older, I started to see this comment as negative. A suggestion that one needs to be pretty to be heard – not plain, like a Rich Tea. After all, no one ever says, “Oh good! You’ve got Rich Tea biscuits.” Yet, once you’ve got over the initial disappointment, you eat them all the same and usually end up saying, “I really like Rich Tea biscuits”. And so as the Party Ring is to the Rich Tea, perhaps the made-up lady is to the unmade-up lady. Like a cake without icing or a Chihuahua without one of those tiny coats.
These last 100 days have been a bizarre journey from feeling massively self-conscious about leaving the house to accepting my face as what it is – my face. A vessel for my expressions; a way for others to know my feelings without me having to wear cue cards around my neck reading, “I am happy” or, “You are creeping me out, but I feel it would be rude to say it so I hope you can see it in my eyes.”
There were two quite specific fears I had upon starting this project.
Fear number 1:
That people would enquire into my health, therefore suggesting I look ill.
Well, guess what, kids? If you continually paint on a healthy face: warmer in tone than your own skin, without eye bags or dark circles, covering blemishes and accentuating eyes, rosy cheeks and such, those rare days when people see you sans makeup, people are going to ask you if you are okay. Because they care! Because they think you are a dewy, fertile melon all year round and then suddenly they see what looks like a duller, ill version of you, because you are not the colour you usually are.
Funnily enough, only once did someone ask if I was okay during the whole 100 days and – guess what – I was ill! My face told them what they needed to know. An incredibly exhilarating yet banal revelation that my face serves a purpose as a message board. If you cover the message board up, sometimes it’s hard to get your actual message across. Great analogy, Pip. Thanks.
I did get one comment from a hairdresser who said I would be “much more beautiful” if I wore makeup. But then she needed to make me lose self-confidence so I wouldn’t complain about the frickin’ awful haircut she gave me and then charged £49 for. I feel awkward about complaining at a hairdressers because it’s not like they can put it back. I did manage to tell her that the Maggie Thatcher curls she had given me weren’t all the rage.
“I think it’s a brilliant style on you.”
“Yes, yes it is. If I worked in Parliament in the 1980s.”
*Opens purse, vows 2015 will be the year of saying what I think, as 2014 was meant to be. And 2013.*
Fear number 2:
It will turn out I am hideously ugly and have to give up being alive.
I think this is the main fear of the majority of women who gasped when I told them I was going without makeup for 100 days. What if I am actually ugly without my Boots No.17? Like going to a party sober might reveal you are no fun, or watching a One Direction video might reveal you like their music (truly terrifying). I was afraid of looking at my makeup-free face and realising that I was actually ugly. And that being ugly would make people unwilling to spend time with me. And then my voice would not be heard. And I would feel sad.
The biggest problem in the makeup vocab is “beautiful.” Bastardised to mean “aesthetically pleasing” means that true beauty seems an enigma. Disney has been ramming the message “beauty comes from the inside” down our throats since we were little kids (albeit by miniscule princesses with massive eyes and thick, flowing hair). Do we need to be beautiful both inside and out? How many of us have been physically attracted to someone, only to be repelled by them making racist comments or saying something truly unacceptable like, “I think The Beatles are overrated”?
But here’s the ultra confusion: I like being attractive to people.
But Pippa, that totally goes against your principals of being judged purely on what you have to say and your contribution to the world as a whole.
YES, rational(ish) brain. But sometimes I want people to say, “You look hot”. Is that so wrong?
Why is life so confusing? Why can’t choices just be nice and easy like choosing a pizza topping (Hawaiian with jalapenos, obvs)? Do I have to read into why that is my favourite topping? Am I subconsciously encouraging the stereotype that Hawaiians only eat pineapples and pigs? By eating Hawaiian pizza am I supporting that mindset?
It’s just a pizza! I just like pizza! *Sob*
It is considered superficial, of course, to want to be seen as attractive, but we all groom ourselves to an extent, and so much of that is about being accepted by society. About being liked. We brush our hair, we wear clean clothes. A basic sign given to spot depression is “a lack of interest in daily self-care routines” – and for some, makeup is exactly that: a routine. Comedian Wendy Wason told me she felt putting makeup on was a way to feel like herself.
“The one thing I’m short on as the working mum of three is time. Putting on makeup makes me feel like it’s time I’m spending on just me. That feels like a special five minutes.”
Sali Hughes talks in her book,
We like to be presentable. Our ancestors would wash with simple old water, then the Egyptians added oil and ashes (mmmm, scrummy), which eventually became the soap we know and sort-of love. Now we have gels and creams, scrubs and conditioners; all manner of products that make us squeaky clean and smell like everything from roses to cola cubes. As the cosmetic industry has grown, so have our options. For my father, being presentable means brushing your hair and shaving. For my mother it means base, mascara and having her hair done by Ken. Suzy Bennett says she is confident with just soap and moisturiser, “But it does depend on circumstances.”
So many options! And makeup should be seen as just that: an option.
I love my face now. I don’t feel grossed out when I see it in the morning without makeup. I don’t panic when someone takes pictures of me without any makeup on – heck, I’ve now been in most of the papers without makeup due to the constant unannounced appearances of journalists at Sunday Assembly London. The German Press have never seen non-biscuit Pippa Evans. The people of Germany think I am a biscuit.
We each have our own relationship with makeup. Ultimately we wear it because we want to, because it makes us feel good. Sometimes that is to get sexy times, right ladies? But most of the time, it’s for ourselves. An enhancement or a cover up. Or a bit of both.
Someone asked me this: “What if you didn’t have a lovely face? Would this task have been harder if you were truly ugly?”
A crazy, difficult question to answer because of the super difficult question “What is ugly?” but also because I am British and couldn’t possibly agree that I have a lovely face. It is drilled into us from a young age that our lashes could be longer, our faces thinner, our cheekbones more prominent and for all these imperfections, there is a product. My friend told me the other day she has a separate moisturiser for her neck. Her neck! What’s in it? Giraffe semen?
To be truly ugly, I reckon you would have to be a truly ugly person. And I truly believe that. I have no ugly friends. True, most of my pals and I wouldn’t get far in the world of modelling, but I surround myself with delightful, fun, kind people who radiate attractiveness. And who isn’t attracted to delightful, fun kind people – even if they have an uneven skin tone?
My first foray back into makeup was at Yule Rock: a Sunday Assembly event and when I came on stage for soundcheck most of the band said, “You’re wearing makeup!” and looked, well, kind of confused. And then we went back to practising. It seemed irrelevant. Because it was. Face glitter doesn’t make it any easier to reach the top notes in All I Want For Christmas Is You. But it does make you feel sparkly.
100 Days as a Biscuit hasn’t put me off makeup, but it has created a much healthier relationship between me and both makeup and my face. It’s made me realise that maybe Disney wasn’t far off message. But I say this as a human with spot-prone skin and invisible eyelashes: if you really want to feel beautiful, look to yourself. What do you think about yourself? How do you carry yourself? How do you treat yourself? Because these are the things that will really create lasting beauty, not Max Factor Ultimate Finish in Moonlight Green. So I say unto thee: do as you wish with your pots and potions, but save the mega-paint for when you really want to WOW. Or for when that spot just won’t fuck off.
This biscuit is alright.
Pippa Evans is a comedian, improviser and the co-founder of Sunday Assembly. She lives in London.