Thursday, October 7, 2010

Putting On My Game Face, or 'self-imposed sexism'

My post is a lot later than usual today because I'm just now getting back from an audition. This has actually been a pretty audition heavy week - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and I could have booked one on Sunday if I didn't have a conflict for the show dates - which is awesome. What's not so awesome is scraping the gunk off my face every night before I go to bed because today's been an audition day. Because when I go to an audition, I'm expected to look my best, and I'm aware that looking my best usually involves concealer, a thick layer of foundation, blush, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, eyeshadow, and some lip gloss.

As I'm washing my face for the second time to finally get all the makeup off, I start to think about this practice I undertake to get parts.

I hate wearing this much makeup on a regular basis, for a few reasons that I think are understandable:

1. It makes me break out (because apparently I'm still a 14-year-old girl). The whole point of wearing makeup, or so I'm told, is to cover skin blemishes. The more I wear foundation, though, the more I get acne, which makes me less cute, which makes me less cast-able, which leads to the need for more foundation. This leads to point two:

2. Chemicals are bad for my skin. The synthetic crap that the 160 billion-dollar[1] beauty industry puts into its products include:
  • Phthalates, known to cause birth defects, damage to reproductive organs, and lung, liver, and kidney cancers;
  • Sulfates, known to cause kidney and liver damage, skin inflammations, and cataracts;
  • Parabens, which can disrupt hormones to the point of causing breast cancer; and
  • Propylenes, linked to brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities, respiratory irritation, nervous system depression, pulmonary edema, and oh yeah, brain damage[2]
And that's just the short list. Buying products that avoid these toxins is possible - but often also extremely expensive, especially for a struggling artist fresh out of college.

3. It both causes itching and makes it impossible to scratch. Heaven forbid I walk into a room with a line across my forehead where I've removed my foundation with my fingernail. Embarrassing. It's a small gripe, but let me tell you, when I have a full face on, it dominates my thoughts 40% of the time.

4. It's a real pain in the butt to get off. I'm a low-maintenance kind of girl. My evening ritual usually involves little more than collapsing into bed. Occasionally I take my pants off first. The last thing I want to do when I'm tired is scrub my face in the bathroom sink so I don't swipe pretty colors all over my pillow while I sleep. (And wake up facing even more of problem #1 than ever before.)

So needless to say, having to get all dolled up for an audition, while not the biggest frustration in the world, is not high on my List of Loves. And when I really think about the standards set for us by the entertainment industry, it comes off as pretty darned sexist too.

Men aren't forced to cake makeup on in order to be more likely to get a part. Why do women cater to such an outmoded practice? If a boss were to suggest that a woman would be more successful in her workplace if she wore more makeup, she wouldn't waste half a second before she slapped a sexual harassment lawsuit on his ass. So why do we let audition coaches and casting directors and directors suggest that we glob on makeup before going to an audition? This is our job, and too much of it is based on looks and connections rather than talent as things already stand.

Now please don't misunderstand me. I am NOT saying that if you're a woman who enjoys wearing makeup every day, for whatever reason, that you're setting back the female cause. If you like it, then by all means, go for it! Hell, if you're a man and you want to wear makeup every day, who am I to stop you? But I personally do not like wearing a lot of makeup. And yet, a few times a week, I resign myself to glopping it on for the reason that I know it will make me more successful in my career. And that, if you ask me, is a big step in the wrong direction.

So... why do we do it?

[1] The Society Pages - The Beauty Industry: Spending and Routines

[2] Green Living Online - Six Makeup Chemicals to Avoid


Corrie Gelblum said...

Hey Ali,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts :-)

I don't have a lot of audition experience at all, so I don't know what is "required" when you walk into the audition room, but my instincts are telling me that I should be as much myself and as comfortable as I can be. At the end of the day, the director is going to want to see me, not a projection of how I want to be perceived. This is why I never wear heels to auditions (unless it is important for the character). I would also tailor my look for the part I was auditioning for...not all characters would be in full makeup. If my skin was itching enough to distract me, I would rather be more comfortable without full makeup than be distracted during my audition. Whether society has instilled this in me or not, I do feel my best self if I have makeup on, so I would say that the prettier I feel, the better I will do in the audition.

Also, if you're skin is reacting that badly, you might wanna look into whether your products are water based, which is easier on the skin. I've heard that Covergirl products are actually pretty OK. You might also try putting moisturizer on under your foundation to give you a layer between your skin and the foundation. Cetaphil makes a great face moisturizer that my dermatologist recommended because it has very few ingredients and is fragrance free. And powdering over the foundation always helps too!

Sara W said...

This whole situation bugs me constantly. Not only the whole makeup thing, but the whole "girls must wear skirts and heels" thing. So old fashioned!! And am I allowed to wear the same dress/outfit to audition for a director multiple times? Do I have to go shell out money for a new dress, because I don't want this director thinking I'm a one-look-pony? I absolutely feel ya, Ali.

B.Graham said...

I feel ya too, girl. I rarely wear foundation, partially because I hate it, and partially because I'm not good at applying it. I almost always dress how I think the character I'm auditioning for would dress; it makes me feel more in character and I feel less weird about dressing or makeuping in an unusual way. Clearly I can't tell you how well that works with directors, but it works for me. On the inside, at least.

Miasma said...

I had to learn *how* to apply/wear makeup for modeling. So, yea. I know the whole, "it's what i do" thing, even though in my case, the photograph is going to be around longer and photoshopping every acne'd inch of face is a p.i.a. Btw, helpful non-scratching tip: take one fingernail and tap the source of the itch. It works for me, provided I remember I'm wearing makeup ;)

I'm going to throw in my chips on your campaign here and say, "Isn't the headshot enough?" It proves you CAN doll-up. It proves you Have dolled-up. What more but talent is left to prove?

Brett said...

I know I am not a lady (serious self-knowledge there!), so perhaps I am merely completely ignorant, but do acting coaches or directors straight out say that actress auditionees need makeup? Where does that idea come from? Is it because its assumed that people automatically think better of beautiful people, or is it actually a spoken/unspoken rule that a male actor like meself would just obviously never encounter? I ask because, in my limited theatre experience behind audition tables, I've never directly witnessed any makeup-(or beauty-)based discrimination.

nevie said...

at the risk of sounding rude when really i just mean to be frank, my "feminist" friends criticize me for wearing makeup occasionally. i told them until systematic rape and other kinds of violent abuse, forced prostitution, lack of education for girls across the globe, we have more important issues to worry about as far as women go. i wear makeup to hide ugly zits or make my eyes pop. zits will never be a welcome presence on my face, and i am always going to have small eyes working against me as an actor. that's as far as i worry about whether i'm oppressing myself and my femininity.