Photo: Courtesy of Annie Garau
Twenty-year-old Annie Garau hasn’t worn makeup in over 200 days. The Indiana University student kicked off her experiment on January 1st, after realizing just how much time she and her friends spent talking about their appearance—specifically, what they didn’t like about it. Garau’s always been interested in women’s rights, and firmly believes the world would be a better place if its women were more confident, and empowered, so she decided to start at home.
It wasn’t easy at first. Garau writes in Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leaderthat she felt “uncomfortable, undesirable, and embarrassed.” Of course, you can see Garau above, and your first reaction is probably well, if I looked like her I wouldn’t need makeup either. That’s the whole point, says Garau. “It’s so funny because every girl, no matter what she looks like, does not believe comments like that. We all have huge insecurities, but we’re the only ones who see those negative things,” she says. “I’m getting so many compliments from this project, and it’s great and it’s nice, but the point is that no matter what a girl looks like, they’re typically not happy with their appearance.”
If you’ve read any of the oft-discussed think pieces on women and empowerment over the past couple of years, from Lean In to The Atlantic’s The Confidence Gap, you know there’s a chasm between what women can do and what they think they can do; it’s the same with appearance, only too many women spend a lot more time talking about the way they look with their friends—time that could be spent doing something else. “I’m not against makeup,” Garau says. “It’s a trivial thing in itself, so I’m not going to say I’ll never wear it again, I just hope people’s mindset will change. Are you putting it on because you hate the way you look? Or are you putting it on to express yourself? There’s a huge difference there.”
One thing that could help change the current mindset is the participation of someone in the public eye. If a Midwestern college student can make waves, imagine what would happen if a national news anchor or major celebrity went without makeup? And not just for a gimmick. Garau says that when stars do go without makeup or retouching (and she both cites and appreciates Colbie Caillat’s recent music video), they do it when it’s convenient or they want to make a statement. “[What about] doing a normal music video without wearing makeup, but just not talking about it?” she says. Or going on the air without makeup, and not spending 20 minutes talking about how you’re not wearing makeup. We’re so inspired by Garau’s project that the Yahoo Beauty team’s pledged to go without makeup for one week, starting Monday. We’ll report back with our experience, from our 21-year-old intern to our 57-year-old Editor-in-Chief, the week after next.