This article orginally appeared on Mashable.
Australian journalist and TV presenter Tracey Spicer is on a mission to tear down the long-held beauty ideals of women. Over the last year, she has removed the paint from her face, let her hair run wild and neglected to pluck hairs out of her chin — all to prove a point about expectations.
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In a comment piece on the Daily Life, Spicer stepped into the spotlight without a scrap of make-up on her face.
“After 30 years on television, I had become what I despised: a painted doll who spent an hour a day and close to $200 a week putting on a mask,” she wrote. In showing her new unkempt appearance to the world, she said, she hopes to be the new norm — a woman without armour.
After a question from her young daughter last year — “why do women put on make-up and men don’t?” — Spicer decided to deconstruct the female image. She made a speech titled “the lady stripped bare” at TedX in Brisbane’s South Bank.
Live on stage, she removed her make up, her clothes, sprayed her hair with — gasp — water, and kicked off her high heels. “This is me, the real Tracey Spicer, without my armour … and it is armour, we do this to physically protect ourselves,” she said.
The video resonated with her audience, gaining more than 900,000 views on YouTube.
Today co-host Karl Stefanovic revealed on the weekend he had been wearing the same suit for 365 days and no one had noticed. It was in a show of support for his female co-host, Lisa Wilkinson, who receives countless letters from viewers criticising her appearance.
Spicer has also endured this her entire career, and the constant judgement regarding her appearance lies behind the deconstruction of her television image. She wrote that the harsh critiques often came from her managers:
My confidence was slowly eroded by letters from viewers and comments from superiors. My face and body were in a state of continual “renovation”.
“You’re porking up a bit,” one boss said, months after I’d given birth. “I suggest you get rid of the scarecrow hair,” from one viewer, after a live cross at the scene of a murder-suicide. “We need to do something about the crow’s-feet,” suggested one producer.
No wonder we end up hiding behind a mask, fronting television’s image factory.
Her mission to become more productive by reclaiming the hour a day she spent beautifying herself for others continues. Spicer has started to grow her armpit hair. She says her legs are next — and then, although it will be her biggest challenge, it will be time for the hair dye to be removed.
— Rudy Monaco (@RudyMonaco) November 17, 2014
Some commentators don’t agree with Spicer. Journalist Elizabeth Clarke believes there is a happy place between the two extremes, the anti-make up and the painted doll. She writes:
For me, routine personal grooming and a daily beauty regime is the same as cleaning my teeth or working out. It is what I do to take care of myself. I am not afraid of looking older, but I do want to look my best. Applying makeup, removing unwanted hair and painting my nails is a form of self-expression, not imprisonment. It positively enhances, but does not change my face and body or – most importantly – who I am.
Whichever side of the debate you fall on, one thing is for certain. Tracey Spicer has started a conversation that will allow some women to take a break from the fake tan bottle and the compact — for a day, at least.