A few years back I flew to New York to interview Michelle Obama. It was of course a huge honour. But at the time my primary focus was to not throw up. I was pregnant and suffering from something I REFUSE to call morning sickness because it went on ALL DAY.
This is probably why my strongest memory of the whole trip is the almost two hours I spent waiting outside a closed pair of doors very high up in a Manhattan hotel.
Michelle Obama’s makeup artist, hairdresser, and stylists went in and out. When she finally emerged she TRULY looked as if she had just stepped straight out of the pages of Vogue.
But it’s not like we were floored by it.
Because looking like you have stepped straight out of the pages of Vogue is increasingly what we expect of women at this level. The “armour” they need to get into in order to just go out and talk to some random European journalist (like me!) takes time to put on.
Hilary Clinton spent 600 hours of her 2016 presidential campaign in hair and makeup.
I’m personally someone who likes makeup. I do my hair everyday even if I’m not going to leave my house. But 6oo HOURS! That’s a REAL COST.
A cost that women (not men) in the public eye have to bear.
And it’s not just Michelle, Hilary and Angela. Thanks to social media this need to make your REAL self constantly “match” an image of yourself that other people have is becoming a prerequisite in an increasing number of industries.
Last year I found a useful term for it: “Glamour labour”.
I think what’s good about the term is that it’s about more than the makeup. Yes, it’s the brow waxes and the blow dries. But it’s also all the effort in GENERAL that you put into making your life appear a certain way on the screens in other people’s hands
“Glamour labour” is basically EVERYTHING that you do to make your physical self match your virtual self. From taking flattering photos to thinking about what holiday snaps to post.
I don’t have any data but I do have a sense that “glamour labour” is something that women are expected to do more of than men both in business and life.
How much “glamour labour” did you do this week?
Happy Saturday morning!
(I was travelling this week and ran into some technical problems which is why I didn’t manage to send this out to you until I got home to my desk.)