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The Beheld
By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
Examining questions surrounding personal appearance: What does it mean to be seen? What is the relationship between "beauty labor" and cultural visibility? And why do two lipstick shades combined always look better than one?
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Beauty Blogosphere 12.21.12

What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.


From Head…
You can be beautiful too: 
Is there a difference between salon and drugstore shampoos? The answer, if you are a faithful reader of The Beheld and therefore probably inclined to be a hint skeptical of the beauty industry, will not surprise you at all!

…To Toe…
Pedicure dreams: 
The first pedicure for Mary Ann Doll, age 90, courtesy Hospice Dreams (sort of a Make-A-Wish for seniors in hospice care).

…And Everything In Between:
In bloom: It’s official: Drew Barrymore will launch her own makeup line with WalMart. Flower will retail between $5 and $14, but is aiming for a “masstige” angle—prestige products and connotation at a mass market price. Certainly WalMart has the funds for a prestige-level research and development machine, so we shall see.

Say cheese: The autonomia Marxist scholars reading this (holla!) should click through to this dense but intriguing paper on smile-scan technology and affective labor; the rest of us might just be content (or malcontent, as it were) to learn of the existence of smile scanners, which some workplaces in Japan are using to monitor the “smile!” angle of customer service amongst employees. “Workers at Keihin Electric Express Railway will receive a print out of their daily smile which they will be expected to keep with then throughout the day to inspire them to smile at all times, the report added.”

Naked honesty: Actress and writer Louise Brealey gives a compelling piece on what it’s like to be naked onstage, in her case to play Helen of Troy: “The idea of standing naked in a theatre the size of a corner shop, five feet from the audience, whilst pretending to be Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman on the planet? That sounded like a very bad idea indeed. … Exposing myself to 75 strangers a night has made me think a lot about what psychologist Susie Orbach calls ‘body terror,’ the chip in your brain that tells you your body isn’t good enough but if you buy this cream, eat this thing, do this exercise, you can look like Rihanna and you will be happy.” (via Jessica Stanley)


Stem cell blues: “I paid $20,000 for cosmetic surgery and all I got were these lousy bone shards growing in my eyelid.”


Hunger games: “How to one-up ourselves after The Biggest Loser?” NBC executives asked themselves while splashing about in a bath of virgin blood. “How about The Biggest Loser—for Kidz?” If the idea of a weight-loss competition show for children seems like as bad an idea to you as it does to me (and after you read this interview with one of the show’s finalists, I assure you it will), let NBC executives know. Yes, I’ve written about the pain that being a fat kid brought upon me. I’m certain that embarking upon a highly visible, public weight-loss effort would be far, far worse. #stopbiggestloser


Afro Blue by Andrea Pippins, limited-edition print, $45, Etsy


Crowns of Color: Interesting interview with Andrea Pippins, an artist whose celebratory woodcut-style posters of black women’s hairstyles are the focus here. “Because we so rarely see black women represented as free, pretty and majestic I wanted these ladies to be that in a very lighthearted way, as if they were getting their portraits printed to capture their nobility, but in the style of a barbershop sign or woodblock print. Instead of a precious painting that only one person could own, it would be more in the spirit of propaganda posters that everyone could have and hang in their homes.”

Work up a lather: In a recent study, about a third of black women said they exercise less than they’d like because of concerns about their hair. As Charlotte at The Cut points out, this is hardly limited to black women, but I do wonder about the general sentiment at play here, given other contested points surrounding black women and exercise (body image, body size, musculature and femininity, etc.).


Visions of sugarplums: With all the intense focus on food—coupled with constant tips on how to stay trim during the holidays—this time of year can be incredibly difficult for people who have or are recovering from an eating disorder. Margaret Wheeler Johnson has some deeply considered advice on the matter, and it’s advice that can only come from the sort of lived experience she dips into here.


Shut-eye: I sure felt a helluva lot better when I read the scientific explanation for why you sometimes look better when you’re hung over. (Dehydration! Tightens the pores. Also, don’t do it.) Not sure if this will play out the same way, but nice to see a scientific explanation of why we look like hell when we’re tired.


Man style: This is sort of a win-lose situation: I expected this piece geared toward professional hairstylists on how to boost male clientele to be chock-full of blather about appealing to patrons’ masculinity and not making them feel like they’re vain for caring, etc. Pleasant surprise there; the tips are pretty much the same as you’d expect for women. But then the growing sense of ill spreads: “Past are the days when men just wanted a $5 buzz, they are now interested in all areas of grooming from hair color, highlighting, waxing, custom cutting, facials, manicures, pedicures, spray tanning and last but not least products to take home.” We knew this already, but something about seeing it put in terms of consumerism makes it super bleak. If it’s now expected that all of us want custom cuts and blow-dry expertise, our point of comparison shifts radically. And I don’t think the answer here will be equality; I think it’s just that women’s maintenance will have to raise the bar to keep that point of comparison intact.



Off the cuff: Jeans that update your social media for you. You know what? I’m with the Mayans, the world is ending.


And I feel fine: And since the world is ending today, here’s how to go out looking good: Diana Vilibert’s beauty tips for the apocalypse.


“…and to all, a good night!”

Hurry up my chimney tonight: On the sex appeal of Santa—scientifically speaking, of course: “Recent studies in the Perception Lab have also found that people choose partners with redder faces, as red skin is indicative of health. The result of increased vasodilation of blood vessels in the face, redness can occur as a result of high levels of physical exercise, such as delivering presents to the children of the world.”


It’s a wrap: The name of this Tumblr, Fuck Yeah Fat Brown Hijabis, sorta says it all. (via The Closet Feminist—another aptly named blog dealing not with undercover feminists but feminism and fashion)


Small talk: If silence during a haircut is apparently a sign one is inclined to visit an unimaginable act of violence upon an elementary school, it’s a small miracle NYPD isn’t knocking on my door right now. Don’t we have enough to figure out on a “national conversation” level about why white American men like to kill loads of people without this sort of crap? (via Phoebe)


Sung to the tune of “Tradition”Geek culture and nail art collide, prompting Cassie to look at one connection between the two worlds: obsession.


Lush love: Can I get fangirl for a sec? Mkay. Not only does Lush have spas in the UK (!), but there’s soon to be one in New York (!!!). It’s on the Upper East Side, just near enough to The Most Annoying Place On Earth Despite Presence of Candy to make me think the place will be overrun with obnoxious teenagers, but still! Lush Spa.


Feministas: I’m thrilled to be mentioned (alongside excellent company, Tashira of Politics and Fashion and Jenna Sauers of Jezebel) in this Ms. blog post about feminist fashion and beauty bloggers by Avital Norman Nathman. I began my career at Ms. as an intern in 1999, so there’s a particular satisfaction in knowing that I haven’t strayed too far from my roots.


Screw it: Can you have sex in Spanx? Intrepid reporter for NYMag attempts to find out.


All made up: It’s Makeover Week at Deep Glamour—fitting, because both the makeover and glamour itself embody an element of both artifice and revelation. In any case, check out this mini-bio on Eddie Senz, who did the first-ever ladymag makeover in 1936, and this interview with makeover specialist Diane Gardner.


Work it: Feminist Figure Girl looks at the neoliberal approach to women’s bodies—presumed to be bodies we can mold, shape, and transform, if only we put enough doggone American determination into it!
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