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Not wearing makeup on TV is literally Headline News

I have a pretty traditional work schedule, in that I’m not usually home during the day. This means that I’m not too familiar with talk shows. So, when I saw the headline “’The Talk’ hosts’ makeup-free premiere,” I wasn’t sure what or whom they were discussing.

It turns out that “The Talk” is a daytime talk show on CBS, with a panel of hosts from sitcoms, reality TV, or comedy – like Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler, Sara Gilbert, Sheryl Underwood, and Julie Chen. And apparently they recently had their fall season premiere, during which they took the boldest of bold steps in television – not wearing makeup.

I guess in terms of film and television, not wearing makeup IS big news. I’ve heard that cameras tend to amplify things like blemishes or under-eye circles, and that even a “natural” look requires a hefty makeup application. But then, of course, this means that we’ve absorbed and accepted the message that viewing anything less than a perfect face is a travesty, and that the sight of uneven skin tone is just an assault on the eyes that TV viewers can’t bear.

So, when I watched the video of Headline News that addressed this issue, I wasn’t all that shocked by the coverage. Take a look:

Wow. First of all, the story gives you one of two options in terms of how you see this – either the women are insane for going au naturel, or they’re bold and brave. These extremes just emphasize how central the idea of makeup supposedly is and should be for women and girls.

It’s not just normal to put your naked face out there, it’s either crazy courageous or it means you’re totally bonkers. (As a side note, I’m not entirely sure why, to The Talk, not wearing makeup also means wearing your bathrobe, as though being makeup-free indicates some kind of half-dressed state.)

One of the commentators in the news video said that while she thought this was “brilliant,” and that the message of being yourself is a strong one – “You don’t need bronzer, you don’t need blush, you don’t need lipstick – it’s a great message to love yourself just the way you are,” she also made sure to say that she thought it was a hot mess. So, which is it? Is it good to be your natural self, or are you just a hot mess for doing so?

The second commentator starts out a little better by saying she thought it was brilliant, but she immediately qualifies that by saying that it’s brilliant because it got people talking about the show – in other words, it was brilliant because it was a marketing ploy.

She then goes on to actually compare the women’s natural looks, by saying that “Sharon Osbourne looks amazing, but Julie Chen, that was a little shocking!” Seems like she missed the whole underlying message of going makeup-free – that it shouldn’t matter what you look like. Also importantly, and I think inherent in the makeup-free message, is that comparing the looks of women should be left out of the public discourse.

I’d give a thumbs-up for the women for going naked with their faces, and a major thumbs-down for the overwrought and dissecting coverage of what they did.

Larkin Callaghan is an epidemiology and health communication fellow at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, where she also received her doctorate in Health Behavior and Education. She blogs regularly at her own site, I’m Not Tired Yet, about women’s and adolescent health issues.

2 thoughts on “Not wearing makeup on TV is literally Headline News

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  1. Brilliant, Larkin! Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I, too, am not familiar with day time TV (or much TV at all for that matter), and the coverage of this is one of the many reasons I avoid it. I haven’t worn makeup for most of my life (minus a short period of time in high school), and I wish I had a nickel for every time a woman said to me, *GASP!* “You don’t wear makeup?! I wish I didn’t have to wear makeup.” Here’s the thing: you don’t. I simply choose not to. I think most women are just so used to what they look like with makeup that they’re shocked and unhappy with what they look like without it. I’m not saying women shouldn’t wear makeup, I’m just saying women shouldn’t wear makeup if they don’t want to and not feel like they need it. Ya know?

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