When people edit, filter, and change their photos, they are constructing the persona that they want the world to view. But a new website called Raw Beauty Talks is all about featuring women without any of that.
Founded by Vancouver's Erin Treloar, the website features interviews and pictures of women with no makeup, no filters, and no Photoshop. They asked me to participate, and so began a process of deconstruction.
Melissa Gidney, the photographer, asked me to arrive on set with no make-up and no hair prep. Just me, the real Nisha. I realized that I would need to let go of the beauty persona I had constructed for myself over the years. And it was ok. It was ok because someone had created a formal process that required me to be the "real" me, free of any façade.
Then panic set in: What had I agreed to? Was I crazy? I was going to expose myself to the world. Was I committing the suicide of my public identity by showing my canvas sans paint? I had agreed to do it and there was no backing out, so I talked to every woman I met about the process. Many looked at me wide-eyed. Some said, "Don't worry," some said, "Just wear a little makeup," and some said, "Screw it, don't do it."
Makeup has become a staple for so many of us -- a necessary part of our identity and how we project ourselves to the world. Just as we don't walk out without a shirt, we can feel naked without makeup. Don't get me wrong: I think putting on makeup and getting dolled up is great, but when did it become a necessity? When did I become hesitant to leave the house without at least a little mascara or lip gloss on? Why was my confidence wrapped up in a mask?
The more I talked with other women, the more I realized I had to go through with it. One lady I met at a speaking conference said I had to do it for all the little girls out there who needed to know it was ok to be themselves. It was a very powerful conversation with a stranger ... in a bathroom. We even hugged. Raw Beauty was already talking to me. Life was testing me to see if I was on the right path: a path of artifice, or a path of authenticity?
I wanted to be real, so the morning of the photo shoot, I looked at my real self in the mirror ... and I cried. What was going on? Had I never seen myself before? Was it that bad? Honestly, I don't know what happened, but it was an emotional release. I panicked as I looked at my naturally curly hair. There were huge atrocities in the world, and I was emotional about my hair? I knew it was preposterous, but I couldn't help it. I freaked and nearly washed it again so that I could straighten it. Then I called my cousin and she reassured me that my naturally dried hair looked fine. I didn't believe her. Then, between my tears, she gave up and said, "Ok, go wash it." That's when I got real. It's just hair, and it was fine. I had to let go of control and be accepting of myself -- or at least keep it together until after the shoot.
So I did it. And with every click of the camera, I could feel my inner strength growing. I was experiencing something deeper. I felt exposed, raw, real. It was a transforming and life changing experience. Who knew that leaving my face bare would feel so liberating? So many emotions were brought up. I felt terrified, determined, dedicated, hesitant, humbled, peaceful, accepting, elated. Beautiful. And I shared it with the world through my social media platforms -- the same platforms where I post my modeling, speaking, and family shots, where I construct my social persona. Yet this was more real, even more personal. And it was refreshing.
I had just returned home from a trip when I went in for that photo shoot. A week later, I was looking for my makeup bag and found it still in my suitcase! Then it dawned on me: I had been walking around without makeup the entire week! I was shocked that I did it without thinking and maybe even more so that no one had looked at me or treated me any differently. Perhaps how we view our own persona and how we go about perpetuating it is the truly constraining construct. And perhaps it is this view we need to edit, filter, and change.