In 2018, Rosanna Meikle thought that it was a failure. She was working in a beauty school, and she had not been able to find much work, nor could she garner much attention for her online creations. Due to the sameness around her, she was exhausted. “A sea of beautiful girls, eyes full of smoke, and plumped lips,” Rosanna remembers. Rosanna further notes, “My school was in the prime area of Auckland, which made me feel so out of place. I would hardly be able to buy products and clothes, and my kit was not professional enough, and neither was my look.”
So Rosanna decided to give a try to something totally different. One day, Rosanna created a mess. She had got an assignment, and she painted her model with black, aggressive scribbles, green cartoon snakes, spiky eyelashes, and orange lips. She notes, “my look was awful, but on Instagram, it took off. Rosanna did not realize at the time, but she was joining a movement that has been slowly gaining popularity. The momentum was named as the ugly makeup revolution.
During the Covid-19 quarantine, she has been luxuriating in the strangeness of it and occasionally tried her skills at slightly ugly looks of her own. The best entries into burgeoning canon are often distorted and somewhat unnatural. Black words scribbled across a red-painted face, screaming at the viewer to “eat the rich.” There is something dreamy about it. Some are playful and childlike, but others are evil or menacing, aggressive and slightly brutal.
This whole irregularity goes against what we are familiar with seeing on social media networks. Over a few years, a “selfie face” has emerged – compressed lips, wide-open eyes, and feature enhancing face-do applied just so. Autumn Whitefield-Madrano says, “The fact that there is such a specific face associated with the selfie shows us that the portrait is less about expressing one’s self and more about an agreement with the idea of a young woman and who she really is.
Ugly makeup has a political side as well. Ugly makeup overturns the purpose of makeup that has been imposed on the practice by evolutionary writers and biologists. As per the late 20th-century school of thought, popularized by Desmond Morris, women wear lipstick to make lips look more like blood-swollen labia. While sociologists and anthropologists have questioned the accuracy of Morris’ theories for very long, the idea that ‘makeup is about sex’ remains prevalent. Women who apply a lot of makeup are often dismissed, and women who wear too little are called unprofessional. Meanwhile, men who wear makeup, they receive their own set of stereotypes.
Ugly face-do flies in the face of all this. As strangers can be very sexy, the purpose is not to be sexy. Instead, the purpose is to please the wearer. According to Julia Lee, a 24-year-old designer from Singapore, to look at something ugly and realize that it pleases you, is a rather precious moment that forces us to reconsider the limits of what we deem necessary for something to be beautiful.