I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I am categorically 100 per cent sure that Michelle Keegan arriving at the ITV studios, with not enough time to have full hair and make-up before being interviewed by Piers Morgan, is not news.
The Daily Mirror, however, would disagree.
In their headline, Keegan was “forced” to go on live TV without being given the onceover by the “glam squad”, spat out with the same terror as if Keegan had been standing on the edge of a plane and had been pushed without a parachute. There’s not much more I can tell you about the “story". I could, like the Mirror, desperately suggest there was the thrilling dash to Good Morning Britain, which I imagine was more stationary traffic than Bond car chase. And then there are the heroics: a woman “braved” national TV without professional hair and make-up. But Saving Private Ryan this was not.
The Mirror has made this “news” because a woman’s appearance is still how we primarily form judgement of her – and how much make-up she does or does not have on is a crucial part of how we reach that conclusion
Women “braving” no make-up has become a bit of A Thing – and a problematic one at that. Some women are going make-up free to make a point and promote a more real image. Others, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, have never been more outspoken on the feminist declaration of wearing make-up (albeit particularly loudly when she’s endorsing a make-up range). And this is a discussion worth having – at the very least to reflect on a multi-million-pound industry that nearly every woman (and, increasingly, man) buys into, in some way or another, and the myriad ways it makes us feel.
But this isn’t what happened. Keegan wasn’t knowingly starting a conversation – she was just late! She said she had a “scrap of make-up on – just powder and lippie”, but she was making no point.
This story was the fourth trending story on my Apple news feed yesterday. The nation, it seems, was gripped by the drama of a late-running Keegan and in awe of a young famous woman in a modest amount of make-up. But this "story" does not even fall into the grey area of reporting that covers Katie Hopkins' offensive comments or Kate Middleton’s endless pictures of her kids – information that we know the world will lap up and that, perhaps, in some slight, particular sense, might tell us something about the world in which we live. This is not that.
No, this is comment on how women should look when presenting themselves to the world. The Mirror has made this “news” because a woman’s appearance is still how we primarily form judgement of her – and how much make-up she does or does not have on is a crucial part of how we reach that conclusion. The shock that a young actress would be so daring as to go ahead with a live TV interview without slap, coupled with the intrigue of seeing what her face actually looks like (something we don’t often see in mainstream media, to be fair), made this tabloid headlines. And therein lies the real story: the idea of a young woman not adhering to beauty ideals set by society.
Turning on the radio or TV, opening a newspaper or logging on to Facebook or Twitter has never been so bewildering, so confusing, so infuriating. In a post-Trump world, headlines are harder to believe than ever. But there’s one thing we can be sure of: a woman wearing make-up is still news for all the wrong reasons.