Monday, 25 November 2013

...and this is Lizzy.

So hi everyone, I’m Lizzy Thomas J At the tender age of 24 I live in Pencoed, Bridgend with my parents having not yet taken the leap into ‘true’ adulthood (definitely a cheaper standard of living which is a plus, not at the delight of my parents I might mention). Still at a point in my life where I feel more ‘Teen’ rather than a ‘Twenty something...’ I am a genealogy hobbyist, petite model wannabe & former Miss Wales contestant (who basically still has no idea what she wants from life). I am an honorary red head with hair so long it encompasses almost half my body length. I often get asked “why don’t you cut it off?” & in all honesty I do wonder why I’ve never taken the plunge & reached for the scissors. I often ponder whether it’s my way of clinging to my childhood... If perhaps my hair could one day act as some sort of salvage tool for the Zombie Apocalypse, re-enacting some sort of Rapunzel style escape (it’s possible right?) Then as reality descends on me like a fine mist, I remember... I have frustratingly sticky out ears which could only be described as little ‘handles’. If cutting my hair off became reality my partner could literally introduce me as his ‘Trophy Girlfriend’. I love you dad but why oh why did I have to inherit THAT Thomas commodity? *Face palm*

Makeup for me really became a necessity from the age of 14 onwards. My mum only ever wore (& still only wears) lipstick and a light slick of mascara. She wasn’t exactly ‘innovative’ with makeup so I really didn’t have that much of an interest in the art of what I then considered Face paint. My interests were very much tailored to school & a plethora of extracurricular activities. I was what you would consider, a ‘SWOT’. I do, however, remember one time when my mum had purchased a new nail varnish when I was about 9. I sat on the stairs patiently waiting for mum to show me the colour. It was a lovely dusky pink colour & I begged her to have my nails painted. Mum allowed me to have one hand painted and I remember feeling so chuffed. Looking back it was pretty cruel. Who would only paint one hand then send you to school the next day?! A tad harsh mum!

Having dabbled with makeup between the ages of 11-13; using the then mandatory clear lip gloss often glorified in the teen ‘Sugar’ Magazine & for some reason (still baffling me to this day) using Vaseline on my eyelashes believing that it made my eyelashes grow stronger & longer. Actually doing that was probably the cause of my many bouts of conjunctivitis. You know what they say about hindsight... At 14 it was literally as if the proverbial switch had been turned to ‘ON’ and I became very self aware. I found myself rifling through my sisters makeup, testing her foundations & concealers’ trying to cover any imperfection (& being a hormonal teenager there was a lot to conceal). As if overnight, I became incredibly self conscious. I was about 5ft tall with hair that I could sit on, my fringe was humungous and covered part of my eyes, I had a lot of puppy fat and annoyingly protruding ears. I was very much an ugly duckling and for some reason the taunts I’d heard about my looks before had only just started to hurt. I became obsessed with how others viewed me. I bought myself a pair of eyelash curlers & used them to the point where my eyelashes were falling out in clumps; trying to achieve that voluminous, defined look. For some reason I had an obsession with pale purple lipstick & would wear this to school every day thinking if I layered the lipstick on it would make my eyes appear bluer. Looking back it would seem I was channelling the ‘dead look’ and as I was (& still am) extremely pale, teaming that with a purple shade reminiscent of that of a mortuary regular I certainly stood out, albeit not for the right reasons. I never took my makeup off at night & this added to my bad skin. This was certainly a vicious circle whereby I was terrified to take my makeup off in the fear that someone would see me, even keeping it on during a shower & just topping it up every day. It was about this age I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

So here’s my makeup bag & only upon emptying it do I realise that I carry quite a lot around with me... oh dear! In this, what I call, my ‘essentials’ makeup bag I have... *Deep Breath*: Clean & Clear Oil Free Dual Action Moisturiser, MAC Matte Creme Matifiante, MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NW10, MAC Concealer in NO15, No7 Perfect light loose powder in Translucent, MAC Powder Blush in Margin Frost, Benefit Brow Zings Brow Shaping Kit in Light, Maybelline Brow Drama in Medium Brown, R.E.D Eyelash Curlers, Maybelline Falsies Volume Effect Mascara, Collection Fast Stroke Eyeliner in Black, Maybelline Colour Sensational Lip Liner in Choco Pop and Benefit Lip Plump. This is a seemingly limited makeup bag in comparison to the many others I have strewn around (can you really ever have TOO MUCH makeup? I think not!).

My makeup regime is carried out with literal military precision (I wish I could say I was joking but it’s the sad truth). It is applied everyday at the same time regardless of whether I’m going out or simply putting the washing on the line! Partly to do with my OCD rituals but partly because I cannot stand to witness my bare face! On a normal day it would take approx 30minutes to decorate my face but for nights out it can take as long as 2 hours! My makeup style is very much based on ‘Old School Glamour’, channelling Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and more recent beauties like Angelina Jolie, Dita Von Teese & Sophie Ellis Bextor. I adore their accentuated eyebrows, full pout, defined eyes, sculpted cheekbones and flawless complexion. Simple beauty that looks effortless, this is what I ‘try’ to achieve. I’ll be honest; I’m not one for experimenting too much with colour. I find eye shadows & brightly coloured lipsticks quite daunting & as I have pretty much perfected my makeup style (after much practice), I play it safe & avoid straying away from my norm.

Here is a picture of my cosmetic removal products... There are a few & yes I use them every day (to the dismay of bank balance having to renew them what seems like every day) in sequence in fear I may wake up with a spot... I think I may have too much time on my hands... hmm...

Now, why do I wear makeup? This is something I’ve debated with myself & I more often than not tell myself that I wear cosmetics because it’s motivated by creativity & self expression, that it’s a reflection of my mood and most importantly myself. Let me be completely honest, this is actually a big fib I tell myself in the belief that one day I will believe my own words. I use makeup as a way of disguising my own insecurities stemmed from the belief that I don’t look good enough without it. In the same way we wear slimming clothing to appear that little bit thinner, I wear makeup to appear that little bit more attractive, to feel more accepted in a time where your looks are what allegedly determines who you are as a person. I do feel that cosmetics give you the opportunity to put your proverbial best foot forward but when people say ‘don’t you feel makeup is a deception because you aren’t showing what you truly look like?’, I can’t help but giggle to myself. If we truly believe makeup is ‘deceiving’, what are their opinions on clothes? If it were the case that we wear clothes for simply primal reasons like keeping warm, why on earth do we have clothes designed to enhance our bust, to slim our waists, to elongate our legs or to flatten our bums? Should we remain naked in fear that we are deceiving people into believing our body shapes aren’t actually as they appear in modern clothing? I think NOT! Aside from the major issue of indecent exposure, we wear clothes to allow us to feel confident & we use clothes to flatter & enhance our natural assets, in the same way we wear makeup. We use cosmetics to enhance & highlight our natural beauty. Do I believe this is right? That it’s ok to judge someone based on their looks? No I don’t, however I am realistic that this is the world that we live in & I realise beauty is what sells. 

You only have to read a magazine or watch TV to understand what world we live in. Do I look at these beautiful women & wish that I could have their bodies or their perfectly airbrushed faces? I would be lying if I said no... HOWEVER! I feel no more jealous of these women than I do when I see Stephen Fry & wish that I had his intelligence, or wish that I had Christina Aguileras’ voice or Jessica Ennis’ sporting ability. We as a population will always want what we can’t have but it will never stop us from trying. Of course the beauty industry is flawed but there will never be equality between those blessed with natural beauty & those who are crippled with insecurity whilst we always villainize the opposing side. It appears justified to bully those who are naturally beautiful in order to support those who have insecurities. I have many insecurities but do I blame gorgeous women for this? Do I look at top models & hold them accountable for my own anxieties?  No I don’t. I reflect on my own (what I consider) inadequacies & do what I can to improve them. This is just a thought... Why can’t women just support & empower other women?  

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Meet Emma...

My name is Emma Karidian.  I am 37…veering perilously close to 38…and I am a mum to 4 adorable (most of the time) children, Delphi, aged 10, Alexander, aged 6, Isabella, aged 22 months and Sylvie, aged 9 months.  I am currently on maternity leave from my job as a teaching assistant at a local nursery.

I LOVE make-up. Couldn’t possibly do without it, even on the rare occasions I have gone bare-faced, it’s only briefly and only because I know once I get half a chance I’ll slap it all back on again! I’ve worn it since I was about 11 or 12. My mum used to get free samples of make-up off her friend who worked in Boots and there were always one or two cute little dolly-sized tubes of sparkly, glossy, shiny stuff left over for me. I also used to enjoy raiding her make-up bag and trying out some of her stuff – especially the expensive items I couldn’t afford myself.  I’m quietly hoping my love of make up from an early age has protected my skin from the elements – my mum has always been a fan of the fully made-up look and she looks amazing for 75.  I hope I look as good when I’m her age!

 So, this is my make-up bag and its contents. Incredibly pared down compared with how previous incarnations used to look. Well, less is more, right? I can remember spending absolutely AGES as a teenager (and into my twenties) doing my make-up before going out.  I thought my face was my best feature (apart from my spots).  I made a point of using lots of foundation and concealer, pale face powder and blusher; accentuating my eyes with eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara, smothering my lips with deep red or bright pink lipstick - I often got told that I was wearing too much – usually by various teachers at school!  These days, I don’t have time to go mad with my make-up.  I rarely use eyeshadow and only occasionally use eyeliner. I always wear blusher and lipstick though, I think I look ill without it. I’ve scaled down to using BB cream instead of the old faithful Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation I always used to use. I can’t afford a lot of big brand name cosmetics now, and to be honest they aren’t as good as I thought, or I was made to believe they were by various magazines and beauty reviews. Boots Botanics is my current favourite skincare range, and it always seems to be on offer, which is an added bonus! The one item of make-up I’ve always used and can’t do without is Rimmel Hide the Blemish concealer. Amazing stuff.  I use Rimmel eyebrow pencils and loose powder too – in fact, I’d have to say Rimmel is probably one of my all-time favourite brands of make-up. As I’ve got older, I think I’ve gained a little bit more confidence in the way I look - maybe that’s another reason why I’ve felt able to tone down my make-up. Well, just a little bit ;)

The Mama Mio products were a bit of an expensive experiment! They promised so much! They cost so much! I also bought the stretch mark remover cream, but it didn’t work. Although, to be fair, the instructions did say to apply 3 times a day…I barely had time to do it once a day. And anyway, stretch marks can’t really be removed can they? They can fade, but they never really disappear.  I took part in a trial for a new body oil that the company are hoping to launch soon too, called The Activist.  I must say it was very nice, all the more so because it was free J.  Out of all of the products I tried, the only one I’d buy again is the ‘Boob Tube Bust & Neck Firmer’. For my neck – it hasn’t done a lot to my boobs to be honest. I’m not dissing Mama Mio products by the way! I think they’re lovely and I’m sure they work a treat for some people ;) As an all over body moisturiser, my favourite product is Palmer’s cocoa butter.  Makes my skin nice and smooth and smells like melted chocolate. 

I’ve managed to maintain a mostly ‘pale and interesting’ skin tone throughout my life; I burn quite easily in the sun, rarely holiday abroad and have never got the hang of using self-tanning lotion – it always ends up streaky.  I’ve thought about getting it done professionally, but I don’t want to end up looking like an oompah-loompah and to be honest, I just haven’t got the time. I’m not a fan of ‘baring all’ either.  I’m not so worried about my top half, but I hate my legs! I always either wear jeans, trousers or leggings.  I occasionally wear a dress, but seldom without tights.  Therefore, my skin has no option other than to stay whiter than white all year round! 

As a child, I pretty much hated the way I looked. I was tall, but chubby, mainly because of the huge portions of gorgeous home-cooked meals my mum used to make the whole family and the copious amounts of sweets and treats my well-meaning grandma and auntie used to give me and my brother every Sunday when they came to visit. Couple that with a bit of a lack of exercise, due to not being allowed out as much as my friends were (I wasn’t even allowed a bike!) Oh, and genetics, of course. I got teased at school a fair bit too, which wasn’t nice and put a serious dent in my self-esteem and confidence for years to come. L

When I was 15, my best friend and I embarked on a ridiculous exercise (ha!) in depriving ourselves of food. I’d flush my breakfast down the loo when my mum wasn’t looking, throw my sandwiches in the bin at lunchtime and only pick at my tea in the evening. We’d occasionally nibble some sweets from the sweet van that used to park up by the school at break time. I lost a lot of weight and once actually passed out in assembly. My friends thought I was messing around. It scared me a little bit, but I still carried on with the not eating thing. I was also smoking then too. Not enough to be addicted at that stage, but just because my friends were doing it. It also helped to suppress my appetite. Unfortunately, I did become addicted eventually. Luckily, I managed to give up when I was pregnant with my first baby and I am proud to say that I have been smoke-free ever since.  Hopefully I’ve managed to preserve my skin a bit better as a result! 

At the age of 16, I embarked on a year-long relationship with a man ten years older than me, who I thought I loved and who I thought at the time loved me, but he messed with my mind to the point I believed I was worthless, which prolonged my insecurities about the way I looked.  Luckily, once I’d come to my senses and dumped him, I never had the misfortune to go out with anyone else as spiteful as he was.  If I could meet him now, I would love to ask him why, where and how he got his warped views of the way he thought a woman should look.  I was too na├»ve and lacked the confidence to ask him or disagree with him back then. 

I have been happily married for 10 years now, and my husband loves me the way I am…big or skinny, make-up or no make-up!  Well, I think he does…he sometimes has trouble with his contact lenses, so maybe I’m in soft focus most of the time!! 

I’m not entirely sure why my friend and I felt the need to try and starve ourselves, I guess the media were feeding us (excuse the pun) subliminal messages even then.  Couple that with a fair bit of peer pressure and general teenage insecurities.  But it’s not a new phenomenon is it? Take the Pond’s advertisement from the 1940’s/50’s (?) that Betty Red cited in her blog for this experiment – the image of a woman supposedly bare-faced and beautiful as a result of using a certain product, whereas in reality she probably was anything BUT bare-faced.  An early version of photoshopping! It’s been going on for years.  But we’re wise to all that nonsense now…aren’t we?!

Weight-wise, I was never ‘bad enough’ to be classed as anorexic, but it’s a psychological issue I’ve had to deal with ever since. I can totally understand how some girls/women can end up that way. I’ve put on weight with each pregnancy, obviously, but I have been really desperate to lose the weight afterwards.  Following each pregnancy, I have joined and rejoined a certain well-known weight loss programme, which has helped me get back to the weight I was ‘pre-children’. But although I’ve gained a certain amount of self-confidence that has come with age and experience, I am still not completely happy with the way I look. It’s not all about the weight.  I don’t like my skin ageing. I hate my wrinkles and my dry hands and feet. I hate the grey hairs that reappear all too fast underneath the hair dye! I hate my small, deflated breasts and my poochy, wrinkly tummy which resembles a deflated balloon.  I’ve tried microdermabrasion, manicures and pedicures, all sorts of gels and potions, but it’s too expensive to maintain on a regular basis.  I’ve even contemplated plastic surgery, but I know that’s just a huge waste of money, potentially risky, even life-threatening and well…just a bit daft really.

The tabloid newspapers concentrate so much on how quickly a celeb mum regains her figure after giving birth; for example, the Duchess of Cambridge and her ‘amazing abs’. But she was fit and slim before she got pregnant, it’s her first child and she has fitness/diet/beauty gurus on tap to make sure she looks great, which most of us don’t! It creates totally unrealistic expectations and causes a lot of women to feel they are a failure if they’re not the stereotypical yummy mummy - even before the baby pops out we’re expected to look amazing!  But the baby doesn’t care what we look like - as long as it’s cared for and loved.  I’ve always maintained that if I was a baby, I’d prefer a soft, cuddly mum instead of a hard, bony one!!

Women are also vilified for getting older. We’re not supposed to age.  We have to remain eternally youthful looking! Men, on the other hand, only improve with age! I was both amazed and horrified by Heidi Klum’s recent transformation from supermodel to ‘scary old lady’ for a celebrity Hallowe’en party.  The make up and prosthetics used were amazing. But the message it sends out does absolutely nothing to help with the way the older generation are perceived by society. Why are old people scary? We should celebrate ageing! We’re lucky to have come this far, we have so much wisdom and experience to pass on to the next generation!

Ah well. I guess none of us are, or will ever be, truly happy with the way we look. But we need to realise that as individuals, we are all unique and fabulous and amazing! And I shall continue to tell myself this on a daily basis in the hope that one day I agree ;)

Monday, 11 November 2013

Real Beauty Revealed - "The Project"

I've mentioned across a few platforms over the last few weeks about a collaborative project I've been working on.  I think it's time.

Inspired by both the Children in Need celebrity "Bear Faced" campaign and the post that I felt I needed to answer in my blog "See why we have absolutely ridiculous standards of beauty in just 37 seconds - my answer" I felt the need to do something a bit different and have fun in the process, so I've lined up these babies: (in no particular order)






Each of these lovelies has written a guest post for this blog. You're going to get to know a bit about them, a bit about their beauty regimes (or lack thereof!) and their hero products. A sort of "what's in my make up bag" style thingie and with them all being super intelligent ladies, we'll get to hear a bit more I dare say about their take on life, beauty, society and anything else that comes up.

And this is just phaze 1! We have an exciting visual project we're going to be bringing exclusively to you too via this blog.

I'm going on to the Eleri Sion show on BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday so perhaps I'll tell you what is phaze 2 via that medium...see how I feel :D

Stay tuned for the first of the guest posts. I am very excited about this!

B xxx

Friday, 1 November 2013

"See Why We Have An Absolutely Ridiculous Standard Of Beauty In Just 37 Seconds" My Response...

Have you seen this?

See why we have an absolutely ridiculous standard of beauty in 37 seconds

It's all over facebook at the moment.

So what do you think about it? Lots of irate comments on there I have seen.

The fact of the matter is, however, this is not new. Every time we think "does this colour suit me?" we're indulging in this sort of behaviour, just not on quite as big a scale.

This piece is a really, really extreme example of what goes on. It's been very carefully and well tailored to illustrate it's point - it wouldn't get the point across if it wasn't so dramatic. Of course all of these things happen, they happen every day in real life when we smile to have our photo taken - we want to show ourselves in the best light possible.

Technology and expertise do wonders to create an impression. I had a conversation about the current trend of "Kim Kardashian stylee ooodles of make up" fashion that exists currently with a client the other day. She was going to a halloween fancy dress party as Jessica Rabbit which required a generous application of make up. She (and I) was amazed at the transformation. She looked amazing, really amazing but not really like her. The finish was similar to a look that is very popular in the Asian bridal market. Beautiful, but not really them.

You see, you can change bone structure with make up. Well, the appearance of it.

As part of the beauty industry, from time to time my conscience gives me a poke. I hate the mascara adverts "lash inserts used", but at least they now admit that. The shampoo adverts with hair pieces. It's not right.

But then isn't that the same as placing a car against a backdrop none of us are ever likely to see in our lifetime in order to reinforce the brand image the company wants us to perceive? Not really.

The whole world is a marketing exercise. We are all marketing ourselves, every day. Manufacturing an image of ourselves that we want to portray to the world.

As a parent of a young woman (certainly when she was younger) I was more concerned about the images she was being force fed in relation to behaviour. The music videos targeting kids of that age using overtly sexual imagery, dress and behaviour. That's of more concern to be fair. I think Mylee Cyrus has an awful lot to answer for at the moment. Well, her publicity machine does. 

In the words of the song "I believe that beauty magazines promote low self esteem"... hmmmm. it really depends. 

If we can teach our young people (and, indeed, ourselves) to look a little deeper into the images their subjected to, I think we'll have very little to worry about. Magazines and images are created to illustrate a point. Exactly the same as the video above. That has been manufactured to demonstrate it's point to the same degree as the model's image has been manufactured. 

The final image of the model is not "real" but neither is the video. It's extreme, to the extreme. Let's just calm down a bit here.

As responsible citizens, parents or not, we have a duty to see what it real and what is not. Images, art, film, TV and even real life is all manufactured to portray an image, a story, a concept. The un-edited reality is very very different. The images of show homes in home magazines? Edited. Lit, shot, buffed, enhanced. Real people do not live like that. We have to be aware of what goes into creating the "little piece of perfection" as I call it when I do photo shoots.

Take this for example... one of my favourite shots.

This image of lovely Lizzy is a dramatic and beautiful shot. But Lizzy doesn't really look like that. And (alright, this is Chi, not Lizzy being shot) but this is what the shoot looks like to create that image...

I think the difficulty comes when the augmented images are designed to trick. "If you use this product, your skin will look like this" has been used since products existed. Is it any different now because technology has moved on?

(I anticipate that model had a full face of slap for that shot.)

If we can see and teach the next generations to see that these images are beautiful, but they are just that - images, then we're on to a winner. We have to keep perspective here - we've all done our hair and looked in the mirror before we went out this morning, to make sure we look okay. Art and technology does the same thing, but better.

The same as we don't want our girls to think that going out without make up on is a social disfigurement, we don't want them to compare themselves like for like to highly engineered images, created for a reason.

My favourite thought process when I catch myself thinking these impure "cor, I wish I looked that beautiful" thoughts is that I remind myself that if Erin O'Connor was lying in this undecorated bedroom, covered in brown dogs, smudged mascara from the shower, wearing pyjamas with gravy on, by the light of a head torch because her other half is sleeping noisily next to her, she probably wouldn't look that beautiful either.