Rant or Rave? -- "Le bare face"*
So, there's been some buzz in the blog world about this article that the NY Times put out, illustrating the differences between how French women and American women wear makeup. The French seem to favour a barely-there, au naturale look... "le no makeup"** look. They arch their perfectly shaped brows and turn their smooth poreless noses up at us poor (North) Americans and our gaudily made up visages. Eyeshadow, blush, AND lipcolour? Oh the horrors!
Actually, despite my tone, I quite agree with some of what the article says. A lot of women and girls out there today do spackle on the maquillage, and there are few things more awkward to look at than an overly done face. But I can't help but question how relevant the French's opinion of our North American make up practices are? I mean, I LOVE the French... love the language, love the gorgeous cities, and LOVE the food. Lipstick-free kisses to you, France! But just pause for a moment and reflect:
Beauty trends are heavily influenced by what our celebrities du jour are doing, right? Brook Shields' brows, Gwen Stefani's bindis, Jessica Simpson's lips... we all play close, scrutinizing attention to these things. Even when we don't WANT to, we can't help but notice them -- their faces are plastered across billboards and magazines covers and even the nightly news. These celebrites in turn must appeal to their public, or risk going out of favour. In a society obsessed with Lists (Best-dressed, Worst-dressed, Most Beautiful, Most Slutty... etc. ad nauseum), a starlet must do whatever she can to get to the top of the right lists and stay off of the wrong ones.
Take this picture of Juliette Binoche, from the same Times article:
She is one beautiful lady. Those cheekbones! Trés elegant. But, not a stitch of make-up on! Sure this may fly in France, but over here across the pond? I mean, *I* think she looks quite lovely, but if the magnificent Catherine Zeta Jones ever made an appearance looking like that, all the tabloids would explode with rumours:
"Catherine on verge of exhaustion!"
"Is Catherine a junkie???"
"Catherine has joined the Church of Scientology and now eschews shampoo!!"
And then where would we be? One of the celebrities that we hold in the highest regard... the most perfect specimen Hollywood has to offer... has crumpled. She is now devastatingly human, like the rest of us. Our perfect image of her has been shattered like so much coloured glass. Children cry. Puppies whimper. Billions of dollars in advertising and promotion are lost. Catherine Zeta Jones falls into a deep depression. See, it's no good!
Don't get me wrong... that April cover of Allure with Audrey Tautou on the cover? Despite (or maybe even because of) the very restrained use of makeup, it is glowing and perfect. And the women that make me stop in the street and gape with awe and admiration and envy are always natural beauties that probably don't even use concealer. Bitches.
But my point is that it's a bit ridiculous to have French comseticians commenting on North American preferences, just like how it's ridiculous for Atkins freaks to belittle the French for their carb-loaded diets***. It's an entirely different environment and an entirely different market over here. It would be wonderful if the French influence leaks over and a more toned-down look in beauty begins to emerge. But then again, this whole thing seems kind of faddish -- wasn't it just yesterday that we heard French makeup artists extolling the virtues of red red lips and a sooty black fringe?
In the end, it's still just makeup! It washes off! Experiment! Play! Layer on that lime green eyeshadow! Paint your pout a fiery fuschia! What's so wrong with having a little fun and sense of adventure anyway? Make up is like your wardrobe... we all look good in a white shirt and a pair of great jeans, but it's the gutsier items that give us our signature styles. If you feel it, rock it. The most important thing is that YOU feel good in your makeup. It's about choice, people! Vive la choix!
* One point on which I'm certain: "Le bare face" is a stupid stupid phrase. French Elle, please spend more than 3 miliseconds coming up with your headlines, mmmmkay?
** Almost as stupid as "Le bare face".
*** Of course, I happen to think that Atkins freaks are generally ridiculous anyway, but that's just me.