Emily

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I really don't wear much makeup - mostly because it irritates my skin.  It was never something I got into much as a teenager either. I had very sensitive skin and most of the stuff my friends wore made me break out.  I wear a little more when I go out, or for a special occasion, like a wedding, but then it's still fairly simple.  I think it's because I don’t really know what I'm doing half the time.  I know that the 'natural' look suits me.  If I try to wear lipstick it looks like I raided my mum's handbag!  

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I heard about the project through a friend.  It sounded interesting and empowering and something that might make me feel more positive about how I look.  

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Not really - It's a fairly normal thing for me.  I think wearing makeup makes me feel more uncomfortable and less like myself.  

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

I mostly like the way I look and after years of battling hairdressers insistent on straightening my hair, I have finally come to appreciate my natural curls.  I've worn glasses since I was two (I also had to wear an eye-patch for a while!)  People have asked me why I haven't got laser surgery, or why don’t I wear contact lenses but glasses are so much a part of me now, it feels strange to not wear them.  Curly hair and glasses is very much my 'style'.  It's how people recognise me.  I been rocking big thick glasses before hipsters made them cool.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Listen to your mother - she is right about everything!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

I definitely feel the most comfortable and happy right now.  I've settled into myself and I feel that both my personal and professional lives are the most in sync and happily balanced at the moment.   

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I've grown up hearing about the lives of my grandmothers; my paternal grandmother raising ten kids in a variety of strange countries while my maternal grandmother was sent away from Scotland to western Canada as a young teenager after the death of her father but made her way back home alone.  I'm very fortunate in that I have grown up surrounded by strong, independent women like them but my mum especially. My parents taught me to pride in myself and that hard work, intelligence and independence were valuable qualities to have.        

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

I find questions like this really hard to answer.  I'm really bad at picking out strengths (being so self-deprecating, I find it easier to talk about what I'm abysmal at!)  I'm suppose I'm kind and patient and quite resilient.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I suppose most of the things feel proud of relate to my professional life – projects I've worked on that have been successful or pieces of work that have been recognised.  Usually it's after the first night of a show or the end of the first week of Fringe when you realise all your hard work, long hours and tears have finally paid off.      

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

I think body image and misleading ideas of beauty affect everyone to an extent – that women 'should' be slim and have long lustrous 'shampoo ad' hair.  At times I've felt pressured into feeling that in order to feel beautiful I should spend hours ironing my hair out and get rid of my glasses, because who wants to look like Velma from Scooby Doo when you can be Daphne! Teen-movies reinforced the power of the 'Geek-Girl' to 'Glamour-puss' makeover – put a girl in a strappy dress and lose the goggles and voila – the ignorant romantic lead finally sees what he's apparently been missing - because that's what's life is all about, isn't it(!)  I've stopped taking notice of mainstream media, stopped buying fashion magazines (it's hard when they have a cool freebie) and embraced my own weird, wobbly, slightly messed up style.        

 

Hannah

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I only really wear makeup if I am going out - or spending the day with people other than my close family.  I wear makeup because it automatically changes the way I feel about myself, I am not just a mummy with food (and other…) stains all over me, I am a grown up again.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

As soon as I read the brief, it just resonated with me so much. Five years ago I was a city lawyer in a big corporate law firm in London working long hours and enjoying that lifestyle and then in an instant my whole life changed. I realised the way that people would look at me from that moment on would be different. Often it's with pity when they see I have a disabled child and obviously it has affected the way I look at myself too.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Not really. It is just quite low on my list of priorities now but saying that I certainly wouldn't want to be makeup free to an evening event or a fancy meal somewhere!  It's a form of armour isn't it.  I like the way it can take me back to feeling confident and invincible.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Undoubtedly becoming a mother is seismic in your life isn't it - but in my case I had to learn to become a mum without a mum and I had to deal with a postnatal diagnosis for my first child of Down Syndrome. Within thirty minutes of being elated over the birth I had to process the fact that my life was now completely different and was not going to go the way I thought it was.  I went from working in the City and enjoying that image, to being "that mum". My son's diagnosis is one of the first things people realise about me before they even notice ME and I am very aware of that.  People do a double take or they just openly stare at Finlay.

A more immediate factor at the moment is that my son had an operation last week at Sick Kids and I had to stay in with him. Anyone who has had the pleasure of 'sleeping' on a children's ward will know that any attempt to sleep is pointless. He is still recovering so is in need of his mummy at all times, day and night. When I look in the mirror I am conscious of just how tired I am. This is the life of a special needs mum, permanent worry as to whether you are doing the right thing or enough for your child.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

God, go out more, study less, drink more, party harder! Both my parents were head teachers and I never wanted to let them down, consequently I was always a bit of a goody two shoes!  I have lived and worked abroad, two years in France and six months in Singapore and I would say take every opportunity to live and work abroad they were fantastic times!!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

The act of giving birth (first time round) was empowering, you suddenly realise your body is amazing. Second time round was just plain terrifying. Now I run and do a regular outdoor bootcamp and I love that. I love the rain on my face when I am working hard, it really does make you feel alive.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I admire anyone who has children and still manages to have a tidy house - HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE???

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

Resilience! Pick yourself up, dust yourself down (have a little cry) and keep going forward.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I obtained a First Class Law Degree in English and French Law when my mum was going through her third and final round of Chemotherapy.  I studied on trains, in hospitals, anywhere I could really. She never met my husband or saw me get married or managed to meet her grandchildren but she did see me graduate and for that I will always be thankful.

Alternatively, it has to be Finlay, my son. He is an absolute wonder. Honestly, this isn't the life I thought I would have but he works so hard just to come anywhere near achieving what other children his age can do with ease, it is impossible not to be incredibly proud of him. He wakes up laughing his head off and stays like that most of the day. He finds such small things funny, like his own unexpected reflection in a shop window, or the word Hallelujah, or people saying hello back to him when he shouts it at every passing person (You would be amazed how many people ignore him).

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?  

I constantly feel under pressure, I feel that as I am a stay at home mum so I should have an immaculate house (mine usually looks like burglars have ransacked the place by 4pm) children that only eat healthy snacks, my husband's shirts ironed and a home cooked meal on the table every night. Unfortunately it's me that holds myself up to this unnecessarily high standard. At the end of most days I look around and realise that I have failed again. I am pretty sure that my husband doesn't look around and think - "Epic fail at life today - look at all the piles of washing still to sort". 

 

Rowan M

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I only really wear makeup when I'm going out to something like a wedding or drinks with friends etc which really isn't very often. I think it's happened maybe three times this year? It makes me feel special and like a proper grown-up which is pretty unusual for me. Maybe once a fortnight I'll remember to put some mascara on.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

When I read your statement on the website about having another baby and post-natal depression and feeling completely overwhelmed it felt very familiar! I had my third baby last year and my pregnancy with him and then the year since he's been here have been just unbelievably difficult. It's not easy to share that struggle because it's much easier to present success than failure, people don't really know what to say. 

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

A little bit, I'd have expected it to feel totally fine after 7 years of basically never having time to do it on a daily basis. It's sad though, sometimes it crosses my mind that i'm not wearing any a drink I have these images that flash into my head of photos the kids have taken of me where I just look beyond exhausted and i feel totally deflated. 

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

When I was a teenager there was so much body-shaming going on in magazines etc I hated my body, my legs weren't skinny enough, tummy not flat enough, boobs too small, too short. It was all about how people looked but I had never really done anything with it. Now I have sustained carried, birthed and breastfed three whole new people! I can't quite believe I've done that sometimes, it's a bit mind-blowing. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

To try and care less what other people think and to be myself and it's OK not to be perfect and make mistakes, it won't be the end of the world. 

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Probably last time I gave birth, it was amazing. 

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why? 

My mum because she brought up three children alone which is pretty hardcore. 

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself? 

I'm good at listening I think.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why? 
Surviving 7 years of parenting? It's been amazing but it actually is the most difficult job ever.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

That I have to do everything! Wrangling the kids, cooking, looking after the house, meal planning, bedtimes, baths while also feeling completely alone and having to appear to be on top of everything and people commenting you look tired and not having the chance to get a shower. It's endless, and it will never be good enough.

Emma C

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

Generally wear a little each day when I’m going to work. I wear mascara, eyeshadow and a quick sweep of eyeliner. Lipbalm too, that’d be on my desert island list. Weekends when I’m working round the house I tend not to wear anything. 

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I thought it was such an interesting project bringing together women from all walks of life to do something a little bit different. I love what I’ve seen so far, I’ve ended up quiet emotional looking at how amazing everyone looks and reading their stories, it’s definitely a wonderful antidote to the world of Instagram and pouting selfies. I’d be lying if I didn’t also say I’m intrigued to see what I look like completely make up free as well.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

It depends on who I’m with, and what I’m doing. I suffered with really bad skin when I was younger and not being able to wear vest tops or a swimsuit with confidence for years because of acne really affected me. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with myself all the time, and I like to use makeup as a way to enhance good bits rather than simply hide the bad. 

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Getting a bit older has led to me feeling more confident about myself; I don’t think I’ve got a bad face and I can see nice elements about myself but have never rated myself. I’m desperately unhappy with my weight and have been unable to exercise properly for a while following a couple of bad injuries that have needed surgery. Looking back at pictures of myself when I was younger (and smaller!) makes me sad as I worry that I’ll trap myself like this for a while. Body wise, my confidence is lower than it’s ever been and I don’t like that I allow myself to feel like this. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

It’s going to work out, so try and relax and stop stressing! I had set so many goals for myself at such a young age, but my life has taken a completely different direction. I wish I had realised then that coming off that path would make me the person I am today. 

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Now! I chose to come back and complete this question after the session with Kristie; it had a really surprising effect on me. Have struggled with my appearance for so long, it was such an interesting and ultimately positive experience to see what other people see what they look at me. I love what she’s done for me and hopefully all the other women participating in this. Those bags and wrinkles you hone in on and panic about? No one else sees them, and I hope this teaches us to stop focussing on what we perceive to be our faults. 

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

My mum, for definite. She passed away a few years ago and started writing her story not long before she died. She didn’t get to finish it, sadly, and it always gets to me when I read what she did manage to capture and how amazing a person she was. She was such a strong, intelligent vibrant beautiful woman with a huge heart, there was so much of her life she never got around to telling us about. I also admire a group of friends of mine, collectively known as ‘Booze Group’. We started off as a book group, but admitted our new title was better as none of us had time to read the book and simply wanted to catch up, have a good swally and set the world to rights. I’m lucky to have such smart, ballsy and funny women in my life, they’re a great source of advice and morale boosting whenever any of us need it. 

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

I think I’m a kind person, I go out of my way to try and make sure I do something nice for someone each day, even if it’s as simple as telling them to have a nice day. It astonishes me how many people react so positively to such a small thing. 

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

Not one specific thing, I think I’m proud of where I am in my life. I have a great group of friends, a husband that rocks my world, a job that I love and I’m chuffed that I’ve worked hard to get here. We’re also in the middle of a huge renovation on a house and I’m incredibly proud that we are doing most of it ourselves. It’s a very steep learning curve, but I’m pretty excited by the thought of being able to say “I did that” when it’s finally done. 

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

I think there’s this perception that women today should be able to have it all in terms of a relationship, career and kids. I frequently feel that I’m not adhering to society’s strict timeline because I’m in my mid-30s, married and haven’t started decorating a nursery. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have all these things and hope to do so, I simply want to make sure I never feel like I’m being punished because I’m not there yet.

Abi

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

Almost everyday but if I don't have to go out, usually I'll lounge about fresh faced with none on. I like the feeling of not wearing any at home. I love to wear & apply makeup as to me it is a huge form of self expression. I love to use bright, bold and striking colours on my eyes & lips. It is very much an art form, you can completely change yourself with it or use it to enhance what you already have. It's all your own choice & I love that! 

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I think this series is hugely important in today's society. As soon as I saw the post on facebook I knew I wanted to be involved. It's so important to love yourself as you and not worry about others opinions all the time. It scares me how made up really young girls can be, it's teaching them to be insecure from such a young age and they feel the need to cover their 'flaws' even for school where they shouldn't need to be worried about how they look. That's not what matters, it's important to teach that beauty isn't on shelves, it's within.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Somewhat. Not around family or friends really, but meeting someone new or going shopping in town I'd feel uncomfortable especially around those makeup counters.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Having my boys made me feel negative about how my body looked afterwards but slowly I got my body back and changed that opinion of me. On a positive note my mum makes me feel positive about how I look, she is always showing her friends photos of me on her phone as she says she is proud of who I've become, that is always a confidence booster.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Stop caring about what others think of you! I invested way too much time in making myself something I wasn't, to keep people or impress them, I hid the real me but as I grew older my confidence grew. I am now happy with the me everyone sees actually being real.

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Definitely giving birth to my boys, Wow! Hours of agony to produce a tiny, beautiful human makes you feel so proud and such a powerful woman. Aside from that probably putting myself out to do modelling shoots. I was scared I'd get no response but I did and couldn't be prouder that I pushed myself to do it.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

Real women I'd say is my mum, she's wonderful. Then my sister Gemma, she was so young when she fell in love with her, now husband, Tim & moved to his home country, Australia. She was so brave moving away from all her family alone but it's worked out brilliantly she has a lovely home as well as her son, my gorgeous nephew Brody. Also, I know some may disagree but I saw Lady Gaga in concert and she inspired me hugely! She does so much to promote being yourself not letting the bullies get to you, I love her for that!

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself? 

I would say that I tend to put others before myself. I like to care for people and show a lot of kindness and make sure that if I can make something easier for you, I will.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

Obviously giving birth to my two boys tops the list but I'm particularly proud of moving out of my family home and getting my own place and being the mother and partner I always wanted to be.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

To look good all the time. It's so hard to keep up with it all. As women can't sweat, get tired, look a bit rundown, get flustered without feeling we have to live up to the airbrushed models everywhere. I feel we can often be looked down on for just looking real.

Catriona

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I wear makeup as I think I look better with it, simple as that! I wear mascara everyday and unless I've seen the summer sun I put some colour on my cheeks as I'm very pale and tired looking otherwise. For nights out I will wear more but I'm not very adventurous with it and haven't changed my 'look' in years. However, I love getting my make up done for weddings etc.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

Kristie managed to capture a raw strength and freedom in her photos of the women's' faces I saw earlier in the project and I wanted to be part of that. I was curious to see how she would see me.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Not in situations like the gym or picking up my son from playgroup - I do that all the time - but I'd definitely feel uncomfortable and self conscious on a night out without any on.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

My mum never wore make up and had a short pixie cut which showed off her lovely wee face and long neck. She hated the word 'diet' and was much more about everything in moderation. She definitely gave me a solid foundation to build my own ideals on however it's taken me a long time to really hear what she was telling me as I've been body conscious ever since puberty gave me my hips before I wanted them.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Listen to your mum!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

This sounds like a boast but it's not, I just have a strong memory of how empowering it felt to beat a six man Black Watch army team on an ultra race when I was in my late twenties. They had not been very gentlemanly in letting me passed so when I finally overtook them and beat them to the finish line it gave me such a buzz, a 5'2" wee lass beating them!

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I'm currently just really proud that we have so many women in top roles within politics. I'm not politically minded but I'm full of hope that this may influence world politics in a good way.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

I'd like to say my honesty and that I've managed over the years to find a way to be more diplomatically honest than brutally honest!

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I started up a business from scratch and ran it successfully for 7 years before selling it on when I had my baby. It was a challenge every day and I learned so much.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

I found this question difficult to answer without feeling defensive of my husband who also has pressures of his own. The simple answer to the question would be that there's a pressure as a woman to 'have it all' but I think we also expect a lot more of our men these days too. As a whole we are exposed to greater expectations of ourselves and of others. We are constantly striving for more and better and therefore always feeling pressure to reach those goals; it's time to take a moment to live in the here and now.

Rachael

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I guess I just think I look better with make up on. I don't wear much just a little bit of mascara usually.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I thought the photographs that I had initially seen were great. We all rush about presenting perfect images of ourselves or not bothering with any images (usually just taking pictures of kids/beautiful trees!) It just seemed like a great opportunity  to stop and reflect on who I am now. 

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Not really. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with the way I look but it's more to do with how I'm feeling rather than the make up I have on my face.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

I was brought up not really bothering about the way I looked. my friends at school were interested in lots of other things and it was just never an issue. I have changed shape since having two children and that has changed the way I dress. I used to find it easy now I have to think about it a bit more.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Don't compare yourself to other people too much. Sometimes it appears like people know what they're doing or they seem very successful. It's not always the case. Have faith in what you doing.

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

I used to work with a great team in a small school The school encouraged me to fundraise for a charity that I went with to spend five weeks in Malawi to develop school planning in a small village. I was completely by myself and only a few people spoke English. This was a massive challenge but I thought if I can survive this I can do anything.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I admire women who are themselves. My Mum and my sister are strong women. They have a lot on their plates and they keep going. I admire them because they cope with illness in their lives and realise that what is important is our health. Everything else can wait...

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

I have a sense of humor and I'm honest...maybe a bit too much sometimes!

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

My partner started his own business nearly 3 years ago now. I really feel that I've achieved by just keeping it together at home. It's not been easy. We've not had much money and we've not had much time together. Family illness, a new business, new flat, two c sections, two happy children and a wonderful partner...I just feel like I'm achieving daily just staying sane!

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

At the moment I am at home with my two children who are two and four. Though I find this very rewarding there are occasions when I feel like life is passing me by. My partner works long hours and Saturdays and I feel a bit overwhelmed. Trying to work at not losing 'me'.

Lynne

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I used to wear (full face but not heavy) makeup in my twenties and as I grow older the less makeup I wear, now I only wear mascara and lip balm almost every day. I guess it’s just the finishing touches; makes me feel like I’ve put a little extra effort in my appearance.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I think I lack in self-confidence and when I first saw the portraits and started reading through everybody’s answers I just signed up. I’m not comfortable in front of a camera so this will be interesting!

 

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

It doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable but having a little makeup on even if it’s just mascara makes you feel like you’re wearing a mask, armoured to life’s little elements.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Yeah, getting older…being out and having one too many or an alcohol free late night… I don’t wear either of these well the following morning! My weight can also influence the way I look at myself, good and bad. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Live more and put your own needs first.

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

When I take myself out of my comfort zone and achieving something when I doubted myself.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I’m surrounded by incredible women every day, family friends and colleagues alike. My mother is an incredibly strong women and her kindness too I admire that in her. She brought me up to be strong and stand on my own two feet.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

My resilience and positive thinking.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I guess there is a few over the years but completing my first half marathon felt amazing.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed too specifically as a woman? 

I feel less pressure as I get older maybe because I’m more comfortable with myself although a friend of mine had a birthday party for her child and I was asked by a stranger about why I don’t have any children. For a moment I felt the pressure to explain myself and then got angry at myself for almost caving into the pressure.  I think there are and always will be pressure on women in daily life good and bad. At work, I have also seen a shift in the management structure over the years as it used to be mostly men and is now predominantly women.

Fiona

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I do wear make up, usually for a special occasion or if I have an important meeting/event with work.  I suppose I see it as something to give me more confidence about myself, another preparation task when it’s work related.  I guess it’s because so much of how confident we feel about ourselves is tied up in how we look, or feel that we look to others.  

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I have days where I hate the way that I look, and days where I don’t.  I was intrigued by the title of the series and curious about what might make the difference for me about how I see myself.

 

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Only if I’m out in public, or in a situation where I already feel out of my comfort zone.  With people I love who I’m secure with I don’t give it a second thought. 

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Anything that makes me stand out that I lack the confidence to feel positive about - my hair colour, freckles, body shape and size have all made me feel negative about myself over the years.  But external factors such as people I love telling me they like the way I look helps to balance out how I might feel about myself!

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Believe in yourself - you’ll achieve much more if you do!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

I tend to feel most empowered when I’m at a crossroads - I remember feeling like I could do anything when I finished school, university and when I’ve begun new jobs in the past.  It may come with a real sense of fear/apprehension but the sense of knowing I have the opportunity to shape what happens next is really exciting.  

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

There are many women that I admire - I have wonderful friends and family members that have helped to shape me and give me something to aspire to be, now and in the future.  In fiction I’m currently inspired by some of the female characters in Game of Thrones who seem to show endless courage in a universe that is definitely set against them and in situations of constant peril - I wish I could be that brave!

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

I’m very tenacious - I tend to get things done when I set my mind on them. 

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I’m very proud of both my daughters, and myself for getting through two pregnancies and labours that I found really difficult.  I didn’t know if I would ever be a parent (I suppose nobody really does for sure?) and I am endlessly amazed, and exhausted, by the two little people that live with us.  There are parts of their character I can see myself in and take equal measures of pride and shame in that!  

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

Very specifically as a working mother I feel that it’s impossible to get the right balance of prioritising home or career, and there’s always something that I feel I’m not doing well enough - for me this started during pregnancy, followed by maternity leave and especially now I have two children.  I also feel very exposed to the societal expectation of what looks good - I wish I could live up to that but so far I never have enough to feel confident!

Georgie

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I only wear makeup on days that I’m working ie seeing clients. As a reflexologist I see a lot of professional women (mainly) and I like to come across as professional too and someone they can relate to rather than too earthy or alternative! I also wear make up if I’m going out, socialising or special occasions. If I’m working at home or pottering about locally I don’t bother.
 
2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

Firstly because I have very few photos of myself. As a single parent, I’m always the one taking photos, mainly of my children. And I’m no use at selfies! Secondly, because I’ve been going grey for a long time and have recently decided to stop dying my hair and revert to my natural colour. So I liked the ethos of a totally natural portrait with no make up and natural hair – even though I’m at the difficult transition stage of being half grey and half blonde, though I was originally brunette!
 
3. Is being completely make up free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Not really. I guess if I’m meeting new people or at a work event or something I would prefer to have a bit of make up on, but it’s not totally essential for me. What I do wear is fairly light and as natural looking as possible so to most people it is probably barely noticeable, but I know it’s there and that gives me a little boost of confidence.
 
4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

My mum has always been very confident about her body and wasn’t remotely bothered if me or my siblings walked into her room while she was getting dressed, or lying in a bath.  My dad was the same. I don’t ever remember her being on a diet, but she lived a healthy lifestyle generally and I like to think I am doing the same with my children. She has always been comfortable in her own skin, and happy with what nature gave her and that’s a great gift that she’s passed on to me.
 
5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Go to bed earlier and get a good 8 hours sleep! I’ve always been a night owl which doesn’t do any favours for bags under the eyes, dull skin, etc.
 
6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

My now ex-husband left me for another woman when our children were really tiny (2 under 2). Then almost 2 years later he wrote to me wanting to get back together. But it was all about what he wanted, not considering at all what might be the right thing for me or the children. So I said no, which was tough, but was the right decision. It was too little too late and I’d done the hard bit of broken nights, nappies, etc myself. I felt strongly that I was better to be single and happy than miserable and in the wrong relationship just for the sake of being part of a couple again.

7. Is there a woman, fictional or real, that you admire? Why?

Both my grandmothers were amazing matriarchal types who I loved and admired dearly. One had four children, fostered another permanently, lost a son, and lived with an alcoholic husband all her life yet still was a strong, cosy, resourceful and amazing woman. The other had 3 sons, lost another just after birth, and raised her sons alone as her husband was captured at the beginning of WW2 and was a prisoner of war for 5 years. He then came back (a completely different person) and she picked up the pieces and carried on, keeping the family going. She was also amazing and lived until 99 and a half!
 
8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

There are a few actually. I’m pretty direct and open, tenacious, resourceful, loyal and true to myself (hence going back to my natural grey!)
 
9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

Giving birth to both of my children. I was particularly fortunate to have an easy time of getting pregnant, being pregnant and giving birth and I’m very grateful to my body for allowing that.
 
10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

Juggling work, motherhood, and running a home and constantly feeling that I’m not doing particularly well at any of them. There are never enough hours in the week to do all in the way that I’d like to, but I know I do set my bar pretty high sometimes. I know most working mothers feel the same but it doesn’t seem to affect working fathers in the same way. Maybe men are better at compartmentalising different parts of their lives. I wish I could!
 

Suzie

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I’ve loved make up for as long as I can remember. My mum and big sister weren’t heavily into makeup but my gran used to wear oil of ulay and a lipstick. The smell of her lipstick is engrained in my mind so whenever I smell something proper cosmetic-y, it takes me right back to lots of lovely happy memories.  As a teenager and in my early twenties, I really enjoyed experimenting with makeup to change how I looked. I once entered a makeup design competition with an exciting new eye look called “Sunset Eyes” – it was truly awful, but I was a teen in the nineties. Now, I wear makeup because I want to look healthier. I've had dark shadows under my eyes since I was born. All the time people tell me I look tired and it’s not uncommon to be asked if I’ve got a black eye. I also have hormonal spots (and scarring from them) and pigmentation so I don’t really leave the house without at least concealer to cover up the worst bits. Concealment issues aside, I still love makeup and all things beauty related, my “lotions and potions” as my granddad used to call them. Doing a deep cleanse and applying a lovely face mask genuinely makes me happy. 

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series? 

My little sister Anna, who has also been photographed, told me about it and I was fascinated. I looked at all the beautiful portraits that have already been done and wondered if I could look at myself objectively in the same way. I don’t know if I will be able to! It’s been interesting thinking about how and why I use make up. I caught myself lying to my three year old niece recently. She watched me apply some concealer to a pulsating spot on my chin and asked what I was doing. I said I was putting some medicine on my sore face. And now I wonder if that’s what I do every day?

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

In most situations, probably yes. I’m comfortable with my partner, family and close friends seeing me make up free. But I don’t go out without wearing it. If I went makeup free to work for example, I would expect to be asked if I was ill. 

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look? 

Self-confidence is definitely the biggest negative factor. I’ve got PCOS which affects my weight, skin and hair growth. A bad combo of those three things can have a real negative effect on how I feel about my appearance. Positive factors are definitely the people I love. My mum has always told me I’m beautiful. And it’s usually at an unexpected time when my partner tells me I’m beautiful, like one time  when I’d been crying from chopping onions, had soaking wet hair, no makeup and was wearing a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?  

Don’t be desperate to fall in love. If and when the time is right it will happen (and always wear high SPF sunscreen – you’re very pale). 

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life? 

When I started to look after myself properly - physically, emotionally, financially after a few years of not doing that. I began to enjoy my own company and going home to an empty flat made me happy rather than lonely. I realised I’d grown up and that I’d be more than ok, and that felt powerful. 

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?  

My nieces, Vanessa, Phoebe and Alice (niece number 4 is currently under construction). They’re little girls at the moment but with the love and support of their amazing parents and grandparents, they’re going to grow up to be brilliant young women, who will  hopefully love their Auntie as much as I love them!

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?  

I struggle with myself but I see beauty in others and give out compliments all the time – I told a woman at the gym her hair smelled nice the other day – that may have come across as creepy though!

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why? 

I used to volunteer with an art group for adults with learning disabilities and to raise funds for the group, we put together a fashion show with us - the service users, staff and volunteers - as the models.  We all worked so hard together to get a venue, create costumes and props, acquire raffle prizes, sell tickets, promote the event every way we could and get other lovely volunteers to do hair, makeup and photography. On the night of the show, we might as well have been in Hollywood receiving Oscars, that was how special it felt to us all. We raised lots of money but you can’t put a price on how we all felt as some people, who were usually very shy, strut down the catwalk to rapturous applause. It made my heart explode. 

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman? 

I think I feel less and less pressure on myself as I get a bit older and confident enough to speak up when something isn’t right. But there’s definitely pressure on women in general, I had a look on the periscope app recently and I was horrified to see the comments that a young woman was receiving when all she was doing was chatting about her day. It made me furious that faceless people think it’s ok to insult and be sexually aggressive to anyone they like. Worryingly, she was accepting of the comments and seemed to laugh them off. I felt really powerless.   

 

Kate T

1.If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I wear makeup most days. I like the ritual and the bit of creativity it adds to your day.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

With the recent arrival of my daughter, I've been thinking a lot about body image. Changes throughout pregnancy and after are remarkable, and trying to remain positive and realistic about these changes has also made me reflect on how best to raise my daughter so she can see herself in as positive a way as possible. This series seemed to be seeking to get to the heart of so many issues about women's experiences - and I have always been a fan of the Burn's quote that influenced the title!

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

I'm comfortable pottering about without make-up but in certain circumstances, such as for an important meeting at work or even just when I'm having a bad day, it's a necessity - sort of like a suit of armour.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

When I was young, I think the greatest influences were the women in my life and how they felt about themselves and their image. I think my mum struggled a lot with how she looked but she was very determined that my sister and I would have a different experience - we were brought up to believe that looks didn't matter and that it was your experiences and actions, who you were as a person that mattered.  In many ways this was empowering but in some ways unrealistic - looks and image do matter, they shouldn't matter as much as they do but nor are they unimportant.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

To focus on looking and feeling your best as you are, rather than on trying to change anything, that it is okay to want to look beautiful and that it is possible to look beautiful even if you don't match the sometimes very narrow parameters of what is considered beautiful!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Now, since my daughter's arrival in April - in fact ever since I met my partner five years ago - his support, kindness and belief in me are unwavering and I would hope he feels the same from me.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I don't think I could have more admiration or awe for any woman more than for my mother. She was an amazing woman, devoted to her family, who continuously sought to improve herself (and us... and the world around us!) and fought so strongly and for so long to stay a part of our lives. It took me a long time to really appreciate the last part.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

Probably my desire and ability to want to keep learning and improving - as a partner, mother, sister, daughter, friend and at work.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

There isn't one in particular - more a series of opportunities won and obstacles overcome to get me to where I am today with so many wonderful people in my life.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

The lack of forgiveness in society towards women - it seems so much less acceptable for a woman to be ambitious or to make a mistake, to fail, to not be able to do it all. For men it seems more acceptable - there are fewer expectations of what men should or should not be doing in their lives and failure is seen as part of life, as part of the learning process. Whereas for women it always seems to be a sign of weakness, of confirmation that woman are not 'up to it'. Generally, however, I am lucky - I was brought up in a feminist household, have a feminist partner and enjoy an interesting and varied career in the Scottish Government, which prioritises equality of opportunity.

Judith

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I wear it when I go out - or when I feel like it - because I like how it changes my face, I wear a little tinted moisturiser but mostly just mascara. I think my eyelashes are too 'skinny' and need a bit of volume. I used to wear a lot of makeup for stage work so I quite like being 'nude'. Recently bought a Fuchsia pink lipstick because it made me feel powerful, and fun!

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

As I head closer to 50 I am re evaluating what I do & what I want from life. I wanted to feel more physically alive and in tune with myself as I really am, so your project struck a chord. I also spend my life with young folk/teenagers & was curious to see how I looked to them.


3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Not really, it's me how I am, but I was a little concerned about how it would look in 'media' as opposed to mirror at home!!

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

I put on weight easily and often look larger in photos than I feel. I've spent hours looking at my face creating other faces from its canvas, stage work demands that so until recently I felt I did really know what I looked like. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

That she'd be ok, I think I have worried a great deal about not being good enough, even when I have been successful, and I'd like not to have done that, so I'm happy I can just 'be' now. 

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Now!

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

My mother for her kindness, compassion and capability. My grandmothers, who were both very strong people-persons, and so supportive of me. I didn't think I had a role model growing up, I admired Annie Lennox & Chrissie Hynde but I didn't model myself on anyone consciously. Sometimes when I'm wondering what to do I ask myself what Madonna would do, she doesn't seem to have doubts, and I've been plagued with them...

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself? 

That I've never given up, I'm quite determined and tend to be able to do things if I set my mind to them. I'm also good at improvising when things don't go to plan. 

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

My physics O level. I still can't believe I passed it as numbers don't sit still for me. 
Professionally? Singing Woglinde at Longborough with two broken ribs.  

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

Men don't seem to question their right to do, say or be as much as women. I still don't feel we are respected for our minds, e.g. Psychologies magazine has never featured a female scientist or writer on its front cover, it's as though we can't be heard unless we are 'beautiful' and then are not expected to be intelligent when we are. I love teaching boys to sing, they are great students as they work hard to gain a skill, girls work hard too, to please others. I think it's deeply imprinted if not gender intrinsic.

Karen

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I'm addicted to beauty blogs and I love playing with products but I don't really wear make up - my skin is too dry for foundation, and I don't think I suit lipstick etc. For confidence, I use a light self tan on my face, and a wee rub of pink blusher most days. If I go without for a while, people enquire after my health. In the Eighties I rocked the red lippy look - wish I had taken more photos!

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I've wanted a close up portrait for ages and I'm rubbish at selfies. I love Kristie's work, her women are so intriguing and I wanted some of that. Maybe to see myself a bit differently.

 

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

No, not at all. If anything I feel weird and self conscious with it on. But I do have my 'armour', like most women. Haircut, jacket, shoes, whatever. Only my immediate family and occasionally my postman see me totally raw.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Aye, millions. I'm not bothered by my graveyard teeth or my monkey mouth - I've always got by on character. But my body shape is a constant obsession, and I go through an endless cycle of acceptance and disgust when it comes to my weight. I love food so dieting is difficult  - well, mostly impossible for me. I love exercise but there always seem to be other priorities calling me. I'm strong and healthy and I know I'm meant to be grateful for that but I'd love to wave goodbye to a stone or so. Then I swear I'd never moan again.  Ever. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Don't wear white below the waist. Or red anywhere.  Looking back, my clothes have been quite frumpy in the past. Now that I'm older I wear a bikini on holiday and a
skirt on a sunny day here. What a waste of my youth to be lolling around in black tights in August! I think the main advice is to remember that most people are far too concerned about their own image to be analysing yours, so don't panic over every little detail. Others just don't see them.

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

I have a brilliant memory of a trip I took to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute many years ago. My work had asked me to go and see an old lady there. It was the sunniest, clearest day, and the ferry journey was magical. I remember the seagulls flying along with us. When I got there, a piper was waiting to greet the ferry - it was like stepping into an Oor Wullie cartoon. The old lady was an absolute darling and so happy to see me. I just remember thinking 'this is my job - my life!' and feeling so happy, grown up and grateful. Generally, I feel most empowered when I'm tootling about on my own around the streets I love or when travelling. I'm never bored, I was born to potter.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

The fictional girls of my childhood still inspire me now. Harriet the Spy, Ramona the Pest, Laura Ingalls Wilder. They had so much charisma and character. I can't imagine that the authors set out to write classics that would endure down generations, they just wrote about themselves and the girls they saw around them. You're never alone when your friends are in books. If I can give my son one gift it will be the love of reading, the gift my mum gave me.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

Blimey. Well, firstly I can make people laugh. And, I'm pretty reliable. Also I give good advice. Or at least, it sounds like good advice. Bring me your problems!

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I never knew a day of self doubt until my son was born, and then I fell apart. My personality disappeared overnight and I developed horrific anxiety and depression. I had brilliant support around me, and I got treatment which sorted me out pretty quickly. But for a while there I genuinely wanted to die, which is a world of pain I couldn't ever imagine seeing. I feel now like the real me is back, but I'm forever altered by what happened. I think I have learned a swift and brutal lesson in humility.  I survived and my son is a loved, cherished happy boy. My survival and his growth and development are on ongoing achievement I'll never take for granted.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

Everybody criticises women - men and women alike. Mothers get blamed while dads get a free pass. Nobody gives a toss when men put weight on or drink a bit too much on a night out. Most of it rolls off my back but its so crap for mothers of small kids because you're performing your role in such a public way. I'm rubbish at discipline, my kid runs rings round me and I can feel the eyes of the world on me when I fail at parenting out and about. If I'm honest, I stayed at home more than I should when Murray was very small rather than risk a tantrum in public as I found it so anxiety inducing. I still don't take him to supermarkets, I'd rather just eat toast and get something fresh next time I'm shopping alone. My partner does not feel like this - he gets admiring looks just for having our son with him at all! He's Super Dad but I'm just a mum. My own mum had three of us under five, my head explodes just thinking about it.

Stephanie

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I only started wearing make up on a daily basis when I was 34 on my return to work after my first baby. It helped me “feel” like I was ready to take on a day acting like an adult and dealing with other adults. An escape from the jeans and hoodie mum version of me.

At that stage I hadn’t started wearing foundation or anything like that – I have only just discovered/needed that this year as I have way more flaws to hide following the birth of my second child – dark skin spots, bags under my eyes, wrinkles! – but again I generally only wear make up to work or to go out (which I don’t do much of these days).

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I want to draw a line under the old me and start coming to terms with who I am now. I desperately miss the person I once was. The me who had no need for foundation or mascara! I’ve become a little invisible since having kids. Post natal depression has played a part and in the midst of it I seem to have lost who I really am and the feeling of confidence I used to have about myself. So while I love the concept of the project and the shared experiences it has created among the women taking part who all look amazing – I am doing it for me. It’s a reality check – to remind me who I am now – flaws and all.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

No – I am fine being make up free. I was make up free for a good 30 years really. Not wearing it just makes the impact of children – thinning eyebrows, fewer eyelashes, bags under the eyes, dark skin spots, exhaustion – and general aging more apparent to others. People ask me if I am tired when I don’t wear make-up. I should just have a sign on my head that says “the impact of kids = permanently tired since July 2012”. So make up obviously helps avoid the questioning!

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Recently yes. I had the most horrific pregnancy and birth with my second child. I am grateful to have a happy healthy baby girl, but it’s hard when you have been through such a difficult time. A year later my body has still not quite recovered. I have had physio and lost all the baby weight but the trail of devastation this gorgeous baby girl has left behind – stretch marks are the least of my worries – loose skin covering severely separated stomach muscles that make me look and feel pregnant. I measured 46 weeks pregnant by the time I went into labour with my daughter – I am 5ft 2! It wasn’t a pretty sight then but is even more offensive now. The damage will never been undone and all I can do is wear oversized clothes and start saving for tummy tuck surgery so I can feel normal again.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Don’t focus on milestones. It’s the bits in between the milestones that really make your life different from everyone else’s. Too much pressure is put on people to achieve the next step – graduate, new job, first flat, marry, new house, kids – that you miss the stuff in between and take it for granted. Like a sandwich – two bits of bread are no good without the filling. Oh and make the most of the body you have – don’t take it for granted in your twenties – take care of it, it won’t be like that forever!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Truth is I don’t know – I can’t specify a particular time or event. The birth of my first child was pretty empowering but it’s no different from all the other women who do it!

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I’m surrounded by admirable women in my family but I am a big country music fan so if I had to name someone it would be the Dixie Chicks – country music’s version of girl power. They speak their mind. They worked hard to get noticed and to succeed in their industry. They are immensely talented. They challenge the norm and don’t worry about those who might not agree with them – they make no apologies. They represent strong modern women who juggle family life and work and make their living doing what they love.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

My openness and honesty – although others don’t always appreciate it. Those who know me well, know I can’t hide my feelings and don’t think I should have to. Those who don’t know me so well sometimes find my honesty hard to swallow.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

Yes – still getting ID’d at the supermarket at the age of 37.  

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

Mostly the fact that no matter how much help you have with your family and your life – grandparents, husband, childcare establishments – it all still ends with you. You still feel under pressure to do your bit as the mum. There’s no such thing as having it all – something has to give. With my first child I hid at work a lot, in denial of the responsibility I had waiting at home, hoping everyone else would have it covered for me, which they did, while I focused on my career. I missed out on so much with my son because of this and when I was put at risk of redundancy by my company, I realised that they didn’t have as much invested in me as I had in them. When my job was secured I tried harder to take on and face up to my responsibilities at home. And while I appreciate all the help my family gives us, I know I need to do my part for my kids and my husband or I will regret it later. After all they are the sandwich filler to my life!!
 

Becky

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I love wearing makeup & trying new things out but I wear makeup most days for work as I was taught in college to always have a full face of makeup and it does sound silly but I feel now like I am not doing my job properly without wearing it. 

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I try to improve skin on a daily basis but I feel we are all guilty of forgetting we are all beautiful no matter what skin condition we have. 

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

No. only when I have shingles people assume rather than ask why I have sores over my eye. 

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

My profession.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Everything works out and it doesn't matter if it's positive or negative  it does end up being positive.

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

I feel empowered by helping other people by being honest & helping them.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I don't admire any fictional character and not any one person,  there is something I see in everyone that I admire.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

My ability to relate & help people feel positive. 

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I am proud of what I have achieved by moving to Edinburgh and how far I have come in five years

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

Social media . It is everywhere and I find it difficult to switch off from it. 

Krystal

1.   If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I wear makeup to look in the mirror and see me the way I picture myself in my mind’s eye. Some days I look at myself and think “Ah. That’s fine. No makeup required.” Other days it’s like “ACK! Who is that?!”

It only happens if I have time though, and energy. Probably a couple times a week. 

2.   What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

Maybe for a confidence boost. The photos look stunning. I love the ten questions too.
 
3.   Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Less so than it used to. Before the age of 24 or so, I couldn’t leave the house with no makeup without feeling like every pair of eyes was on me, judging me. I also lived in the US before that age (where I’m from), and materialism and discrimination towards women’s looks is so much stronger there. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it firsthand. It’s like everyone is brainwashed by Hollywood and the media. I was too, until I moved away.

4.   Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

A few key things, yeah:
-Media. As much as we all would like to think we’re above being influenced by it, movies and television, magazines and the press have been major factors in how I rate my own body, especially when I was younger. We all buy into it on some level, whether we choose to believe it or not.
-Moving around the world. Getting away from the paranoid mania of the US. Realizing the type of woman that I want to be.
-Getting older. With life experience comes wisdom. Sounds cliché but it’s true. I’m only 30 but the difference in how I feel about myself now compared to when I was 20 is night and day.
-Having a child. Wanting so badly to be a good example for my son to not put any pressure on myself to change for others. To teach him to express himself in any way he chooses. And to not to buy into the lie that the worth of a person, especially a woman, is measured in her physical appearance.

 5.   If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

You know that one thing that you’re really really really scared to do? That’s what you need to do.

6.   When have you felt most empowered in your life?

When I’ve let go of fear. I did stand-up comedy in New York City. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but when it was over I felt on top of the world.

 7.   Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

There’s so many. Love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her writing is candid and honest and I’ve learned a lot from her. Also Amanda Palmer. She’s a beacon of intelligence, fearlessness, talent, and just not giving a shit what anyone else thinks of her. They’re people I’d want my children to look up to. Also Sarah Silverman and Maria Bamford, two of my favorite comedians.

8.   What quality do you most admire in yourself?

I’m pretty fearless and resilient despite going through a lot in my life. I’ve moved across my own country and the world multiple times without hesitation. Gotten tattoos. Given birth. Opened a restaurant. The list goes on.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

These last 3 years, opening and running our restaurant with my husband, having a baby and still trying to balance everything. The restaurant is still open and thriving, and the kid is still alive so I’d consider that a success. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

I feel pressure to live up to being the strongest, most capable and independent version of myself while not showing how insecure and overwhelmed I can feel at times, for fear of looking weak or scatterbrained or incapable or overly emotional. It’s of course an impossible standard to live up to, but there it is.

Claire

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I love makeup! I don’t like and never wear foundation, but I tend to wear eye makeup (eyeliner and mascara) most days. I used to think it was about presenting the best version of myself, but these days, it sometimes feels more about armouring up; a survival mask.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

Kristie’s original post really struck a chord with me. I’m two years into motherhood, mum to a bright, loving and boisterous wee boy. And at once it has been the most incredible and the most challenging time of my life so far. There are days when love feels heavy. And it feels like the realness and rawness of being a mum, precariously balanced alongside a demanding full-time job and trying to nurture a marriage, is written all over my face. I’m curious to see what that looks like to others.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Less so as I get older. I definitely feel more secure in myself if I’ve had time to apply eye makeup in the morning. But if I haven’t and I turn up to work with dark circles under my eyes and heavy lids, after a rough night with a teething toddler, I’m finally seeing that this is not necessarily a weakness. Sometime you can’t do it all. Sometimes it all feels a bit hard. And it’s ok to admit that  & let other people…other women know that. It’s not a competition.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

My weight definitely affects the way that I feel about my looks. Every day is a struggle! That said, I’m trying to reach a level of acceptance with my body. It’s not perfect. Far from it! But it has been good enough to do what, for me, it was designed to do. Grow a person. Feed him for 12 months. Provide the cuddles and comfort that only Mummy’s podgy bits can. When we’re past that stage, I’ll worry about hitting the gym!

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Take more risks. Behave badly. Worry less about what others think. Seek advice from those who have extensive life experience when making big life decisions. They will not always be your parents or your teachers.

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

I used to think that being empowered meant earning my own money; owning my own place; having a busy social life; having a career: being independent. I feel differently since the birth of my child. True empowerment I think means feeling that you have found your place in life and I feel more of that since I became a Mum; having a little person depending on me and trusting in me to know what is best for them. It won’t be the same for everyone, but I wish women generally could be better at just supporting each others’ choices, whether you’re a Mum, or career-focused, or both, or neither…

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I admire lots of amazing women and am happy to call them my friends, my family, my colleagues.  

8. What qualities do you most admire in yourself?

Tenacity; loving openly; saying sorry and meaning it. 

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

Mine is probably an obvious response to this question, but, if you can call a child an achievement, then I’m proud of mine. I underestimated how much having a child would change me and change my perspective on things. Every day, I look at him in absolute wonder. I still can’t quite believe that he’s mine. 

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

To have it all and do it all. If you don’t look perfect, have a career, have a man, have kids etc etc etc – if you’re not constantly happy and nailing it - then somehow you’re failing at life!  It’s ridiculous! 

 



Matilda

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.

Krista

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I wear a tiny bit of foundation, most days nothing at all. 

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I love the naturalness of the lighting and the way the characters of the women shine through.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

No, it doesn't make me uncomfortable and I often don’t wear any.  When I was a kid we had a dressing up box with my mum’s leftover makeup.
I still think of makeup as something from the dressing up box, a bit of play and nothing serious.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

When I was about 20 years old I wanted to become more active so I began running and going to the gym. It allowed me to appreciate what I was capable of and own my strength. Now I run marathons, swim the length of lakes and do CrossFit regularly.  My body is for me to be in, not for someone else to judge or even look at.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

All of your life experiences become the culmination of who you are.  Life is constantly changing and evolving - absolute good and bad don’t exist the way we often believe.

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Crossing the finish line of a half Ironman. It was a lot of training and dedication, I feel really proud that I completed it. 

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I admire all the strong and courageous women in my life who push their own personal boundaries and step out of their comfort zones.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

Kindness and compassion.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

Moving halfway around the world to a new country I’d never been to, and feeling brave.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

I am a very private person, being more public is a challenge and pressure for me so I try to confront that. Doing this project with you has been a part of that.