I clearly did not wake up like this. There is liquid eyeliner on my eyes to create this cat eye, there is bronzer on my cheekbones to create the illusion that I have been in the sunlight, and there is fire-engine red lipstick on my lips to make me feel like Marilyn Monroe. But let me tell you, I feel fierce. I feel sexy. I feel unstoppable.
Liz Orozco, CC ’16, and I recently held a Body Positive photo shoot campaign as a publicity event for the Eating Disorders Awareness and Body Positive Week we are organizing. Since the week is Feb. 24 to 27, we wanted to get people excited and involved before our week of events. We asked students to come in their most confident form and to hold one of three signs we had made and pose for our photographer. Everyone was given three sign options: “I Woke Up Like This,” “I Am Not My Weight,” or a whiteboard to write an individual message. Beyoncé played as loud as a MacBook is capable of, there was laughter, and people of all shapes and sizes felt comfortable in their own skin. Not only did people show up to our event, but we received over 50 photo submissions from Columbia affiliates and non-affiliates around the globe. The day was a huge success, and we could not have been happier with the results.
Originally, we loved the idea of people coming without makeup on, since we decided to call the event “I Woke Up Like This.” I mean, what says, “I unabashedly love myself,” like posing, without a trace of makeup on your face, for a picture? But then we came back to reality: There are women who do this every day, and there are women who never leave the house without some form of makeup on—which is why we decided against it.
I like how I look most days. There are days when I leave the house in leggings, no makeup, and unwashed hair, and there are days when I leave the house with my hair curled, makeup painted on, and my boobs pushed up to my chin. Still, no matter what, how I present my body is my choice. And to ask people to come without wearing makeup is taking away that choice from them. The point of this campaign was to make people realize that they are allowed to feel comfortable in their bodies and about themselves. And in order to spread that message, we wanted them to present themselves as they pleased, especially since we were putting them in arguably the most vulnerable position: in front of a camera. Also, who are we to define what confidence looks like? Whether people are wearing makeup should not determine whether or not they are confident in their body. Wearing makeup can be empowering for some, and it can be stifling to others, which is why we did not specify what “I Woke Up Like This” meant to everyone who came—it was up to their own interpretation.
People who said that the choice to wear makeup to our photo shoot was contradictory to our message did not understand our message in the first place. Loving yourself and taking care of yourself is about presenting yourself in a way that makes you, and you alone, feel comfortable. Which is why criticizing those who wore makeup to the event, like I did myself, is perpetuating body shame and judgement.
It is understandable that some people felt confused by it. I get it. Objectively, it seems contradictory: The sign says “I Woke Up Like This,” but the person holding the sign clearly did not. I mean, she is wearing eyeliner and bright lipstick, for heavens’ sake! But maybe before judging people for the way they look or the choices they make in presenting themselves, take a more subjective approach, and recognize that it is more about the idea than it is about the words alone. It is each participant’s choice, and their choice alone, how they present themselves to the world. Instead of criticizing them, we should celebrate the fact that they are making a bold statement: They woke up like this, in their bodies, and they are not afraid to own that.
The author is a Barnard College junior majoring in American studies.
To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact email@example.com.