I remember seeing a photo of a Polish celebrity named Ewa Chodakowska on a beauty blog. She looked amazing – a red lips, natural eye, bare lashes. A journalist commented, “Looks like someone forgot the mascara”. The point was to try a more natural look. But instead she’d whipped up an opinion storm. They called her untalented, inexperienced and even threatened her life. I decided to talk to makeup artist Sylwia Rakowska, who’s behind the ‘A Face Is Not An Easter Egg’ social media campaign.
Working with celebrities, magazine shoots. I can imagine you’re incredibly busy. What motivated you to make time for this concept?
As a makeup artist, I’ve been observing people’s faces on the street and getting inspired by how everyday women and girls do their makeup. A lot has changed over the past few years. Certain makeup trends have trickled down to the streets, which can have some terrifying results. Many women blindly copy the makeup trends they see online, without a second thought. More and more of them sport huge black eyebrows that don’t fit their faces at all, their lips pumped up unnaturally and long, fake eyelashes. They finish the look with tons of makeup – uniform masks that make their faces impossible to distinguish from one another.
Of course, I’m fully behind the idea that everyone should do what they like with their face and we shouldn’t put any expectations on anyone. But in spite of this semblance of freedom and ease on the streets of Poland, I see that woman are less ACCEPTING of themselves and they’re often trying to be someone they’re not. It’s becoming more and more apparent, so I decided to use by voice to make some noise around the #twarztoniepisanka (#afaceisnotaneasteregg) campaign. The point is to draw out enough reactions from people so that they think twice (or even three times) about tattooing permanent makeup on their face or putting a mask of makeup on for a first date.
It also emphasizes how natural beauty and subtle makeup are on top. It shows that outside of the Internet, there are real people living out their really lives, that everyone is unique in their own way and most of them aren’t anything like the image promoted by the mass media and the Internet.
Did you anticipate such a harsh backlash?
I never thought that the campaign would bring up such intense reactions from either side – in those who’ve voiced support and those against it. It makes it clear that most people are behind the idea and they were waiting for someone to say something.
I’ve had positive feedback from the media, press, TV, blogs, websites, specialists in my own field, other makeup artists, hair stylists, photographers, stylists, etc… On the street, at the dentist, a the gym or even in my hometown of Koslince, a lot of people come up to tell me they appreciate it. A lot of them, I didn’t know and I had no idea they knew who I was. People are excited about the fact that someone stepped forward and expressed an opinion about excessive makeup and the way faces are distorted. Most of all, they commend me on having no fear about expressing my own opinion when I’m a makeup artist myself.
Then there was a massive attack that came from teenage girls (12-16) who make themselves up for their Instagram selfies. I know they came up with a special Instagram account just to hate on me, plus they put a video up on YouTube. Most of them don’t know what they’re hating because all they see is the negative stuff from YouTube and the hate account. We’ve started to live in the era of the ideal selfie and this strange wave of escapism is sweeping down on Poland now – people don’t want to be who they are, they want to look like a filtered-down Instagram selfie in their daily lives. You can see it not only in the attacks on my campaign, but look at the reactions to the cover of the first Polish Vogue. People don’t want to see truth and the real world. They want us surrounded by a filter of plastic.
What bothered you the most about these attacks?
I was surprised to see that people, particularly young people, can’t read with comprehension, they use basic trolling tactics. But when I started to look through the accounts of these people, it turned out that most of them are just kids. On this whole wave of hate, their comments showed, to put it delicately, a complete misunderstanding of the topic at hand. I’d never been the subject of such hate before, so I admit, I was taken aback. Until I got this comment – a hit that broke the tension. I’ll show it to you. It was a comment under a photo of Huda (Kattan) that I put up on Insta, with a caption about Huda having some great eyebrows, but I suggested that before getting the same ones done, you should think about whether they’ll fit with your face. A girl commented, “You’re telling her she has dark eyebrows, but she’s from Dubai. Instead of insulting people, why don’t you mind your business”.
What bothers you the most about the makeup girls wear nowadays?
Most of all, at the top of the list are huge black eyebrows, whether they fit the face or not, pumped-up lips and mile-long eyelash extensions reaching all the way up to the forehead. Usually you have a ton of contouring and strobing that goes along with it, making the face into a mask.
Where did this trend for magic marker eyebrows come from?
I think it started on Instagram and YouToube. And while most people think it came from Kim Kardashian, I think it’s mostly Huda Kattan and all the Instagram beauty bloggers and makeup artists who’ve cloned the same brows on everyone’s faces. Since Huda’s been promoting her signature look and makeup line on Instagram, so for the past five years, these trends have become really strong and taken over the streets entirely.
Contouring – yes or no?
No. As a makeup artist, I like to highlight a woman’s natural beauty and I refuse to change her features with contouring. Lighting is the best way to sculpt the face. If I’m emphasizing cheekbones, I do it with blush, or a bronzer with some highlighter that “draws out” the cheekbone. If we must do contouring, my way is to do it with a light hand, subtle, almost invisible. I do contouring with an airbrush, spraying the natural shade of shadow so that it can play its role without being too obvious.
- I was talking to a guy friend recently about your campaign. I was surprised that a guy who doesn’t work in fashion or beauty wasn’t capable of figuring out whether a girl had on makeup or not. Even a girl with a lot of makeup on.
Men run themselves into a trap this way. Some of them adore made-up barbie dolls, and when they move in with one, she has to get up an hour early to put makeup on because he’s never seen her face without it. I know quite a few couples like this. And sometimes they girl just gets fed up one day and refuses to get up early to put on makeup and the guy ends up leaving because he fell in love with the mask and when the mask is gone, the person he fell in love with is gone too.
Generally, I don’t think we need to make any serious efforts to fight this because, from what I’ve observed, most men prefer a more natural look.
But I think we do need to start talking more about different types of makeup. To show women that there are other options that just the mask makeup meant for the bright lights of television and Instagram selfies. That’s what I’m promoting now on my Instagram, showing different makeup inspirations from Fashion Week, ad campaigns, private individuals who’ve sent me there makeup before-and-afters in response to my campaign. Under the post, I describe the products and methods of doing makeup on celebrities or on myself.
The media contribute to the promotion of artifice and the mask makeup trend. We should place more of an emphasis on a woman’s natural beauty. To talk about how our individuality and uniqueness are the most beautiful things we own and we don’t all have to look exactly the same.
So what’s the best way to wear makeup?
Not to exaggerate. Not to apply a ton of makeup. Not to blindly follow tutorials on Instagram and YouTube. If we’re not sure what’s right for our faces, it’s best to use minimal makeup or just emphasize the eyes or the lips.
If we don’t have a particular idea for our individual look, it’s good to peruse the net for different ideas or fashion magazines. I suggest looking to celebrities or models who have a similar look to ours and see how they’re applying their makeup. We all have our own celeb doppelgangers. I’m often told I look a lot like Isabella Rossellini. And it’s true. All of her makeup metamorphoses work on me as well.
Which stars do you consider your makeup gurus?
I’ve adored Pat McGrath since the start of my career. I feel like she’s been the queen of makeup for years, no question. All of her shoots for Italian Vogue, the shows she does makeup for, ad campaigns – Pat is a genius, she goes with the spirit of the times, she never stops. Last year, she came out with her own line of makeup. I have her eyeshadows and I love them! These shadows have a life of their own!
For many years, I assisted Dick Page at the New York and Paris Fashion Weeks. He’s another makeup star and my own guru for the natural look. Over the years, Dick taught me to appreciate and emphasize a woman’s natural beauty, not change her face with makeup.
From the young generation, I really like Sarah Tannon, who does makeup for stars like Lady Gaga. I like the graphic aspect of her work, her minimal approach to color, her play with the shape of the eye. What I’m most inspired by in my work is an ideal mix of the artistry and visionary approach of Pat, plus the graphic approach of Sarah and Dick’s appreciation for the natural beauty of women.
Everyone should do what stirs their soul, so there aren’t really any beauty rules, besides one – let’s use makeup to highlight our individuality and not confuse it with movie makeup that’s full of too many special effects.