Picture, if you will, a confident, happy, athletic young girl. One of her friends says she needs a makeover. The others girls nearby start to chatter about what they would do to fix her hair, face and clothing. Picture this confident, happy, athletic girl, listening to all the little ways her friends find her inadequate, not feminine enough, and generally lacking. Watch while she tightens her ponytail and brushes her hair out of her face self-consciously. Suddenly, playing football with the boys every morning before class is embarrassing. Winning arm wrestling contests is no longer allowed to be a source of pride. Watch her face fall while her friends tell her with great enthusiasm that her priorities are all wrong, that her appearance is a problem, that her favorite activities are something “tomboys” do (read: not ok). Her best friend looks her up and down, and says, “Yeah, we could do a lot for your makeover.”
The below video sums it up with stark accuracy:
I struggled to find a group of friends who did not do this to me on a more or less annual basis. I’m 28 now, and I’ve finally built good friendships with people who know me well enough to see that I have my own fashion sense, my own concept of beauty, and my own set of standards for what I find admirable and feminine. I thought I was past all that childish bullshit. Silly me.
One of my coworkers made an off-handed comment today: “I should give you a make-over.” It took all my strength not to throw my purse at her fat face.
First: What the fuck goes through people’s heads just before they say “You need a makeover”? Do they really think their opinion about someone else’s appearance would override that person’s own opinion?
Second: What do they think people’s reactions will be? “Thank GOD you brought it up. I’ve been sitting in my cubicle for years just WAITING for someone to FIX me!”
When I told her that was insulting, she said, “No it’s not,” because she would know, being the recipient of the comment OH WAIT, NO, that was me. I asked her what was wrong with what I was wearing, to which she (naturally) replied, “Nothing,” and then, “it’s just to enhance yourself.” WTF does that even mean? Why do I need enhancing? What the hell was she talking about?
Of course what she meant was, “You need to stop wearing pants and wear more dresses, makeup, heels, and do your hair for once. You need to dress more femininely.” I’ve had… I’m gonna go ahead and say a few dozen people tell me I need a makeover over the course of my 28 years. In case you’re thinking, “A few dozen people can’t be wrong, better call Bravo and get Tim Gunn on this girl stat,” here’s a quick rundown of my general appearance:
Casual attire: fitted jeans (skirts when it’s hot) and t-shirts (if they’re good enough for Natalie Portman, they’re good enough for me)
Office attire: slacks (dresses or skirts when it’s hot) and blouses or sweaters with flat shoes
-I wear clothing that is clean, presentable, and unoffensive.
-I never wear makeup. Ever.
-I wear my hair in a ponytail almost every day. I never dye, blow dry, curl, or otherwise alter my hair. It’s long, dark, straight, shiny, healthy, and often envied.
-I never wear heels of any height (I’m 5’8″ btw, a solid 2-3 inches taller than my coworker).
-I wear deodorant almost every day at work (especially when it’s hot).
-I almost never wear jewelry (my ears keep closing up). I wear one simple necklace every day: a citrine stone on a brown thread.
-My teeth are a normal white-ish color.
-I have always had clear skin.
Picture the person I have just described. What makes this person in need of a makeover? That’s right, nothing. Not only that, I like the way I dress, and so do the people who compliment my clothing (both at the office and elsewhere). I look great and I feel good. What’s the fucking problem?
Obviously there’s no problem with me. The problem is with her: I’m not dressing/presenting myself the way she (or any other vapid cow who has told me I need a makeover) thinks I should dress/present myself. So who does a makeover help? The subject (read: victim), or the observers who inflict it upon them? What’s the point of a makeover?
There are loads of (ambush) makeover shows out there, and they all follow roughly the same formula. Let’s map it out:
-Hear how painfully sad the subject’s friends are for her because her fashion sense is inadequate in some way (in their opinion).
-Show footage of the subject wearing one of her typical (read: hideous) outfits. Cue collective cringe.
-Ambush the subject with a camera crew and token “Celebrity Makeover Expert” (CME) who has arrived just in time to “help” the subject.
-Watch the subject defend her clothing as “comfortable.”
-CME and subject’s “friends” shame the subject until she feels forced to obey CME.
Each step is necessary to convince the viewer that the otherwise useless CME is a valuable contributor to our society. It assures the audience by affirming the status quo, and feeds on their inadequacies by touting fashion sense as something precious, difficult to attain, and very necessary. It’s genius. But who does it help? What’s the point?
The audience is a willing participant in this circus, which cannot always be said of the subjects (poor little lambs). This is the part where we turn back to the little girl being gently rebuked by her supposed friends for her natural tendencies toward athleticism and “tomboyishness.” Who are they helping by encouraging her to be more like them? More recently, why did my coworker think she was being generous, when really she was being… I don’t know… hypocritical?
For example, I am not enslaved by the need to wear makeup and “do” my hair every day. Many women (including my coworker) are. Why would she want to submit me to the same enslavement she currently suffers under? She complains about the time commitment and energy it takes to get ready in the morning, and how she feels “naked” without makeup on. Why would she wish that on me? What is going on in her head?
As I left the office, my coworker said to a student nearby, “You just watch, one day she’s gonna come in here wearing a pink dress, curled hair, makeup, the whole thing, hahaha.” I walked back to her office and blurted out, “I DO have a pink dress! A brightpink dress! I’ve worn it TWICE! I wear dresses all the time!” She said, “Really? Oh.” She’s so (insert insult to intelligence and ability to observe the obvious here), she doesn’t even notice when I do meet her ridiculous standards.
The bottom line is this: An offer for a makeover is an insult veiled by a childish level of enthusiasm for the dubious honor of being considered fashionable, a title unfairly withheld/bestowed by charlatans parading their “expertise” regarding a subject so fleeting and subjective, that any claim to have conquered it is a fantasy. Simply put: just because you’re excited doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be insulted. I’m not threatening you, my job security, the innocence of children, or the staunchly religious with my fashion choices. What the fuck should I care about what you think fashionable is? Why shouldn’t I just wear what I want?
No really. Why?