Pamela Anderson attended Paris Fashion Week recently without a trace of makeup on her face. Igniting a conversation about authenticity, ageing, self-acceptance, and sexuality that I need to get involved in!
So, why is Pamela Anderson’s decision to go makeup-free so significant, and what does it mean for the evolving landscape of beauty standards?
Firstly, let’s address who we are talking about. Pamela Anderson was an era! Poster girl of the 90s.
Growing up at this time, let’s just say it was an assault course on impossible beauty standards. Pam created a new face of beauty with smouldering, smoky eyes, pencil-thin brows, lined lips, platinum blonde hair, a slim frame, and augmented breasts. She was a prolific personal brand—an undeniable sex symbol—who brought fantasy, playboy playmate sex appeal mainstream.
Like ‘the Kardashian effect’ alters modern beauty standards and popularises many aesthetic treatments as well as Brazilian buttlift surgery, the same thing happened with Pamela Anderson, or ‘the Baywatch effect’ in the 90s.
People idolised her slim physique and ample breasts. Many women I meet as makeup artists today still can’t grow their eyebrows after plucking them into oblivion to be more Pam. They have tales of their imitation platinum blande locks snapping, P.I.P. breasts, and torturous diets.
Female sexuality is complex. A contradiction of being pursued, adored, and holding some privileges whilst also being incredibly vulnerable to judgement, objectification, and rejection.
The trope of the ‘fallen’ woman is an archaic term used to describe the condemnation, shaming, and disassociating bestowed upon women who seemingly ‘lost their innocence’. This treatment is a screaming sign of gender double standards.
Harshest standards and judgement are reserved for women in the public eye, and Pamela became the tabloid’s fallen woman repeatedly.
For the longest time, we’ve been complicit in turning our collective back on countless females in the spotlight, sexualizing them from an incredibly young age, and then condemning them for this.
Pamela had a throne atop every 90s men’s sexiest list, and alongside it was a hard price.
Her sexuality was craved by men and women alike but also used to diminish her. Blonde hair and big boobs equated to ‘bimbo’ or ‘fair game’ back then, and the media repeatedly built this young woman up to rip her apart.
The media allowed her a platform to parade her beauty but didn’t really care about her truth. It celebrated her as a goddess but not as a whole human being. Every interview would circle back to her body and her sexuality, and she was only taken seriously as a sexual commodity.
Fast forward to today, and Pam made a different beauty statement. Its a 180 to see Pam, once queen of high-maintenance glamour, choosing to attend this prestigious event without a trace of makeup.
I was happy to see Pam break free from the fallen woman part and sexual stereotyping. Female sexuality is a cliche of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and to see Pammy saying damn to it all is pure poetry in motion.
The biggest and best surprise of her going makeup-free at a high-profile event was the joy and unapologetic confidence she exuded.
Shes not the first celebrity to do this; Alicia Keys stands out to me as being defiant to the expectations of makeup years before.
Did Alicia get more backlash than Pam? I’d say so.
What are the reasons for this? I believe beauty standards are evolving, and social media is progressively creating space for women to support each other and navigate these standards together. Could Alicia Keys being a woman of colour contribute? Absolutely. People of colour have, for a long time, been expected to adhere to a much stricter set of beauty standards. There’s a LOT to unpack in this, and I think it’s a really interesting conversation for another day. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Pam received praise.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s Instagram post read, “THE NATURAL BEAUTY REVOLUTION HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN!”
“@pamelaanderson in the middle of fashion week with so many pressures and postures, and this woman showed up and claimed her seat at the table with nothing on her face,” Curtis wrote. “I am so impressed and floored by this act of courage and rebellion.”
Could age mean Pam is free of the curse of duplicities? Could reaching a certain age be a release from societal expectations as well as the burden of unrealistic beauty standards? Could ageing be a key to the unspoken joys of becoming yourself unapologetically?
I found it beautiful to see Pam find comfort and confidence in her natural appearance. She is not selling or promoting anything. She is sending a refreshing and inspiring message about authentically embracing every side of ourselves. In a world where filters, editing apps, and cosmetic procedures can replicate looks and distort our reality, she inspires an alternative. Making ageing look like something not to be feared. She reminds us that beauty isn’t solely defined by youth, makeup, or cosmetic enhancements; it’s about feeling comfortable and confident. She showed us that no one has to live up to perceptions or be put in a box.
I am a makeup artist, so what is the message here? Am I saying don’t wear make-up? NO! I obviously love makeup and think it’s a pleasure to use it as a part of our self-expression and to help others do this, and I believe so did Pam, who described makeup as fun and had a creative relationship with her makeup artist for years. Another reason Pam said she chose to go makeup-free was losing her makeup artist friend and colleague Alexis Vogel to breast cancer in 2019.
She told Elle magazine:
“She was the best, and since then, without Alexis, it’s just better for me not to wear makeup”. And that really touched me.
In essence, Pamela Anderson’s journey from a 20-something beauty icon in the 90s to an authentic activist of ageing, sexuality, animal rights and sustainability in the 2020s reflect a powerful evolution.
Someone who feels completely free and comfortable in their own skin radiates a profound, magnetic beauty, regardless of how they are styled.
“It’s all about self-acceptance. This is a chapter of my life I’m trying to embrace now.” -Pamela Anderson