Can you see the person in this pic? Liu Bolin is an artist who specializes in hiding in plain sight.
Hair extensions, colored contacts, spray tans, cosmetic surgery, tooth veneers, the finale of How I Met Your Mother – in a world that’s increasingly fake it seems like more and more people are seeking out authenticity. Even if the real deal isn’t as “pretty” as the fakery. We’ve seen this recently with the #nomakeupselfie trend, fashion’s embrace of “normcore” as the new It Thing and more and more celebs peeling back the curtain on what they really look like without their glam squad.
Actress Emma Watson recently posted a red-carpet-ready snap with the caption “I do NOT wake up like this.”
Singer Lorde just tweeted before-and-after selfies from the stage, commenting, “I find this curious – two photos from today, one edited so my skin is perfect and one real. Remember flaws are ok.”
And everygirl Mindy Kaling did one of the best interviews ever, telling Jimmy Fallon, “I’m always trying to lose 15 pounds but I don’t ever want to be skinny.” She then added, “People are like, ‘It’s so nice that Mindy Kaling doesn’t feel like she needs to subscribe to the ideals of beauty that other people do.’ And, I’m like, ‘I do subscribe!’…By the way, I run and work out. It takes a lot of effort to look like a normal/chubby woman.”
All of these are examples of ways people are trying to get others to look past the obvious physicality and see them for who they really are – their soul, if you will. Which is a feeling I can totally relate to and I imagine you can too. Having people really, truly see us is, I think, one of the greatest needs of being human. How many times have you wanted to run after someone and be like, “I swear that’s not what I meant! I’m not like that! That’s not the real me!”?
But what really got me thinking about how we hide the outer to show the inner, were these provoking videos posted by Dermablend. For those of you not familiar with all things cosmetic, Dermablend started out (and is still best known) as a makeup that could provide perfect, impermeable coverage. This allowed people to hide large birth marks, embarrassing tattoos, scars they felt were unsightly, beard stubble on drag queens, acne scarring and a myriad of other “flaws.”
I’ll admit that when I first heard about it years ago, I thought it was sad that society was such that these people were forced to hide something that was an unchangeable part of them to fit into our conventional beauty mold. But then I watched these stories. Far from being the makeup ad I was expecting, these “camo confessions” presented a very real, raw and vulnerable portrait. (Seriously, watch these. Each one is so amazing.)
Rico’s story (definitely the most surprising one!):
The takeaway message was that each of these people, in their own way, chose to hide aspects of their body in order to help people really see them for who they are – the exact opposite of the bare-everything zeitgeist.
Now, I’m not saying that I think everyone should use Dermablend or hide their “flaws” – to me, these ads were really not about the makeup or the underlying issue at all. They were all about how we teach people to see us. All of us have so many different facets and to be truly seen is as terrifying as it is comforting. Which is why we probably only reveal ourselves to a few close intimates in our lives. And so most of the time, we’re choosing a carefully cultivated side of the “real” us to show.
One of the main criticisms of the #nomakeup selfie and Normcore trends is that people are pretending to not care about the superficial stuff while still working very hard to look as good as they would without it, essentially upping the ante from “I’m a gorgeous supermodel” to “I’m still a gorgeous supermodel even without makeup, suckas!” Even I did this: found the most flattering lighting, arranged my hair, turned my best side to the camera, posed so the bump in my nose isn’t as obvious, pressed my lips together to give them a bit of color etc, etc, etc.
Why? Because even when we don’t care what people think of us we still care what people think of us.
And even though most people would rather say they paid full price for Miley Cyrus tickets than admit they care what others think, this isn’t necessarily a bad trait. People who don’t care at all about others’ perceptions are psychopaths. And people who care too much are The Real of Housewives of Wherever. Obviously the best spot is somewhere in the middle.
This got me thinking about other ways people hide their bodies besides no-makeup/makeup:
– Weight gain or weight loss. Dropping or gaining pounds can be a powerful insulation from cruel comments or harsher abuses of our bodies. I’ve interviewed more than one eating disorder sufferer who traced back the beginnings of their illness to sexual abuse, bullying, or verbal assaults. And the funny thing is, it doesn’t matter whether they were binge eaters or anorexics — the end goal was the same: to transform their bodies into something so impenetrable that no one could ever again hurt the bruised, vulnerable person underneath.
– Clothing. I’ve often said I’m so enamored of my costumes (seriously you should see my vintage dress collection!) because I am horribly insecure. I use them as a shiny distraction for people to talk about instead of talking about, oh, me. And if they hate it and think it’s ridiculous? No matter because it really isn’t me anyhow! In the same vein, I once had a pickup-artist type friend (we’ll discuss that issue another time) tell me that he always picked the girls who wore the most jewelry because the more bling she had on, the lower her self-esteem (and presumably the easier she would be to get in bed). On the other hand, I’ve also seen people intentionally use bland clothing to blend into the background, thinking that if no one notices them then no one can hurt them.
– The Internet. Is there any more powerful remodeling tool than the web?? Two words: Second Life. You literally build yourself from the ground up.
Sometimes we hide our bodies by showing everything and sometimes we hide them by showing nothing at all — all in the hope that someone will catch a glimpse of our inner self and love us, for who we really are. But first we have to answer: Do we really want people to see us or just see us?
What do you hide in plain sight? What did you think of those Dermablend vids?? Can you spot the man in this last pic??