For millions of women, putting on foundation, eyeliner, mascara and lipstick is part of a daily routine. Be it is a dinner date, an appointment with a doctor or an outing with friends, most women like to show up ‘clean’.
Minutes, sometimes hours are spent in front of the mirror, choosing from a range of cosmetics to enhance their look. An occasional professional advice is also sought by these women to ensure that they are not only splashing paint on their face, but getting it right in the process.
The desire to look good, for women, is so intense that many end up, literally, painting their faces. They pound on press powder with a fist of fury, brush their faces as if it were a bathhouse and add on coats upon coats of mascara for thicker, longer eyelashes.
Before and after make up photographs taken of brides and other women and shared on social media platforms reveal a startling difference in facial outcomes. Some make up artists are doing a remarkably great job in turning ‘ordinary’ looking women into extraordinary divas, whilst others have made it impossible to take a second look at the women whose faces they paint.
Men have complained, women have too, with many starting a campaign to encourage more girls to go natural.
Indeed, some of the women are going natural, but there are some who will not give up their cosmetic bag for anything. It is their visa to the land of beauty.
This week, we have spoken to three of such women. They cannot live without making up. Left to them alone, it should be criminal for any woman to be allowed to step out of their homes without make up.
As far as Emelda, a university student, is concerned, even when at home, women should wear makeup. For her, it is the make up that makes the woman.
“You need to look beautiful, whether you’re home or not, so there’s nothing wrong with it,” she said.
We met in her hostel room where she showed me a variety of cosmetics; from eyeliners, to press powders, artificial eyelashes, an assortment of eye shadow pallets, all in various designer brands. It’s a whole investment.
She started applying make up in primary school. Before that, her mother will always apply a little lip gloss or lipstick for her anytime they were stepping out of the house.
Sometimes, on Saturdays when her mother was not busy, she will sit her down and teach her how to apply each cosmetic, at a very tender age.
“So by 10, I knew how to get around a make up kit. I knew when to apply what and how to apply it, but I didn’t do it often because our neighbours had started questioning my mum about the training she was giving me,” she said.
Emelda added that although that did not deter either of them – herself and her mother – she thought it wise to stop for a while, but even with that, she wore make up at home.
“My mother believes that as a woman you should know how to look beautiful. Yeah, it’s good to have the book knowledge, but when it comes to looking good, you might get it naturally, but you should always know how to show up.”
She has bought into her mother’s notion and has lived by it and doesn’t seem she will change anytime soon.
Asked if she’ll ever be able to go a day without makeup, I received a very strong “No”.
For her the whole campaign asking girls to go natural, is just a funny little fuzz.
“All these celebrities say they don’t wear makeup, but it’s not true. They do. In any case, you can’t ask everyone to be like you. People have their beliefs and these are things people do to feel good. So you just can’t show up from nowhere and expect that everyone will do something because you’re doing it.
“There’s nothing wrong with makeup and I won’t stop wearing it,” she added.
Adjeley agrees with her.
The investment banker said, it was impossible for her to step out, “come to the office or anywhere without make up.”
She finds it unbelievable that a lady, as she puts it, “a professional one at that will go to the office or any function without makeup on in the name of looking natural. It’s not ladylike, it’s just not ladylike.”
The only time Adjeley doesn’t wear make up is when she is in bed, but “once I’m up, and I’ve had a bath, I wear my make up, like I do to my bra.
“Sometimes, I even hire a professional to do it for me when I’m too tired or I’m attending a very important function where a lot of industry players will be there. You need to look good, and make up gives you just that,” she added.
So I asked her if she felt less beautiful without make up on. Her response was a very emphatic yes and a clarification that it didn’t mean she felt less of a person or was not confident about her body, “the makeup just gives you an added touch, no matter how artificial it may seem, in the end you achieve desired results so its cool.”
I met Ohenewaa in her house. Because we were friends, she agreed to do the interview, but like the others will not want her photograph used. She could not deal with the ‘sharp tongued’ people on social media who speak anyhow.
So she gave me a stern warning and even while we were having the conversation, she’ll check my phone time after time to be sure that I’d not secretly taken a picture of her. She fears so much what I do and the perceived power that I have, that she was not prepared to take any risks.
Ohenewaa is a marketing consultant and as one of the few women in the industry, she believes that her looks are just as important as her brain.
“You can disagree and say all the things people say, but trust me, you need to be equally good looking otherwise forget it,” she said.
But her job is not the only reason she is so addicted to make up. She took make up serious and learnt how to apply it after she was turned away from an audition in her teens.
She said nothing since then, has brought her so much embarrassment. She was told she looked too raw for the role she wanted to audition for and asked to go learn to look like “a lady” and come back next time, because “this is not what we want.”
“Since then I made a vow that anytime I step out, I have to look like ‘a lady’. You may disagree with this assertion, but in the real world things are happening. See, ladies in the banking sector are supposed to make up, be in a certain type of shoe with specified inches and so on,” the suddenly passionate mother of one said.
The situation with Ohenewaa is a lot more serious than I thought. When her husband noticed that was what we were discussing, he came to the study table we were sitting at and advised me not to bother advising his wife to stop doing make up.
“Even on Saturday when she is just doing laundry, she hasn’t had a shower yet, she will put on make up before she steps out of the bedroom.
“The only time I see my wife with a bare face is when we are in bed, aside that, never,” he added.
Max says he is not exactly bothered about the behaviour, for him there is more to her than just her desire to look good at all times.
“And I’ve said to her countless times that she looks beautiful even without it, but she says she feels naked without it and I can only love her.”
Adjeley is also against the campaign calling on girls to go natural. For her, girls should be allowed to make their won choices, imposing other people’s view restricts learning and inhibits talents as well.
“The make up industry is a multi billion dollar one, and we all can’t be business executives and corporate professionals, we need the artistry of makeup and other talents as well so. Telling people to go natural really for me, makes no sense, especially if the reason you give has nothing to do with any health threat.”