I was watching some crappy Christmas film with my daughter the other day when Lily-Rose Depp’s beautiful, moon face came on the telly, all limpid eyes and cheekbones. You know the ad. How could you not? It’s been on 2,043 times since Sunday. Next up was Charlize Theron, dressed entirely in gold, her gold hand stroking her gold hair while her gold skin shone with gilded luminosity. Did she make me want to buy a bottle of Dior J’adore? Nah. She made me want to dig a hole, hide in it and not come out till January.
I don’t normally mind being bombarded with images of female perfection – ’tis the season, after all – but this season, I have to say I’m struggling. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s my insomnia. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had a heavy cold for three weeks and just can’t seem to shift it. Whatever the reason, I have never looked more heinous. And I don’t think I’m alone. Ask any woman you know, and she’ll probably claim she looks equally heinous right now. You’ll be able to gauge just how rank she feels by the number of times she uses the word “literally”. Rank Woman One: “I look so ugly today. Totally blighted by the fugly stick. I literally look dead.” Rank Woman Two: “I literally can’t even bear to look at myself. I literally look like Jabba the Hut. Literally.”
It’s one of life’s great *commercial cynicisms* ironies that every December, women are blitzed with glossy ads exhorting them to buy The Dress, The Lipstick and The Scent at a time when they have probably never identified less with the models and actresses who’ve been paid so handsomely to sell them. I mean, clearly I never feel like Lily-Rose Depp, but in December, blowing my nose and googling “quick fix flu remedies” with one hand and “Amazon last day Christmas deliveries” with the other, the idea that anything on God’s earth will make me feel like the 18-year-old scion of Vanessa Paradis is a joke. I’m not saying I’m a minger. In a dim light, with a bit of make-up, I can look quite nice. Just not this month. It’s winter, it’s freezing, it’s flu season and there’s Christmas to produce.
Against a backdrop of shiny-happy-perfect Christmas ads, any iota of normalcy is appreciated. At this time of year, it’s easy to feel like the only mingbot at the party
In between panic-buying crimpers, raclette, whisky and hair chalks, I spied the new Versace ads. While Donatella’s spring campaign didn’t exactly cure me of my acute seasonal case of mingeritis, at least it helped, a tiny bit. Alongside the flawless images of Gisele, Naomi and Kaia Gerber, there was a close-up of 48 year old Christy Turlington, looking *fairly* like a 48 year old, complete with wrinkled cheeks. And not just the faint, cute little laughter lines/crow’s feet that have already been deemed permissible by the fashion and beauty industries, but full-on creases that radiated up the side of her face. Like mine do. Like yours do. Like everyone’s do, only we rarely get to see them. And I’m not only referring to glossy ad campaigns: we don’t even see them on social media any more, thanks to DIY retouching apps and filters.
So while photographer Steven Meisel deserves credit for not retouching Christy’s face, and Donatella deserves credit for going with it, the person who deserves the most credit is Christy herself, for sanctioning natural-looking images to be released into a landscape where “natural” is vehemently frowned upon. Christy has always been my all-time favourite model, but in this image, she has never looked more beautiful. Against a backdrop of shiny-happy-perfect Christmas ads, any iota of normalcy is appreciated. At this time of year, it’s easy to feel like the only mingbot at the party. Maybe we all feel like mingbots underneath, but the images we see all around us, and the images we increasingly present to the world, are so removed from the actuality that it’s tempting to forget what a flaw looks like, until you glance in the mirror and recoil in horror at your own. Which aren’t even flaws. So to everyone convinced they look like shit right now: you don’t. You’re beautiful to someone. Try to believe it.