Makeover shows. There are hundred of the them. We’ve all watched them and cringed at the ridiculous clothes, the big hair, the over-the-top makeup, the cleavage, the rolls, and the ensuing hateful remarks.
Makeover shows give people pedestals to make rude, derogatory comments about other people.
Makeover shows like What Not To Wear, and Ambush Makeover, and Love, Lust or Run thrive on the negative comments of the style guru and the general public about the participants’ clothing, hair, and makeup.
These shows make fun of people for the way they look and the way they act.
Often these comments veer into the realm of imagination – what do the hosts of the show or other random people think about this person and who/what they are, based on their wardrobe?
We’ve all seen the tears.
The comments are said or shown to the person (usually a woman). I’ve heard comments like “What a slut!”, “Ewww!”, and “Hell no!” come from strangers on the street. The face of the young (or not so young) woman on the screen says it all. These comments hurt. They aren’t attacking an over tight dress. They are attacking and commenting on a woman. On who she is. And she is taking those verbal attacks straight on, in front of not just a camera, but also a film crew, a producer, a wardrobe assistant and probably a janitor, along with the countless viewers staring through screens.
These shows are all about fitting in to what society says is good style.
Clothes are critiqued because they are no longer in. Women are critiqued and berated for not keeping up with the times, not reading fashion magazines or paying attention to advertisements or celebrities. More often than not, I’ve heard women on makeover shows explain that they want to express themselves in their clothes and that’s why they dress the way they do. And they are told they are doing it wrong. That since they are not wearing the in styles they are not expressing themselves correctly.
Makeover shows cause women to constantly compare themselves with others and worry about their outward appearance.
Am I right or am I right? We live in a society that focuses so much on the outward appearance—on clothes, hairstyles, makeup—that a woman’s worth is assumed by what she looks like. We watch these shows and we absorb the comments. We apply them to our own closets, our own bodies, our own self-worth without realizing it. We absorb the negativity and begin to critique each other.
But, makeover shows open the discussion about body image.
While watching Love, Lust or Run, with my husband, we started talking about body image and how we view our own bodies. He learned that I’m growing more concerned about my shape and my softening belly that seems to be turning into a paunch and my thighs that are flabbier than they used to be. I learned that he doesn’t like his belly or that he’s sad he’s bigger than he was in college. We talked about what articles of clothes we like and why we don’t like other pieces in our closet.
Makeover shows talk about self-image and the result of bullying on the psyche.
These shows open up the box hidden deep in the closet that no matter how confident a woman may appear, she, like all women, worries about how she is perceived.
People try to hide in their clothes. As children and teenagers we learn how to avoid the kind of attention we don’t want. Have you noticed how many participants on makeover shows talk about how they were bullied when they were younger? How their clothing style was affected by the torment they suffered?
The hosts of these shows constantly talk to the participants about finding what they like about their bodies.
As much as these shows start super negatively with derogatory comments, memories of bullying, and tears of pain and hurt feelings, they usually include lessons about loving yourself.
The empowerment comes from building confidence and self-esteem by focusing on the positive instead of the negative. What do you like about your body? What types of clothing and shapes of clothing accentuate that feature? It’s not about hiding what you don’t like, it’s about highlighting what you do like. It’s about finding patterns, colours, and shapes that you think look good on you—and with the help of a stylist to point things out—realize what looks good to your own eyes on your body.
Makeover shows remind women that they are innately beautiful.
In Love, Lust or Run, Stacy London gets each participant to take off all her piercings, makeup, and hair accessories. She then has them stand in front of a mirror wearing only a plain white robe and headband that pushes the hair away from their face.
The result is stunning. Every woman I’ve watched on this show has said she doesn’t like seeing herself that way. That she is ugly. Or plain. Or boring. That she looks unfinished without her hair, her makeup, her accessories. And yet…all the audience sees (and all Stacy sees) is her features, her eyes, her lips, her chin, and everything that makes that woman that woman. The women remain makeup-less and in plain sweatpants and hoodies during the shopping trip. It’s amazing to see how the longer you seem them in their natural state, the more and more beautiful they become to your eyes. It’s amazing. Seriously. And it makes you think about your own face, your own body, and what, if you look long enough, you will see when you look in the mirror.
Makeover shows are entertaining.
To be straight-up, makeover shows are fun to watch. Painful sometimes, yes. But entertaining. Seeing the transformation from before to after, seeing the clothes and the hairstyles, the shoes and the make-up is fun. The antics of the participants and the hosts are amusing. The joyful laughs at the end are heartwarming.
Despite their negatives, makeover shows start the dialogue about body image and self-esteem in an accessible way. They may not do it perfectly. That may not even be their goal. But they do it. And I for one, am thankful for it.
And that is why I will keep watching them. At least, when I have cable…