Although I don’t own a TV myself, I still watch a fair amount of trash on YouTube after a long day’s work. One programme that I enjoy in particular is ‘Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model’. I love discovering their modelling tips and tricks, because posing in front of a camera has been a huge part of my life for the last ten years. Each week, the programme features different themed photoshoots; the least successful model gets sent home. At the beginning of the competition, there is an obligatory ‘no make-up photo shoot’. For the models, the reality of having to scrub their faces clean is always traumatic, to the point where many of them end up in tears. For them, make-up is their armour and they feel naked and vulnerable without it. Interestingly, taking their make-up off made them feel more exposed than actually taking their clothes off.

I find the whole thing amusing. However, I must admit that there was a time when I would have empathised completely with their fear of going barefaced.

venus o'hara make up free

I started wearing make-up at my Catholic high school. Although the nuns were strict, fortunately they never made me wash it off. Thanks be to God. Back then, I was obsessed with covering my face as much as possible. I absolutely hated my translucent white skin with its freckles, and especially when it became red during PE lessons. I used as much base as possible to hide my complexion: foundation, concealer and powder. I even brought it with me in my school bag for touch-ups at break time.

Then I discovered eyeliner and mascara. I became so accustomed to seeing my larger, defined eyes that when I went make-up free, they almost seemed tiny and insignificant to me. I never allowed boyfriends to see me without make-up. I always put it on as soon as I’d showered in the morning if we had spent the night together. I generally avoided eye-contact until I had put my face on.

venus o'hara no make up 1

When I went freelance in 2009, I began to spend most of my days working from home. There didn’t seem to be much point in putting make-up on every day, like I used to when I worked in an office. Over time, I got used to seeing my make-up free face in the mirror, and on the days that I did use make-up, however, I found myself using less and less of it. I even received some unexpected compliments from lovers about my ‘just-woken-up’ look. One girl in particular even told me that she’d never been with a woman who looked better the morning after the night before. I didn’t really believe her, of course.

venus o'hara no make up selfie 2

For the past year, I’ve been sharing my ‘no make-up selfies’ (#NoMakeUpSelfie) on Instagram. It’s something that I would never have dared to do a few years ago. Now it feels incredibly liberating. It’s not that I suddenly feel prettier without my make-up. Although if the lighting is favourable and I’ve had a good night’s sleep, then perhaps I might feel confident. What has really changed is that going without make-up doesn’t feel as traumatic as it used to, and somehow, that’s much better than simply feeling pretty could ever be.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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