Beauty: A weapon to be used for power and protection

‘Your beauty is all that can save you […] your power and protection.’ – Apparently this is a quote from the slathered-in-media-attention film ‘Snow White and the Huntsmen’. I haven’t seen this film. I do not intend to ever see this film, on the basis that despite repeatedly being cast in roles that require a shred of talent, Kristen Stewart is as lacking in acting ability as a spoon. And has the charisma to match. That’s all I’ll say on that matter, I simply felt I should probably reference the quote. I believe that is the done thing.

Beauty: A weapon to be used for power and protection.

This is the message Hollywood advocates. It’s quite worrying actually, when you really think about it (or even if you don’t, the sentiment is still instantly clear), that this is the message put across to the younger generation of movie-goers. This idea that being beautiful is an important factor in the protection of women, is in fact the most vital factor. If that is true, it would also stand to reason that beauty results in power. Another terrifying thought. In a generation where young girls are possibly aware of the ongoing battle with gender discrimination and the public war on sexism, but are almost definitely aware of the availability of plastic surgery and body reconstruction, of the “coveted” size zero, alongside crash-dieting fads, and fashion snobbery. It is terrifying that they should be offered the suggestion that beauty and image is the way to not only protect yourself, but that it is the only way to gain respect and in turn power.

I am not the kind of girl who disregards makeup. In fact, I love it with every fibre of my being. When applied correctly, experimented with, and used to create, it is art. I often apply stage makeup for performers, more often than not this is used to create character, or accentuate features that will enhance a performance (and allow the audience to see performers’ faces). I view the use of makeup to be as creative and versatile as a painter is with a brush, or a chef is in the kitchen. For me, it is as much a hobby as it is a skill. I am the kind of girl who worries when seeing women hide behind makeup. A trait, I will admit, I am guilty of committing. I will also admit to wearing makeup virtually every day. A fact that sickens me to the core to say out loud. A fact that is, in part, due to a childhood of reading magazines, watching beauty adverts, and feeling that pang of inadequacy every time I gazed at my reflection and didn’t look the same as the models, as the celebrities, I fawned over. I quickly got over the celebrity phase. Having met many a “celeb” that was so incredibly human and down to earth in the flesh (sporting skin blemishes, frizzing hair, and terrible nail-biting, cigarette-smoking habits), it was clear the (let’s face it, airbrushed and manipulated) images I found myself conditioned to accept as real, were in fact anything but. I didn’t get over the inadequacy. I still struggle with it. But I am less reluctant to accept that I am a person, in my own right. And on good days I manage to leave the house without the daily face paint. This is something I’m having to deal with. It’s something that affects too many people. It is worrying.

It’s worrying because it suggests we are scared of ourselves. We are unable to admit that we look the way we do. Unable to accept the way we are. It is incredibly sad, and brutal. I’m a firm believer that we cannot rely too firmly on our reflection. Mine ensured that I spent over a decade terrified to be myself. To dress the way I desired, to wear my hair and makeup any differently to those I classed as friends, to smile at myself and be happy with the face that returned my gaze. Our reflection is never an honest representation. We are never allowed to see ourselves as others do, a both terrifying and humbling thought. You will never view your face in the way it is meant to be seen, it is often the reason behind a hatred of photographs of the self. You do not recognise you, because you do not see you. Therefore, it would stand to reason that you cannot trust your reflection. I don’t say this to scare you, but simply to suggest that you shouldn’t rely entirely on your reflection to feel good about yourself. Just look at Snow White’s (Step)Mother.* There is a level of trust required in accepting that you are not unattractive. That you are in fact as beautiful as the next person.

Beauty is natural. It is a scary thought that it can be faked and warped through the use of products and paints. Beauty is not protection. It only saves people in fairytales (also on my list of terrible role models). It cannot compensate for character or equality. Beauty is not power. It doesn’t advocate mutual respect. And it isn’t something you can, or should, hide behind. The idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is quite possibly the cheesiest and most offensive suggestion I’ve heard. The suggestion that ‘everyone is beautiful, really’ is condescending, and bitchy. Like a teacher telling you that those girls are really just jealous. That is unlikely to be true. There are varying ideas of beauty, sure. The elderly find the youthful beautiful. The youthful find the infants beautiful. High cheekbones. No cheekbones. Full lips. Petite lips. Skinny hips. Curvy hips. Each of these are beautiful. The conventions of beauty differ, radically, between cultures. Between historical eras. Bloody hell, between people. That makes it subjective. It makes everything exist within a realm of beauty. It does not make it exist within the fucking eye of the fucking beholder. Be honest. Be truthful. Accept that not every single person is attracted to every single other person. It is what makes us unique and individual and fucking human.

This hasn’t been my most coherently formed argument. It doesn’t necessarily offer any insightful methods to break this conditioning to conform to someone else’s presentation of beauty. And it hasn’t even slightly touched upon my views on airbrushing, the portrayal of beauty in the media, and endorsements by influential figures. But it has given my brain a chance to approach the scary, scary world of “beauty”. And that’s all I needed to do. Today at least.

*I include “Step” in brackets because history offers differing opinions on the relationship between the pair. It is however an insightful tale into how the desire for beauty (and the belief that it equals power) can be destructive. It also offers a fair reason to not trust your reflection. nb. The (Step)Mother is traditionally depicted as evil. Tainted by vanity, jealousy, and a hunger for complete power.

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Singing assassins? Seriously? Huh..

Every now and then (okay, so it’s pretty damn often) I see something that reminds me of everything there is to love about the theatre. The space, the intensity of choreography, the key to crucial casting and of course, the performance itself. I’m pretty sure the last time I came away *so* fired up and inspired by a piece of theatre, was after a one man performance of The Odyssey. Which was, outstandingly fantastic. Tonight’s performance however? Well that was a whole other kettle of fish.

Directed and choreographed by Michael Strassen, Assassins tells the story of 8 attempted, failed and successful assassinations of US Presidents. Not only was the show incredibly staged and performed, the accompanying music was phenomenal, allowing several (if not *all*) of the actors to flaunt beautiful voices. The cramped conditions of the theatre provided perfect acoustics for little-to-no voice amplification (microphones to you and me), as well as creating an intense atmosphere that rose and fell with the pace of the plots.

I definitely recommend everyone goes to see it. Not only do you come away with a relatively decent understanding of the assassinations (Hell, it pains me to say it but my History knowledge isn’t fab, I couldn’t have told you over half of the stories before tonight), but the show’s actually fantastic. And the songs aren’t your stereotypical show tunes. They hold a darker, more underlying sinister tone, similar to those of Sweeney Todd (It was after-all written by the same bloke), as well as sounding softly operatic in places. Even if you aren’t an avid theatre fan, or despise musical theatre, Assassins is a fantastic show, and enjoyably educational as well.

*Check me out being all clever writing-y. Hells yeah..*

In other news:

– This week has been culturally enriching (yes, I’m on a roll) what with the circus and the theatre (twice). Fan-bloody-tastic. Circus boys still win on the looks front, whilst The Tempest was definitely way up there in terms of concept and ‘different’ staging. I’d never imagined Shakespeare set in a futuristic time and place. The word quirky doesn’t quite begin to describe it. And finally Assassins was a fantastic end to the week.. Containing both beautiful staging and performances to inspire a drama geek such as myself to spend half the night plotting away..

– The hair colour ran away again. Or rather, I chased it with a bottle of funky smelling goo. Yay red hair. Well, super dark reddish-purple straw would be a more accurate description. Minor detail..

– I start painting people’s faces again as of tomorrow! A *big* squee I believe is in order. The brother’s school is performing Oliver, and I’m involved in make-up-ing. Excellent. I get to attack people with paintbrushes and eye-liner. Aha! I’m such a child sometimes (all the time)..

The week the makeup attacked me, I wore more black than a particularly depressed goth, and gained RSI from sponges. Oh, and I infiltrated the fashion world. Just for fun y’know..

Time flies. They say that right? I’ve gotta say, I never really believed it, but seriously. After the past two weeks.. Oh my life does time fly. I go home in three weeks. Three weeks?! How have I been in Brighton that long? And more importantly, how have I avoided home for the past two months. That’s no fun.. (And I should really stop attacking the brother with water works every time we talk. Poor boy.. His ears must be sick of my tears..)

Okay, let’s be honest. We know where the past two weeks went. Or at the very least *I* do, which is probably a relatively good thing. I’ve heard memory loss isn’t the most desirable in the world.. But they could just be saying that?

So let’s start at the beginning (it’s a good place to start, no?). West Side Story, that wonderful time where I pretended to know something about makeup, turned every male in the cast into an oompa-loompa, and gained far too many bruises for it to be healthy. Not that bruises are generally healthy, but y’know.. If I have one piece of advice to myself from this show? Never, and I do mean never, think it’s a good idea to use glass-bottled-foundation. It forces you to hit yourself repeatedly with thick glass. Really. Who thought that was a good plan..? The colour of my hand, even after the tango-ed look had gone, well, I gave gone-off-plums a run for their money on interesting colour award. No shit.

And did I mention that I’m clumsy? No. Well, I’m not exactly the most un-accident-prone person this side of the moon.. And there were stairs. And back stage. And general scenery. And it was messy.. Oh so messy. But, on the plus side, having the makeup area next to the boys dressing room? Well, whoever thought that one through deserves a hug. Not gonna lie..

Moving on then.. LFW. The most incredible yet exhausting experience of my life. I kid you not.. But people weren’t lying when they said I was crazy. The whole intense-6-show-after-party-straight-into-fashion-show thing?? Yeah.. Wouldn’t advise it. No..

Two hours sleep. Makeup smudged on at the station. No caffeine or food for a good 20 hours. Best plan I’ve ever had.. As fellow smutian said “how are you alive?!” (Dictionary definition moment – Smutian: A member of Sussex University Musical Theatre Society. Aka SMuTS)

Aquascutum. Beautiful name. Beautiful show. So I hear.. 5 hours spent steaming sheets and then I hid upstairs for the duration. Still, I was officially the walking dead that day, and steaming ain’t no easy job. I’ll tell you that one for free.. Seeing Sienna Miller in the evening was pretty random though. I was not expecting that one, not gonna lie.. Stupidly skinny woman. With amazing shoes. And that’s possibly about all I could tell you about her..

Jaeger show I actually saw. Amazing experience, I’m sure you don’t forget your first fashion show. And the hats?! Oh. My. Life. The hats.. I could’ve cried. If I weren’t so conscience of the fact that The Saturdays were directly opposite me in the audience, next to a ridiculously beautiful (anonymous) male. Shame.. Especially as I’m really not their hugest fans. But y’know, it was something to taunt the male housemates with, so.. Tis all good.

And the Love Ball. Natalia Vodianova. Beautiful, beautiful person. Looks about my age – how does she have an eight year old son? This confuses me immensely.. But I can deal with that just from memory of her dress. What a stunner. And she dealt with the fire alarm incident particularly well. Picture it though.. 1000 guests just having seated for dinner, after we’d spent the last half hour frantically sorting out those bloody bidding cards! And they’re all asked to vacate. The amount of woman in near-to-no clothing complaining about the cold, and “I’m not going outside, do they know who I am?”. If there had actually been a fire? Wow..

But nonetheless, the evening was, I’m sure, a success. If the art work being auctioned is anything to go by. I could actually have passed out when the words “And the bidding shall begin at £10,000” were uttered. Serious money going on there..

The highlight of my evening was clearly seeing both of the parents’ favourite singers in one night – Cat Stevens (or should I say Yusuf Islam) and Sharleen Spitteri were phenomenal. And yeah Leona Lewis and Paloma Faith were pretty good n’ all.. I was just clearly born in the wrong era.

What with packing, tagging, counting, moving, emptying 425 goodie bags, and being involved in a pap chase with Kate Moss, the night was surreal as, well actually I can’t think of anything quite so bizarre.. Running around with bidding cards for Vivienne Westwood, Leona Lewis, Piers Morgan and Matthew Williamson was way up there to be sure.. But the whole 30 second eye contact with probably the most influential model of the past decade? That was awesome. Even if her shoes weren’t..

So all in all? An amazing, intense, emotionally and physically exhausting, surreal and a half couple of weeks. And what better way to end it? A scheduled break down.. Oh tomorrow will be fun.

*Several people need thanks for this fortnight of sheer and utter exhaustion. The Uncle for giving me a bed (and easily the best night’s sleep for a good 6 months), Kensi for reminding me of home even at the most surreal and overwhelming of moments, and Miss Loveday for the experience of a lifetime.. Ta you lovely people.*