1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?
I love wearing make-up. Not much - I don't like putting anything on my skin other than moisturizer. But I wear felt-tip eyeliner pretty much everyday. Not much else really, perhaps the occasional bold lipstick - I like dark purple and deep velvet red. I wear the lipstick if I go out, less so for work. It does still feel a little weird sometimes. By my eyeliner is on nearly first thing in the morning. It feels like putting on war paint sometimes, not as a defense but perhaps more like a signature. It gives me the confidence to know my face looks good - which tends to calm me down.
2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?
I heard about it through Saskia, whom I know from the gym I go to. The philosophy behind the project was immediately enticing to me. I'm deeply interested in how, as women, we share our vulnerability. Photography - or having photos taken of me is always something I've been pretty scared of. As I'm morphing into the person I want to become, I'm learning to use my vulnerability to grow. Immortalizing some of that fragility seemed like a good idea - a way to make a statement of what I believe in. That way, if I have moments where I just feel rubbish I guess I could return to this and remind myself what sort of beauty I want to stand for. The fact that so many other amazing women seemed to be participating was a big plus - it feels like having a little tribe of similar minds. It helps to remind me that the feeling of insecurity can be universal.
3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?
Not exactly uncomfortable... but a little naked perhaps. It will depend on my mood: if I feel calm and confident, I know a happy face is more beautiful and expressive than any makeup can help achieve. But on a down day, if I feel rubbish and have no make up on I look in the mirror and it just makes me feel worse. Putting the eyeliner on helps to give me a little kick in the butt I guess. That's when the war paint thing comes in handy.
4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?
So many! Where do I start?! I grew up with a really stunning older sister, that was pretty tough. I had glasses, braces, a squint, some mild over-excitement issues... I always grew up with a negative self-image, I felt dorky, tomboyish and weird, not 'beautiful'. I guess that made me overcompensate a little so when I went to uni I was really focused on developing the kind of beauty I thought was important: looking feminine, hair that 'works', looking pretty in pictures, not looking too ugly next to my sister...
That has changed a lot now. I've come to understand what I find beautiful in others (not much of the above) and am teaching myself to love that in me. For example, I find it really beautiful when women are elegant and stylish, and bring some kind of character to the table, an identity. And I've learnt that this comes so much from what you say, what you do and how you think rather than what your immediate appearance looks like. I'm learning that it's who you are that makes people admire you, and that 'pretty' just isn't interesting enough for more than a few minutes. Also, hips are great. I love big hips now.
5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?
Whatever you think your weird flaws are, they are actually secretly disguised magical powers. It's up to you to believe in them and make them shine.
6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?
That's a really difficult question. I think I feel most empowered when I talk about my rape. I was the victim of a highly violent assault a few years ago, and the process of dealing with that has really liberated extraordinary powers within me. I have been able to experience an incredibly traumatic event, and by being willing to understand my pain and work with it and through it and process every single last bit of it, I have become resilient to an extent I am barely conscious of. I realize it when I talk to close friends - I can now understand that through my own strength of mind I have pulled myself through - and beyond. I very early on wanted to turn this into something positive, to use it as a strength. And if I can deal with that, imagine what else I can tackle!
7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?
So many... I would say both my Grandmas. My mum's mum is 100 years old this year, she still beats everyone at Scrabble. She was pulling potatoes out of her garden until a few years ago. Her spirit is so strong, it's ridiculous. She's lived in the French countryside for ever, lived through two world wars and has even used Skype! She still has this crazy grip strength when you say hi to her, and she'll pull your face right in close so she can see, because she's nearly blind. It seems like she's the kind of person that just doesn't understand what giving up means - like it's a foreign word or something. I'd be grateful if I could have some of that when I'm her age.
My dad's mum is incredible. I have never, ever met anyone so generous, so naturally warm and loving and caring, she gives so much to other people and never asks for anything back. She remembers everyone's birthday, knows pretty much everyone in her town by name, and refuses to do anything but spoil you when you come over.
Best grandmas ever - truly proud of being part of their family!
8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?
Hmmmm. I try hard. Even if i don't always try my hardest, I get pretty restless if I can see that I've stopped trying. I'm hungry for novelty and progress and exploration - I guess that helps me to keep trying to be better.
9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?
During my gap year I gathered some work experience for my masters degree (Performance Psychology). I worked as a commis chef in a 5 star restaurant on Oxford Street in London. It was crazy - 12 to 16h shifts, you were lucky if you got 15 min to sit down for a meal. No slack, you come in to work whether you're sick, tired, injured, half-dead, no matter what. I stayed there for nearly six months, after which I had completely burnt out. Apparently I was one of the women who had lasted the longest there, which I was pretty proud of. But what i'm really happy about is that the only holiday I took was to go on a four day intensive combat and defense course, where I was the only woman training with these huge dudes, some of them ex-special forces. I was crying every day when I got home but I still went back and finished. The day after the course finished, I was back in the kitchen.
Probably not the wisest of decisions, as I burnt out totally a few weeks later. But I got up and did the work I was told to do, and was still set on being the best I could be.
10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?
Being perfect. Having to help men grow up. Having to fight so hard to have a strong voice, to be truly listened to. However, I believe in a feminine way of developing power, and the pressures we are subject to can make us come out on top if we can be brave enough to accept the challenge.