In porn, one of the things I'm marketed as is "all natural." This phrase basically indicates that I have not had breast implants or other obvious plastic surgery. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether I've dyed the hair on my head (yes, multiple times and a variety of colors), what temporary or permanent body-hair-removal procedures I've had done (many, including stuff involving lasers), the amount of makeup piled on my face, or the degree of Photoshop work that has been done to my photographs. It also ignores the fact that for a decent chunk of my career, I had metal bars through my nipples, and the last time I checked those things don't come factory (or womb) installed. In the adult industry, natural is merely another word used for search-engine optimization, like teen, MILF, and big. Natural is not an expression of dictionary-definition fact. It is a marketing tool.
The term natural also gets thrown around in the entertainment and beauty industries. Countless websites have galleries of celebrities either caught without makeup by the paparazzi or posing bare faced for photo spreads in magazines. Depending on the publication, commentary ranges from "OMG ewww!" through to gushing discussions of the bravery involved with said celebrity allowing themselves to be photographed without makeup. The whole concept of being "photographed in their natural state" carries an inherent silliness, because putting any kind of lens between the viewer and the thing being viewed makes it look different than it does to the naked eye. Different kinds of lighting change the way a person's face looks, as does viewing it from different angles. You can easily experiment with this yourself if you have a camera lying around. As in the porn industry, use of Photoshop, subtle cosmetic surgery, or hair dye is rarely disclosed when a magazine labels a person's appearance as "natural."
What about advertisements like Dove's Real Beauty campaign? Their definition of beauty is vocally accepting of wrinkles and gray hair, but it does appear to be heavily reliant on even-toned and blemish-free skin. Sure, freckles are deemed acceptable, but I have yet to see a giant red pimple on the nose of one of the women in Dove's ads. Nor have I seen them feature a model with a port-wine birthmark or a case of eczema. They do show a broader range of skin colors and body shapes than a fashion magazine usually does, but they don't include people with visible physical disabilities or obvious large scars. Natural is, again, a marketing tool; they're using the concept of confidence coming from within to hawk more lotions to rub on your outside. They're redefining the word natural to correlate with how little makeup a woman is wearing, and they're totemizing this willingness to appear in public without cosmetics as courageous.
This leaves out some major factors in conventional aesthetic appeal: genetic luck, having the resources to eat well, the time and money necessary to purchase and regularly use face creams, oils, scrubs, and other weird stuff like placenta-blood facials or whatever it is that people who go to spas are up to these days. I can only speak for myself, but I put an insane amount of goo on my face and body, and I'm not working with nearly the budget that a Hollywood starlet is. I spend more time on just exfoliating and moisturizing than most of my female peers spend putting their makeup on. If my physical appearance were not the main source of my income, the amount of time I spend applying stuff to my skin would be utterly absurd. Even in that context of the body as a professional tool, it still might be absurd. My point is that a lack of obvious eye shadow in no way guarantees a lack of vanity.
Some people (who obviously don't know me very well) have complimented me on being low-maintenance because I don't appear to be wearing makeup. Some other people have told me how much they love the fact that I don't wear a bunch of crap on my face when I am, in fact, wearing a ton of crap on my face. I am usually wearing at least mascara and some kind of concealer when I receive these comments. Sometimes I'm wearing everything in my makeup bag except the false lashes and stage glitter. Additionally, I'm covered from head to toe in various products that are meant to protect my skin and hair from the elements and am usually full of vitamins. I love vitamins. Until someone finds a previously undiscovered specimen of tree bearing multivitamin fruit in the Amazon or Madagascar or something I'm hesitant to call the ingestion of vitamin pills natural, much less the previously mentioned absurd amount of goo. I have spent at least a year and a half trying strange potions that promise to grow my eyebrows back to their original, unplucked glory. I ended up with an eyebrow hair that was over an inch long. One single inch-long eyebrow hair. It was more horrifying than my first nipple hair. If you see me in public somewhere you probably shouldn't ask me about either of these hairs unless you want to see me blush tomato red.
Whether it's maintaining an obviously enhanced platinum blond or touching up gray roots to match an original brunette color, dyeing one's hair is still artifice. It may take slightly more time to have a set of French-tipped acrylic nails put on than to get a buffed manicure with no polish, but both are indicators of effort put in to be more aesthetically pleasing. Working out for the sake of having a certain physical appearance and undergoing cosmetic-surgery procedures are two different forms of body sculpting, one mostly acquired with sweat and the other mostly acquired with cash. Laser hair removal is a bit more futuristic than shaving cream and a razor, but hair removal isn't natural for anyone regardless of sex or gender. I'm pretty sure frequent showers aren't strictly natural either. I'm all for people showering as frequently as they want to and making their bodies look however they prefer. Dolly Parton once said, "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap," and I feel like it's important to make clear that it also takes a lot of work to look this natural. I think we do each other a disservice when we pretend that there's something laudable about ignoring the effort we put into our appearances or that there's something brave about admitting the fact that we do put that effort in.
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