I spent just over seven months working in Dallas, Texas many years ago. It was a great experience. I loved the city. I was on my own for the first time though I was there with a film crew so I wasn’t truly on my own. I felt free to make choices based solely on what I wanted but still I had a team behind me, a group who over the course of the months became like family.
We frequented the bars and nightclubs. Our favorite was in Lower Greenville. I can’t recall who told me but I learned that the neighborhood had been dubbed “Newlywed and Nearly Dead.” Those were the people who populated the up and coming, trendy area. As soon as someone vacated a house, a newlywed couple was eager to snap it up.
It was while knocking back some shots and beers in one of the bars that an older woman, though she was probably half the age I am now, said something which stuck with me all these years. She was a typical Dallas woman. She was dressed in designer duds from head to fancy snake skin polished boot. Her hair was stiff with hairspray, this was before the advent of “product” to keep your hair in place, and she was made up like a beauty queen. I, on the other hand, was most likely in my usual wardrobe of jeans, t-shirt, denim jacket and Keds or the plain, black, knee high mucking boots I wore in rain and snow. My long brown hair was probably pulled back into a pony tail and I guarantee I wasn’t wearing a stitch of make-up.
The woman took a long look at me then turned to her friends and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “there’s no such thing as an unattractive woman, only a lazy one.”
We were young. We felt beautiful and invincible. We raised our glasses to her and laughed.
For years I didn’t wear make-up. I was on too tight a budget to spend money on such frivolous things and anytime I experimented with make-up, I didn’t like the results. I worked with a woman who was probably the most gorgeous person I’ve ever known. No wonder all the guys buzzed around her like moths to a flame. One guy convinced her to let him photograph her. He wanted to go into business taking head shots and needed a portfolio. He was no dummy. There was no way he could take a bad picture of this girl. They did two sessions. The first was out in Griffith Park. She wore no make-up. He shot her in action – running, riding on the carousel, jumping from rocks. He used only black & white film. The next day he shot her in his make shift studio. He lit her with soft lights and filled in with available light coming through a nearby window. She did her own make-up and hair. He used color film.
We were all anxious to see the proofs and help him pick out the best shots. He brought by the sheets. I looked at the black & white first while she looked over the color. The shots were amazing. She looked incredible. He’d captured her mid leap, hair billowing up behind her catching the light. He did a series where she was looking over her shoulder, just past the lens, that made you want to stare and stare at the image to figure out what she was seeing. I told him he could use all of them; they were perfect. She handed me the color sheets without a word. I was ready for even more beauty. Instead she looked harsh and plastic. The make-up was too much. The color was too much. The lily had been gilded and it didn’t suit her. I was shocked that she could look so unattractive. Her features were so perfect that to accentuate them with make-up made them garish.
I have reached the age where I don’t go out without some make-up. I’m not blessed with features too perfect for make-up but I use as little as possible. I appreciate what the proper use of make-up can do. Still I know that what the woman in Dallas proclaimed was wrong or at least incomplete. The truth is, there’s no such thing as an unattractive woman only one who applies unnecessary make-up or one who hasn’t yet learned its secrets.