The New York Times recently reported on the recent trend of celebrities posting pictures of themselves without their makeup on their social media channels. Makeup mavens like Kim Kardashian (who seems to love doing “no makeup” and “no Photoshop” magazine shoots for publicity), Rihanna, and Snooki have all used Instagram or Twitter to show off their makeup-free faces.
The NYT asks: “Are the photos a humble gesture or a publicity stunt?”
Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe this is exactly why the word “humblebrag” was invented.
Don’t get me wrong: celebrities being more real with us is a very good thing. It’s really great for everyday women, and especially young women, to know that it takes a lot of work and a lot of product to look like a celeb. I think more transparency with regards to photo editing, makeup tricks, crazy diets, wigs and weaves, etc. is a very good thing.
But on the other hand, let’s not pretend that these photos are totally natural. Sure, maybe they are makeup-free, but these are not the same photos we see on the cover of the tabloid rags that shout “STARS WITHOUT MAKEUP!!!” They are carefully chosen by the celebrities themselves. They are shot at flattering angles, with good lighting (or with Instagram filters), and they create the sort of “natural” that men claim to like. So yeah, the celebs are putting themselves out there in a “natural” state, but they have full control over how these images look while still enjoying the PR boost from the perceived humility.
But really bothers me about these photos is that they presume to be “natural” (and maybe they are) but the stars know they are going to be told by their millions of followers how beautiful they look sans makeup. That doesn’t really leave me with a “They’re just like us!” feeling; it’s more of a “Great, one more thing to feel inadequate about!” feeling. So Kim, Rihanna, and Snookie are still untouchably gorgeous without makeup? Great. So what does that mean for us mortals?