Would More Actresses Doing Their Own Hair And Makeup Improve Your Perception Of Beauty?

February 17, 2016  |  

Confession: I’ve been on an A Different World kick. Like I’ve watched all six seasons on Netflix and I’m now doing a second round because (1) I miss college and (2) I thoroughly enjoy seeing Black women who look like the Black women I work with and interact with on a day-to-day basis on my TV screen. Novel right? Well, actually it is.

See Black women are excited because Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating, Cookie Lyon, and Mary Jane Paul are on TV — and rightfully so — but I don’t know any women who live in literal glass houses, who have multiple designer bags and a flawless wardrobe full of high-end clothing, or who never have a hair out of place in the stickiest of situations. I do, however, know women whose hair looks one way at one time of the day and is a frizzy, shriveled mess at another, a la Kimberly Reese, or whose natural blow out is big and puffy rather than sleek and smooth like Freddie Brooks’, or whose short cut doesn’t ever quite lay right like Jaleesa’s. When I watch A Different World, all I can think about is actresses could never get away with this type of hair and makeup today, but I really appreciate that they could back in the day. And as it turns out, I’m not the only one.

Maya Rudolph recently talked to The Cut about her favorite memories from SNL and, interestingly, her answer had nothing to do with specific sketch routines or cast members, it was about the authenticity of the characters, which was very predicated on the glammed down image comedians had back in the day.

“I loved that rawness,” she said of the old SNL days. “To me, that’s everything. And it touches me so when I watch those old shows. There’s nothing like it. But that’s also the era. Tina and I were watching a clip of The Jerk tonight, where Bernadette Peters and Steve [Martin] were singing ‘You Belong to Me,’ and we were thinking, like, She probably did her own makeup! And her own hair. I love that. I want to get back to that.”

While I know it’s a tad unrealistic to think every actress would have the skill to beat a face into camera-ready submission, I think that’s just the point of what Maya said and what I feel watching old TV shows: it’s unrealistic to portray so-called everyday women on TV as though all of us are flawless, on fleek, and on point in every situation, every minute of the day. And sure, I know part of the allure of these characters is they are fantasy, they’re projections of our dreams, hopes, and ambitions, but in many ways they also become the stick by which we measure ourselves. And if you, like most of us, are a Black woman who had to teach herself where to put concealer so you wouldn’t look exhausted during your 8 am work meeting, or had to watch 86 hours of YouTube videos to do a twist out right because you can’t afford a natural hair stylist, then you would also likely appreciate seeing a woman on screen who styled her own hair for an episode or applied her own makeup so that the scene of her heading out for drinks with her friends was a tad more realistic.

Now I’m not saying there isn’t value in a glam team for red carpets or that stars don’t deserve and need a little pampering, but I could stand for a few strands to be out of place when the character who’s supposed to represent me on screen is flustered, or her skin is a little oily because there wasn’t room in the budget for absorbing sheets this month. That, to me, is real. And that also helps me get into the characters more. I don’t mind a good slay every now and then and I live for “laid” hair as much as the next one, but I also know no one is in “formation” every single day and it would be nice if TV producers and directors began to reflect that reality more in their characters.

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