OPINION: It's not your imagination - celebrities have been exposing more and more of themselves for a few years now.
But one of the most fascinating trends, where famous women are photographed without makeup on, appears to be enjoying a revival.
It's partly due to the influence of Twitter, which, as we know, has enabled celebrities to luxuriate in unbridled contact with their fans and followers.
And for women like Rihanna, who like going without more than just mascara, it's proven mildly addictive.
The trend is also due, in part, to the current demand for a greater "authenticity" and intimacy from celebrities.
We are much more savvy than we were even five years ago and we feel reassured about our own humanness when we see that a celebrity has a slightly uneven skin tone, too.
Meanwhile, New York Magazine waded into the celebrity bare-faced beauty trend last week, tracing its origins back to US Magazine's promotion of its "Stars, just like us" pages and the philosophy that goes along with it - that just because they're ridiculously famous, (and wealthy) doesn't mean they don't wear leggings to the gym like regular people.
New York Magazine also pointed out that once upon a time (before the internet), being caught without their "face on" in public meant certain death for a female celebrity and certain wealth for the magazine that published the photo of their face sans war paint. But that was then.
Look at this - it's a bunch of super models without makeup. Thrilling, isn't it?
You'll notice that the lighting is different in the "no makeup" ones and there is also an element of distraction - serious cleavage is present in almost every pic.
When you're done, look at this. It's Lady GaGa, braving the world without kohl. But not, might I add, without semi-permanent eyebrow tint. Which brings me, at long last, to my point.
Anyone who has a Twitpic, instagram account, Tumblr blog or a Facebook page will tell you that when they upload that "casual" portrait it's usually the 10th shot that makes the grade. And that's just regular people.
May I suggest that these celebrities, even if they're posting on Twitter, are publishing the best photo of themselves in the best light possible? Which is, of course, fine. Hey, we all like to put forward our best selves.
But their "best selves" are still not and probably never will equate to everyone else's "best selves" - and makeup (or lack of it) is only part of the story.
These days you can have all kinds of things done to iron out your "flaws" even before you slap makeup on them.
So that photo you see of a 50-year-old female celebrity in a bikini and without makeup is not what a 50-year-old "civilian" looks like.
Because your average 50-year-old civilian has probably not had as many chemical peels or Botox or filler or anything else the celebrity has.
So it follows then that the celebrity is going to require makeup about as much as a baby does.
This is not limited to 50-year-olds. Let's look at stunning Victoria Secret model Doutzen Kroes without makeup on.
Utes is 26 and I don't think anyone will find it controversial when I suggest she had her lips freshly done when the photo was taken. Want proof? Here's Kroes on another day when they're slightly deflated.
Lady Gaga doesn't look as if she's had any "work done" in that Twitpic (apart from her well documented nose job). She also has tinted eyebrows.
This may be a small point but I'm not sure how we can then define what she's doing in her Twitpic as particularly revealing.
What about print? Just how reflective of reality is a "makeup-free" photo of a celebrity in a magazine anyway?
Every time a person, no matter who they are, is shot for a magazine, great care is taken to photograph them at their most flattering angle and in just the right light.
I know this because I've worked at magazines. Although I'm sure any reader could tell you the same thing.
The same principle applies to all these celebrities who now pose - gasp! - in the buff. This is rarely an average semi-naked woman you're looking at; this is a woman who has likely had her breasts augmented, her tummy tucked; her hips liposucked.
So even if she's not airbrushed (a common occurrence), she still looks as if she's undergone procedures - before the image even goes to print.
Again, this is fine. But calling it "brave" or "daring" or "courageous" is a misnomer. If anything it's perpetuating a laughable (and some might argue dangerous) myth that underneath the normal modicum of artifice is a person just like us. When, in reality it's just more artifice.
This is an article about Heidi Montag looking "surprisingly normal" without makeup. She doesn't look all that different because even with the makeup off she still has had:
Botox (she's 25)
A chin reduction
A nose job
Ears pinned back
Mini brow lift
And that's just her face. You can click here for confirmation of every procedure she has had done.
Remember when Russell Brand took that photo of his then-wife Katy Perry after she'd just woken up?
Notice how it didn't have studio lighting? Notice how it was extremely close up? Notice how Katy didn't seem to have any creative control over it? And those are the reasons it's speculated that the photo was quickly deleted.
Perry just released another "makeup-free" pic of herself as part of the promotion for her new movie.
Only, she doesn't look completely makeup free. It looks like there is mascara and lip gloss involved.
But that might just be my own perception - Perry's a beautiful woman. But there's some great lighting. She's also been photographed at a reasonable distance away from the camera.
I'm not suggesting we stop looking at photos of celebrities or that celebrities start taking photos of themselves sunburnt on the toilet (I mean, just for example).
It wouldn't solve much if we did - this just in: women, no matter what they do, are still being seen as objects and men as people.
I'm not suggesting, either, that celebrities "get real" and stop doing things to their faces, because they're not going to.
What I am suggesting is that the next time a female celebrity chooses to go "without makeup" or clothes we don't laud it as brave, courageous or even authentic, and instead call it what it is: a cynical publicity stunt.
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