Covergirl 390 + Job Interview = Success?
I haven’t been interested in wearing makeup since middle school, when I put turquoise dots on my eyelids with liquid eyeliner. A few years later I got my makeup done for prom. I stressed to the cosmetician to make it natural—but when I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt like a total phony. That was not my face. My freckles were gone and my eyelids looked and felt leaden.
In high school my grandmother got me a little box set of eyeshadows, blushes, etc. “You might try wearing it!” she said. Some girls may have been thrilled. I was hugely insulted. Was I ugly? Did I need makeup?
That was pretty much the end of makeup for me. I have one tube of lipstick, which I chose carefully and which I wear only on occasion, and with particular things. It does not make me feel prettier than I ordinarily do; I wear it to complement my outfit.
On that note, I’ve gotten every job I’ve ever applied for and really wanted. For interviews, I dressed neatly. I don’t think I was wearing any makeup. I couldn’t have been—I only recently bought that tube of red Benefit (funny name for a makeup brand!). They all hired me anyway, obviously acknowledging I brought something significant to the table, regardless of whether or not I’d painted my face.
I bring all this up in response to a study conducted at Harvard University, with researchers from Boston University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and funded by Procter and Gamble (a gigantic corporation which owns Covergirl, among other things). The researchers investigated the impacts of makeup on a group of women, who were photographed with varying amounts of makeup. These photos (which are awful, by the way) were then shown to another group composed of both men and women. Conclusion? “It [makeup] increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence… [and] her trustworthiness,” reports Catherine St. Louis for The New York Times.
So most people I come in contact with might find me unlikeable and untrustworthy. Oh, and incompetent. Or at least less competent than the done-up girl a few feet away.
I have a lot of issues with the study. I find it invalid to compare a series of responses to some photographs to how people feel when they interact, which pretty much anyone would say makes more of an impact. Are you a jerk? Are you really loud, are you very shy, do you stink? Or do you speak intelligently, smell clean, and appear all-around confident? These are the real issues, and to publish a report telling women if they don’t wear makeup they will be less liked is misdirected, although maybe I should say it’s a perpetuation of the same b.s. American women have had to deal with for at least a couple hundred years.
Makeup should not be viewed as a crutch or a necessity. We do not need to maintain the idea that a woman has to look a certain way in order to be worthy. Wear makeup because it’s fun. Because you like experimenting with different colors, because you’re passionate about fashion—not because you feel like you have something to hide, and not because you feel like if you don’t, you’ll be less liked. If you feel good about yourself, I can pretty much guarantee it won’t make a difference.
You can see the original study here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0025656#s2
And the New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/fashion/makeup-makes-women-appear-more-competent-study.html
Angela is currently a senior at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Her occupations have up to this point been poet, barista and coffee snob, expensive chocolate hawker, and iTunes organizer. She hopes someday to be an editor and writer at Esquire. She loves food, urban landscapes, and a clean apartment.
Her fear is that she will end up in a career not dedicated in some way to the written word.