When I started my first part-time job at 14 and nine months, my monthly luxury was magazines. It was a love affair that continued all the way through to my adult years and to think of the amount of cash I’ve dropped on mags over my lifetime would no doubt be obscene. I loved them all, from Dolly in my early teens, through to Cleo, Cosmo, Madison, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar – all of them. I loved the articles, the beauty pages and the celeb interviews but most of all, I loved the fashion spreads. I would gaze for hours at pictures of young women with perfect proportions, zero cellulite, flawless skin and threads that I could only ever dream of affording. In my young and impressionable mind, these women were naturally perfect and it was so unfair that I didn’t look like them. Back then, photoshopping wasn’t even part of the conversation, so what you saw on those glossy pages is what you thought they looked like in real life.
Flash forward what seems like a hundred years, and I’m now a 38-year-old mum to an nine-year-old daughter and I no longer buy magazines. I’m hyper-aware of the imagery her little eyes see in our home, but I know that there’s only so much control I have. ‘Perfection’ is still all around; on billboards, TV, advertising, music videos and of course, on the “best bikini body” magazine covers in line at the checkout. There’s no escaping it. My go-to strategy is to focus on the positive non-looks-based stuff more; how strong her body is, how clever her mind is and how kind her heart is. I’d be lying to say I don’t still tell her she is beautiful though, because to me, she is.
But I’m a hypocrite. I’m always banging on to her about how much she should love herself exactly as she is. Everything about her is perfect and the way it should be. “You don’t need make up, you’re beautiful exactly as you are,” I tell her as I put on my mascara. “Why would you want curly hair? You hair is lovely,” I say as I sit there straightening out my natural curls with a GHD. “Why would you want to colour your hair, it’s so nice!” I marvel as I schedule in a hair appointment to have my grey roots covered. “You should love yourself exactly as you are sweetheart, because you are perfect. There is no one else on earth like YOU,” I say as I ask her to rub the fake tan into the spot I can’t reach on my back.
As she’s getting older, she calling me out on this stuff more and more. “Why do you put fake tan on, Mum? Don’t you love your skin as it is?” or “You don’t need make up Mummy, you look pretty without it.” Every single time she brings it up, I sit there like a deer in the headlights, without a clue what to say. I’m sure she can see my mind racing, trying to come up with some bullshit excuse to give her. I can’t tell her fake tan makes me feel better because I hate my pale skin or, if I’m being totally honest, makes me feel a little slimmer. I can’t tell her that I’d rather eat my own feet than leave the house without black mascara on my blonde eyelashes and I certainly can’t tell her that my grey hair makes me feel like I’m losing the final moments of my youth. So, I come up with some rubbish about how I just LOVE putting on make up because it’s like colouring-in. Yeah, she’s not buying it either.
“What you’re seeing on red carpets and in magazines takes a lot of effort and a lot of people. People don’t understand that it’s all very constructed”
One celeb who is trying to set the record straight on the beauty illusion is Blake Lively. As a mum to two girls, two-year-old James and four-month-old Ines, 29-year-old Blake is speaking out about the “unrealistic beauty standards and beauty norms” we’re exposed to. Speaking to Refinery 29, Blake said, “What little girls are seeing isn’t what [these celebrities] look like when they wake up in the morning – even though it’s no less beautiful.”
“What you’re seeing on red carpets and in magazines takes a lot of effort and a lot of people. People don’t understand that it’s all very constructed,” Blake said.
“For me, it’s important for my daughters to know that it’s not real life. They’re seeing me dressed up in all this hair and makeup, but they also see me without that. I want them to see both sides, because there is never just one side.”
We LOVE Blake’s take on this because sometimes, we all need a little reminder that the images we see aren’t real life. Most importantly, our young girls need to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that their fave celebs are just like their own mums most of the time; probably bra-less, in trackies and rocking blonde eyelashes on the couch at home. And every now and then, they play dress-ups and with a lot of help and a bit of colouring-in, someone takes their photo and puts it on the cover of a magazine. Because that’s their job.