In a recent New York Times article by Catherine Saint Louis, “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand,” make-up artist Bobbi Brown is quoted as saying, “We are able to transform ourselves, not only how we are perceived, but how we feel… People will have a bad reaction if… the makeup is not enhancing your natural beauty.”
In articles we’ve been reading for class, a few of them mention Brown and her cosmetics line. I kept wondering if this was a coincidence or just the fact that BB is a popular brand of make-up for women, which I know it is. But, what started to click for me this weekend was the fact that Brown’s make-up campaign is called “Pretty Powerful.”
Here a couple of screenshots from the BB website, prettypowerful.bobbibrowncosmetics.com:
Brown is constantly seen promoting this idea of enhancing one’s beauty and maybe adding a “pop of color” here or there on the cheeks or lips with her popular pot rouge. Her website brings this into an interesting place. Not only does it allow consumers to shop for her products and read about the artist herself, but the “Pretty Powerful” branches into this interesting series of videos called “Pretty Inspiring,” allowing people to “explore and read their stories, watch their videos, and get makeup how-tos” from these beautiful and ordinary-looking women. There’s practically a look for everyone, for every skin tone, every face shape, and a range of dramatic to natural make-up looks.
What struck me was the variety of women. 32 women. After clicking on each of the women’s faces, one will see their before and after photo without make-up and with make-up, in other words in their “Tranformations,” as appropriately labeled in this section of the website. I must admit that for a person who does wear make-up every once in a while, I am attracted to these looks and would replicate them on myself. They don’t make drastic alterations to the face. Rather, they enhance what these women already have by adding some color and contour. I think these looks are pretty and that these women are pretty.
Within these photographs, these women evoke a sense of normality and appeal to the average person. They look happy and confident. What I enjoy the most is that these women still look happy and confident in their photos without make-up. Unlike the idea of make-up as paint, a historic term mentioned in Kathy Peiss’ book Hope in a Jar which examines the history of America’s beauty culture, these looks do not cover or hide these women.
Brown’s campaign asks people to join in “empowering women and girls… with the confidence and resources to be their best.” Women want to be powerful, and they are. Women want to be confident, and they are. For many years to come, it seems make-up is and will be that resource women turn to for that boost.
So, we return to this recurring idea about make-up being use as a tool to represent a woman’s sense of power in self. It’s quite intriguing to me how this idea not only translates through scholarly and historical writings of American Studies, but also how this translates into the media, into business, into marketing, into bodies, into mentalities, etc.
But also, this beauty is still created through cosmetics. It’s still make-up, right? Are painting and enhancing two separate ideas? Or, are they the same both ways?