Monday, May 18, 2009

THe Magic of Making Up

I remember well the tearful conversation that I had with Richard only a week before we were scheduled to film "Party Off the Pounds". I was hysterical and ready to quit. It was the night that our 'costumes' were being judged, and they had fallen short of expectations. The cast as a whole was devistated. We had worked so hard over months of rehearsals, and had trusted in the costuming process without question. Tensions were running high on the 'set,' and we felt both like we had let the principals down by our appearance, and at the same time, we felt unjustifyably attacked for something out of our control.

My own reaction, although internalized, was way more severe than that. I had never worn make-up; never done anything with my hair. Although I had already lost well over 150 pounds, I was as insecure as ever... maybe even more than ever because I didn't know what end was up or down in the world anymore. Everything that I had believed in regards to social norms had turned out not to be true or correct; I was still so afraid of everybody and every thing, that I couldn't even look anyone in the eye and smile. And now I was the brunt of judgement. Harsh judgement. Judgement that I didn't recognize as the result of fatigue and stress and unrealized expectations on the part(s) of the principals. I felt that I had personally let everyone down.

When Richard finally forced me to tell him what was wrong and why I wanted to leave the cast so late into the process, I responded : "You can glue all the peacock feathers you want on a vulture, but no matter what you do, it will still be a vulture."

How wrong I was.

Good Morning. This is my "look" when I am au natural. I have gotten up, showered, and dressed. No make-up at all.

Richard prevailed and I, very unwillingly, rejoined the cast. If this was the reaction to me just at costuming, what was going to happen when the hair and make-up people got hold of me? I knew I was a completely hopeless case. I knew. I knew nothing.

The following week, only days before filming, I met Janet, who introduced me to my new hair style and color. She also suggested I put on a little bit of peach lip balm. I went along with her... at that point, I was numb with terror and all the fight had gone out of me. I didn't want anything to do with the video, but I was just too tired to fight.

All this happened in her home. I'm not sure why she invited me in there except that I have a feeling that everyone knew just how shakey I was and that I was ready to bolt at any second. They were probably treating me with kid gloves, just to ensure I show up for the production.

After she did my hair and put the lip balm on me, she walked me into her bathroom and had me look in the mirror. I was terrified. I knew that I would still be horrible. But what I saw was somebody not quite as bad... somebody a little more acceptable. "What did you do to me?" I asked her. She told me where to go to buy the right color lip gloss, and I did it.

In this picture, I've used moisturizer, and added foundation. Notice how my skin tone has become more even.

The following week, the cast was instructed to get manicures. I had never had one before, and was terrified of that too. Adele gracefully offered to accompany me. She also had never had one.

The process was interesting; I was afraid that it would actually hurt, but it didn't. On the other hand, when the manicurist found out that neither of us had ever had a manicure before, she gave us both looks that confirmed that we were the worst kind of scum. Like we had never taken a bath.

But when the process was done, Adele & I were feeling pretty good about ourselves, and had a good time continuing our girly day out.

This is the first step to sculpting my face. I've used a bronzer below my jaw line (and blended into my neck), just beneath my "cheekbones," at my temples, and a little bit on my nose and chin to simulate the effects of the sun. Notice how my double chin is just a little bit less, and my jowels are not as prevelant?

I was horrified at the thought of being worked on at the first day of shooting. Again, looking back, Richard and principals must have realized how tenuous my grip on emotional stability was. They specially assigned me Lona Jeffers, apparently a make-up person of some prestigue (they all kept commenting to each other that they couldn't believe that I didn't know who she was. I'm sorry, I still don't know who she was) and she treated me with kid gloves.

As I sat in that make-up chair, I was astounded at not only the kindness she showed me, but the transformation that she was bringing forth in my face. My skin tone was evening out. My eyes were popping open. When she applied my very first fakey eyelashes, I couldn't believe what had happened. And as I sat there gaping at myself, I made her promise to explain exactly what she had done to me. I wanted to know. And she knew that I meant it.

Now I've added blush to the apples of my cheeks. My face looks thinner than in the first couple of pictures.

The first night after the shoot, a group of cast-mates went out to dinner. I was flabergasted at how well we were treated. I had never had that kind of service in my life! We had not taken off our make-up, and they could clearly tell that we were part of a production of some sort. We were royalty in the restaurant.

The next day, Lona was as good as her word. I would query her at every step on what she was doing to my face, and she would slow down and demonstrate. She was clearly excited about having somebody in her chair who didn't take what she did for granted; who was intrigued at the transformation and wanted to know how to do it. And I wanted to know everything!

We went out to dinner the second night and the third after shooting, and the phenomenal treatment continued. I got the connection between appearance and service, and it was a lesson that I didn't forget. I had little-to-no practice at applying make-up before this time, but there was never a day (other than when I was sick and close to dying) that I didn't apply it before leaving my home. And mostly, I apply it even if I don't have any plans to leave. Who knows who's going to turn up at the front door?

Eye shadow. Darker blend of colors on the lids, a light shade just below the brow line, and a moderate brown in the crease. The application of the brown in my crease line seems to have popped my eyes more open.

Learning to put make-up on turned out to be a life lesson, and in many respects. First and foremost, I don't claim to really know "how" to do it. I am dependant on make-up counter personnel to choose my colors and show me how and where to apply them. I was forced to interact with others, and ask for their help.

Now that doesn't sound like such a big deal, but to me it was. I was used to cloistering myself; hiding from the world and definitely never interacting. I was horribly embarassed at, as I used to tell my therapist, "not knowing what every Junior High School girl already knows." I knew that I was going to be subject to judgement when I admitted to those perfect make-up people that I actually needed help... that I didn't come pre-programmed with the knowledge that I thought I should have.

But when I worked up the nerve to go into a Department Store and ask for help, I was flabergasted at the reaction. First, it was clear that I wasn't the first middle aged woman ever to come in and not have a clue. Second, they were thrilled at the chance to show somebody what to do who was so receptive to the message.

Of course, they were also very happy at getting a great big sale, but I truly believe that for them, the commission was secondary to having such an impact on me. And it was life-altering.

Now I've added eyeliner and brow pencil. I'm starting to look human here.

I learned that not only people do "judge a book by it's cover," but that judging a book by it's cover isn't always bad. It isn't the fact of the 'sex appeal' that I try to exude when I'm done up that I am speaking of. It's more basic than that. When I put on make-up and do my hair appropriately, I present myself as someone with a lot of self respect. I found out that the world respects you at about the same quotient level as you respect yourself. My book is covered with self esteem (some of it real, some of it still in progress, but I cover that well), and everybody reacts accordingly.

But let's talk about the sex appeal for a minute. I found out that, by presenting myself in a way that screams "available," I get all sorts of extra service from men. I get all sorts of free stuff from men. And I get all sorts of respect from men.

The realization that I was getting so much attention and respect was a shock to me. Given my past, I always assumed that the more you scream "sex," the less respect and the more objectified you are. I was terrified of that objectification given my personal history. But what I found out is that although almost all men (even gay men) respond to the sex appeal, most of them are respectful and courteous and are of moral good character. Although they would like to sleep with me (not interested, thank you... I have and love Eric), they have no interest in ravishing me, so to speak, or manifesting displays of power. Rather, all they want is to please.

Fake eyelashes, and I'm almost at the look that I'm going for.

The first time I realized I was a threat to women based on my new look was a shock. I was at an annual picnic with the same husbands-and-wives that I had known for years. But suddenly, everything changed. I was no more interested in stealing their husbands than I ever had been (my moral set has not changed, thank you), but their perception of me was very different. They wouldn't talk to me, and manuevered to sit between me and their men at all times. I was not angry, I did not find their reaction shocking, I was not even amused. I was just confused.

On the other hand, when I would go shopping, especially in higher end women's store, I was suddenly the object of a lot of attention and service. I guess I exuded "Beverly Hills Housewife with Expendable Cash," and also confidence. I was and remain neither, but it's nice to know that I'll pass.


The thing about this continuing attention is that it does have an effect on me. I've come to like the attention and the service. I've come to expect it. That speaks not so much of being spoiled - I will never take for granted the way I'm being treated now - but more of beliving that I deserve it. Again, it's a matter of self esteem. I am not so horrible that I need to hide from the world. Additionally, when I allow others into my world, they seem to relish the opportunity to interact.

Who knew? I had no idea how, by hiding, I was punishing people that might want to help for the pleasure of the interaction. And who might I help in return by the same? For I have found that, as my self awareness and self confidence have grown, I love to share myself with others too and - yes, here comes the cliche - give back what I have received. Which is the point of this blog post.

And the final touch... lip gloss.

I've received the knowledge that appearance affects everything. The way I'm treated. The way I interact with the world. My friendships, and the calibur of people that I attract. The quality of medical interaction I get with my doctors. My very sense of self and self esteem.

And I've learned that appearance also allows me to make more of a mark on the world. In my case, that's good. I want to be a force for positive change. A little (ok, a lot of) make-up goes a long way in helping me with that quest.


Anonymous said...

WOW! What a great post and what a beautiful transformation (inside and out). I used to love to fix myself up, but over the years it became a chore. I blamed it on living in a hot place with no a/c, but that wasn't it at all. Now thanks to you (and Ang) I am thinking about "getting ready" every day even if I am staying home with the babies. I am thinking that I deserve my best and so do they. Your story is powerful and I am so glad to have found it. Thanks to Ang.


PS--If you ever get a chance. Tell Richard there is an American Mommy in New Zealand who has loved him for years (like since I was an overweight teenager) and wishes he would visit the southern half of the world.

Claudia said...

This really is a fantastic post. You are braver than I am. I'd never post picture of myself with no make up. I wouldn't want any of my readers to be scared to death. LOL

As you know, I wear makeup every day. Some days more than others but I am never caught barefaced. It makes me feel better about me. You know my mantra "a little makeup goes a long way". Okay...*one* of my mantras.

Love ya,

Anonymous said...

Awesome post babe..really..

come check the it, more added, and read the comments. They love you!

Vennie said...

I love you, Laura, in the first picture and in the last one. To me you are the same person in both--my dear friend.


Joe Ganci said...

No matter how you look, you are a wonderful dear person, Laura!

Thank you for your "award" on my blog too! You made my day!

I've been following you closely on Twitter!

janet said...

I just thought of the perfect ending to this post: Something about good dental hygiene completing the look, with you smiling at the camera with your fake teeth. That would be *so* you! LOL

spinningmom said...

I think this is the bravest blog post I have ever seen. I'm sorry that you are just now finding out what we that love you have know for a long time, your beautiful! And not perfect, and still loved ummm something to think about! Not perfect, no one is! Just be the best you can be is all you can do and YOU DO IT!!!
I want to see you soon, love you


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