I’m not sure that Roger Ailes and Kim Kardashian have much in common, but I will say this: The two of them helped foist an extreme feminine aesthetic on women that lately has become a parody of itself.
I’m talking about false eyelashes.
Thanks to the hyper-primped women of Fox News, and the overexposed Kardashian clan, fake eyelashes are not just for women who make a living appearing on camera anymore. They are disturbingly ubiquitous.
Regular Josephines used to don the things for special occasions — if at all. But fake eyelashes have burst out of their traditional habitat of red carpets, wedding aisles and proms and into regular life.
A few examples of where I have spotted them recently:
On my middle-aged checker at Gelson’s Market. On a thirtysomething woman in yoga pants leaning against a wall on Speedway in Venice. On a twentysomething customer in ripped jeans buying cigarettes at 10 a.m. at the corner store by my house. On numerous women in line to pick up passports at the Federal Building in Westwood.
Sometimes, I see subtle but expensive lash extensions, small clumps individually glued on — either on top of the lash line or below it. But usually the women I notice are wearing very obvious strip lashes, affixed by adhesive to the top of their natural lash line.
I’m not the only observer disturbed by the trend.
“It’s crazy,” said makeup artist Vivian Baker. “Strip lashes are everywhere. I do think people are misusing them.”
I called Baker on Monday at her home in Sherman Oaks to discuss the proliferation of this look because she is an expert on the topic. A makeup artist with more than three decades of experience, on Sunday she won an Oscar for “Bombshell,” the film about the Fox News women who exposed Ailes’ rampant sexual harassment. (Baker shared the makeup and hairstyling Oscar with hairstylist Anne Morgan and prosthetics wizard Kazu Hiro.)
The makeup in “Bombshell” is a striking metaphor for how the women of Fox News — particularly the up-and-comers striving to fit the Barbie doll mold — surrender themselves to a contrived aesthetic that is forced and not particularly beautiful but meant to convey the idea of beauty.
“The whole Fox look was created to deal with those cameras, and lights,” said Baker. “It was very technical: This is how we look glamorous.” Also, she told the New York Times last year: “It has to fit a predetermined idea of what men think is pretty, more specifically what Roger Ailes thinks is pretty.”
The idea that women felt they had to contort themselves to be presentable for a man who resembled nothing so much as a toad is tragic.
Gabriel Sherman, in his Ailes biography, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” interviewed a former Fox makeup artist, Karem Alsina, who said she grew suspicious when Fox anchors came to have their makeup done before private meetings with Ailes. “They would say, ‘I’m going to see Roger, gotta look beautiful!’” Some would return with their makeup smudged.
Margot Robbie plays the fictional character Kayla Pospisil, a naïve young woman — religious, conservative and apparently gay — who finds that the price of success at Fox is to pile on the lashes and submit to sexual predation.
As Kayla descends deeper and deeper into this hellish but potentially remunerative world, her makeup gets heavier and darker, her false eyelashes thicker and longer, until finally, as Morgan put it: “She took the bait and became that [Fox ideal]. I wanted her makeup to be the mask that the real girl was hiding behind.” Her artificial lashes are at their densest during her moment of moral clarity, when she suddenly realizes that other Fox women not only knew about pervasive sexual harassment at the network, but failed to protect each other.
In fact, said Baker, she and Robbie agreed that Robbie’s makeup would not be designed to enhance her natural beauty; it would be designed to “fit within what people at Fox expect someone to look like,” i.e. fake lashes and glossy lips.
Certainly, without fake lashes, there would be no female Fox News aesthetic, no signature sultry Kardashian eye.
But why is everyone else trying to look like they’re ready for their close-up?
Well, said Baker, because they are.
“It has to do with social media,” she said. “Our faces are constantly on camera. We’ve created our own monster. Is this pressure coming from women, or men? I’m not so sure we can just blame men.”
Still, she said, the proliferation of false eyelashes “is jarring and misleading.
“As a makeup artist and a woman, I want us to embrace all types of our beauty, to get up in the morning and have no makeup on and know there is something really beautiful about that really raw look. I want there to be freedom for women. How can we have dignity and love and appreciation, and not this stamp of ‘This is what I must look like to be accepted’?”
Save the lashes for the red carpet, ladies. You are beautiful just as you are.