The timing of the new musical War Paint — coming to Broadway this March and starring Patti LuPone, 67, and Christine Ebersole, 63 — could not be better.
The stage production is based on the delicious 2003 dual biography of the same name, which author Lindy Woodhead subtitled Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden — Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry.
Both the play and the book reenact the legendary antagonism between two beauty titans who made makeup a power tool for women the world over. "There are no ugly women," Rubinstein famously remarked, "only lazy ones." Arden was a bit more reserved: "Every woman," she proclaimed, "has the right to be beautiful."
If the play ends anything like the book did, audiences may leave the theater conflicted: Did the two makeup mavens liberate women or enslave them?
Knowing that background, can you imagine how loudly Rubinstein and Arden might have gasped at our current "no-makeup" trend? With everyone from Adele to Hillary Clinton having chosen to appear barefaced in public (or merely on social media) in 2016, here's my take on the new maquillage-free movement.
It needn't be all or nothing. Let's get realistic because makeup sure has. Thanks to new technology, do-good ingredients, sheer textures and natural colors, makeup is now able to create a fresh and healthy look — one that enhances our features but camouflages discolorations without looking "painted on."
The whims of the wearer should decide the issue here. Some days a touch of beauty balm (BB) cream and tinted lip balm supply enough oomph, with no one the wiser. Other days we might ramp up the drama and definition with a red lip or a smoky lined eye. With the menu of makeup options this varied, why not try one?
Thank you for not sharing! "Nothing" comes between you and your selfie, you say? Then why am I able to detect the telltale traces of your cosmetic surgery, Botox, fillers and hair coloring?
So listen up: Looking your best does not require the validation of others — IMHO, of course. Whether you wear makeup or not, may I suggest you keep that information to yourself? On a need-to-know basis, no one needs to know this news!
The emperor's new makeup? How much are you willing to forgo in your quest for authenticity? Celebs in their 20s, 30s and 40s love to splatter barefaced pics across Instagram and Snapchat. But don't forget about all the beauty treatments that made them possible: dermatological facials, laser treatments, brow shapings, waxings and threadings, and the odd filler or freeze to plump up those kissers or smooth out those frowns. As a fashion-photo director in recovery, I can assure you no model rolls out of bed looking like that!
Instead, "natural" often takes a village — of invisible groomers, stylists, nutritionists, manicurists (even when nails are left plain and buffed) and cosmetic dentists. And I haven't even touched yet on the (often unseen) assist provided by Spanx, a support bra and designer duds.
My take: Makeup is motivating. Call this non-PC if you must, but I think makeup helps women feel good about themselves when times are tough. Rubinstein and Arden were dead-on in this respect: You can be just as authentic with makeup that looks natural as you can by forswearing it altogether. All it takes is selecting the right shades and textures, then refining your application skills.
Seriously, grown women of all ages get dark circles under their eyes when they miss essential sleep. Their eyelids puff up after a night of salty food or cocktails, and hormonal zits are an occupational hazard of life.
Now add to that the generous bonus that Mother Nature confers on those of us who are 50+: saggy skin, brows in need of restoration, brown spots, broken capillaries … you get the picture. Why make focal points of these deficits when what you say and do is so much more important?
Bottom line: You don't need to ditch your makeup to make a political statement — and donning it can help you face forward with confidence and attitude.