Men, Women and Makeup: The Importance of Cate Blanchett's Naked Faced Magazine Cover

Cate Blanchett is on the cover of "Intelligent Life," The Economist's bi-monthly lifestyle and culture magazine.

Normally, this wouldn't get - or deserve - any more attention than any other lifestyle magazine cover with a beautiful and famous face on the front. After all, that's what magazine covers are for - to sell, in one way or another, the beautiful whatever that the cover portrays (famous person or not).

Why this cover is getting so much attention, however, is because Ms. Blanchett's face is naked. No makeup. No Photoshop. And she's still beautiful.

The move was so different, however, from what the rest of the magazine industry does, that it warranted a comment from the Editor, Tim de Lisle, who said:
She looks like what she is - a woman of 42, spending her days in an office, her evenings on stage and the rest of her time looking after three young children. We can't be too self-righteous about it, because, like anyone else who puts her on a cover, we are benefiting from her beauty and distinction. But the shot is at least trying to reflect real life. It's a curious sign of the times that this has become something to shout about.
Which leads us to Fabrizio Freda, the Chief Executive of Estée Lauder and a comment he made in an otherwise seriously great interview he did with the Financial Times.

In that interview, he was asked about the new Tom Ford line of makeup which includes a lipstick for $45. Frankly, when you're buying that level of quality with that level of branding investment and a known name like Mr. Ford's, a $45 pricepoint is neither surprising nor unexpected.

Why this deserves attention, however - and correlates with the Cate Blanchett photo shout-out - is because when Mr. Freda was describing the lipstick, he described it as being "aspirational." Technically, that makes this is a market entry issue. It translates to a woman's ability to purchase what is, ultimately, the lowest priced item in a high-priced line.

The underlying message, however, is that, every time she pulls that lipstick out of her purse and uses it, she'll feel that she's 'more' or 'better' than before - which will lead her to want to buy even more of Mr. Ford's product line.

But it's the use of the verb 'to aspire' that is at the heart of the problem - and leads us back to Mr. de Lisle's comment.

The reason that Ms. Blanchett's naked face is something to shout about is because the men who run the corporations that sell to women have spent eons of time and bazillions of dollars convincing women that what they are isn't enough. That they have to aspire to being more in their personal appearance.

That their naked face - no matter how beautiful - is remarkable because it is naked. Not because it is beautiful.

All of which leads us to the original Estée Lauder, herself. She founded her company with a face cream that she developed, marketed and sold. Then she built an empire. But what's most important here is the quote that is attributed to her:
There are no ugly women. Only lazy ones.
According to various versions of her story, she said that before she entered into the world of make-up - which means that the lazy women were the ones not taking care of their skin. Covering it with makeup wasn't an issue. Yet.

Maybe the guys - in and out of her company - should pay attention and aspire, themselves, to being more supportive of women defining their own aspirations and goals. Then, having beautiful, naked faces like Ms. Blanchett's on a magazine cover won't even raise an eyebrow.