Each week our no-holds-barred contributor Grace Gold picks apart a hot beauty topic. It’s our version of an op-ed—with hair, eyeliner and lipstick.
Many of us reach for makeup for some type of transformation, whether to appear more well-rested, more defined, more put-together, more glamorous or more like that friend, girl on the street or celebrity whose style we aspire to emulate. Indeed, the wonderful thing about expression through beauty products is it allows you to explore and even take on the personality of whomever you want to be.
But for two friends that creative exploration has reached a controversial extreme. Anastasiya Shpagina and Valeria Lukyanova are Ukrainians who have risen to internet stardom due to their play with cosmetics to achieve a look that mimics a Japanese cartoon character for Shpagina and Barbie for Lukyanova.
Shpagina purposefully transforms herself into "anime girl" every day. According to the Daily Mail, the 19-year-old spends a half an hour on each eye alone to attain the oversized, glassy and incandescent gaze popularized by the genre. Her YouTube "Flower Fairy" makeup tutorial has been viewed nearly five million times and reveals the steps she takes to achieve her beauty look. Twenty-one-year-old Lukyanova has a YouTube tutorial on her look, too, which features frosted pink eyes, drawn-on lashes and a heart-shaped mouth.
Turning to makeup to get into character is certainly nothing new. Just consider today's celebrities. Madonna has traversed such an offbeat spectrum ranging from the Marilyn Monroe-like “Material Girl” to geisha to Kabbalah spiritualist that the media has termed her the Reinvention Queen. Each phase’s beauty look has been so distinctive, it started worldwide hair color and makeup trends with women who wanted a taste of the character. And Lady Gaga fluctuates between characters perhaps the most dramatically of any star, sometimes even changing in and out of beauty looks more than half a dozen times in a single music video.
There is also fashion "it" girl and dancer Dita Von Teese, who is the picture of a vintage pinup girl, with her retro waves, powdered skin, red lipstick and oval-shaped glossy manicures essential to the seductive personality she exudes.
Jennifer Hirshlag, who is director of editorial at Makeup.com, remembers once working with a comic book writer “who would come to the office every day looking like a character out of her stories, with very Lana Turner hair, pale skin, red lips and way too much cleavage for 9 to 5, God bless her!”
Hirshlag felt a sense of reverence in hindsight for her coworker. “It took me a bit to get used to it," she explains. "But I ended up appreciating it in the long run. It was her thing! I grew amazed at how she took on this persona.”
But the celebrities and coworker went through their transformation through a change of makeup, hair color or clothes and were always simple steps away from shifting looks again.
Makeup is only the beginning of the transformation for both Shpagina and Lukyanova. The 5'2" Shpagina accessorizes her look with a severely restricting 19th-century corset-trained waist, while Lukyanova has altered her body (and maybe even her face) to fit the proportions of the doll that she aspires to bring to life.
Sometimes we could use the bravado to become more of a character for a day. But I wonder if it's important to remember to choose “yourself” every once in awhile, too.
What do you think? When does playing with a new persona cross the boundary between creative self-expression and performance art and something worthy of controversy?