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All Made Up: The Power and Pitfalls of Beauty Culture, from Cleopatra to Kim Kardashian

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Through the stories of famous women like Cleopatra, Empress Wu, Madam C. J. Walker, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marsha P. Johnson, Rae Nudson unpacks makeup's cultural impact--including how it can be used to shape a personal or cultural narrative, how often beauty standards align with whiteness, how and when it can be used for safety, and its function in the workplace, to name a Through the stories of famous women like Cleopatra, Empress Wu, Madam C. J. Walker, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marsha P. Johnson, Rae Nudson unpacks makeup's cultural impact--including how it can be used to shape a personal or cultural narrative, how often beauty standards align with whiteness, how and when it can be used for safety, and its function in the workplace, to name a few examples. Every woman has had to make a very personal choice about her relationship with makeup, and consciously or unconsciously, every woman knows that the choice is never entirely hers to make. This book also holds space for complicating factors, especially the ways that beauty standards differ across race, class, and culture.


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Through the stories of famous women like Cleopatra, Empress Wu, Madam C. J. Walker, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marsha P. Johnson, Rae Nudson unpacks makeup's cultural impact--including how it can be used to shape a personal or cultural narrative, how often beauty standards align with whiteness, how and when it can be used for safety, and its function in the workplace, to name a Through the stories of famous women like Cleopatra, Empress Wu, Madam C. J. Walker, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marsha P. Johnson, Rae Nudson unpacks makeup's cultural impact--including how it can be used to shape a personal or cultural narrative, how often beauty standards align with whiteness, how and when it can be used for safety, and its function in the workplace, to name a few examples. Every woman has had to make a very personal choice about her relationship with makeup, and consciously or unconsciously, every woman knows that the choice is never entirely hers to make. This book also holds space for complicating factors, especially the ways that beauty standards differ across race, class, and culture.

30 review for All Made Up: The Power and Pitfalls of Beauty Culture, from Cleopatra to Kim Kardashian

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    Wow. This book was incredible…I’m not even sure where to begin. Reading this book makes me feel seen, it puts into words the confusing, intangible, vexing internal struggle that many women I know face when it comes to makeup. It voices and confirms its deep social, economical, political, and racial history. It gives weight to something that is usually dismissed as vain and frivolous simply because it is more often than not associated with women. This book is so well researched. It covers endless Wow. This book was incredible…I’m not even sure where to begin. Reading this book makes me feel seen, it puts into words the confusing, intangible, vexing internal struggle that many women I know face when it comes to makeup. It voices and confirms its deep social, economical, political, and racial history. It gives weight to something that is usually dismissed as vain and frivolous simply because it is more often than not associated with women. This book is so well researched. It covers endless ways makeup has been used in countries across the world, from women wearing red lipstick in defiance of Hitler during WWII or to oppose government action in Nicaraguan protests, to the use of makeup by Transformistas in Venezuela, to Japanese women using it to maintain femininity as they entered the workplace during WWI, to skin bleaching in India, to government control of appearance in North Korea…. And throughout all that the author incorporates the racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, and consumerism that have become entangled with the evolution of makeup. She does a fantastic job of acknowledging that while this is often considered a women’s issue, women of color and LGBTQ individuals are often judged most harshly, have the most risk, and are the most harmed in going against the dominant culture in the world of makeup. I can’t say enough good about this book. It is a must read, especially for anyone who thinks makeup and the effect its had is insignificant. I doubt you could read this book without learning something new.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nic

    I've spent the last few days thinking about how to rate this book. First of all, this was not what I thought it was going to be - I expected a history-heavy exposée of beauty culture, denouncing how it traps women in its inattainable expectations. In reality, it did discuss the so-called "pitfalls" of beauty culture, but also focused quite a bit on the alleged power it gives women and men. Sometimes, this argument made sense - I loved learning about the part red lipstick played in many revolutio I've spent the last few days thinking about how to rate this book. First of all, this was not what I thought it was going to be - I expected a history-heavy exposée of beauty culture, denouncing how it traps women in its inattainable expectations. In reality, it did discuss the so-called "pitfalls" of beauty culture, but also focused quite a bit on the alleged power it gives women and men. Sometimes, this argument made sense - I loved learning about the part red lipstick played in many revolutionary movements led by latina women, for example - but other times it just fell flat. Most makeup trends were created by men, based on what men perceive as attractive. Most beauty brands are owned by men. Not addressing that felt... weird. I do think it's a nice introductory work, since it does talk about many of the struggles faced by black people and gender nonconforming men that might be new to a lot of people.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Audrey H.

    In my opinion, the title of this book should have been BEAUTY POLITICS: HOW APPEARANCE KEEPS (AND PREVENTS OTHERS) FROM POWER. This is less a history of makeup within beauty culture (as the title suggested to me), and more a dive into how made up appearances intersect with economics, social values, racism, capitalism and politics. Nudson covers makeup as a tool of resistance, but also focuses on its intersection with the workplace (i.e. how serious can she be with all that makeup?), dating (i.e. In my opinion, the title of this book should have been BEAUTY POLITICS: HOW APPEARANCE KEEPS (AND PREVENTS OTHERS) FROM POWER. This is less a history of makeup within beauty culture (as the title suggested to me), and more a dive into how made up appearances intersect with economics, social values, racism, capitalism and politics. Nudson covers makeup as a tool of resistance, but also focuses on its intersection with the workplace (i.e. how serious can she be with all that makeup?), dating (i.e. do red lips mean she's promiscuous?), and the harsher experiences of minorities compared to white women (i.e. LGBTQ individuals, people of color). The content is easy to read, well-researched, and highly engaging. Highly recommend!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This is a solid, no-nonsense, well researched book. The historical arc of make-up is well presented. But I think I missed the point. Sure, different people through the ages have worn make-up for different reasons. We knew that. What it signifies changes over time and how it is wielded shifts. I kept waiting for a new perspective but instead learned new facts (which was well done and enjoyable, but not why I read the book). It reminded me of that friend that refuses to have an opinion and continu This is a solid, no-nonsense, well researched book. The historical arc of make-up is well presented. But I think I missed the point. Sure, different people through the ages have worn make-up for different reasons. We knew that. What it signifies changes over time and how it is wielded shifts. I kept waiting for a new perspective but instead learned new facts (which was well done and enjoyable, but not why I read the book). It reminded me of that friend that refuses to have an opinion and continues to argue both sides of an argument. I really enjoyed this book, I just wish I knew what author wanted me to take away from it. I received a copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Crandall

    The deal: The subtitle basically says it all! It’s nonfiction from a writer whose work has otherwise appeared in Esquire, The Cut, Hazlitt, etc. Is it worth it?: If you’re super interested in beauty culture to the point where you’re writing about it, then maybe? But I struggled with figuring out who this was ultimately for. It felt too 101 for true beauty junkies but wasn’t exactly approachable for those who aren’t already dabbling in r/SkincareAddiction. There’s a lot of history explored and a l The deal: The subtitle basically says it all! It’s nonfiction from a writer whose work has otherwise appeared in Esquire, The Cut, Hazlitt, etc. Is it worth it?: If you’re super interested in beauty culture to the point where you’re writing about it, then maybe? But I struggled with figuring out who this was ultimately for. It felt too 101 for true beauty junkies but wasn’t exactly approachable for those who aren’t already dabbling in r/SkincareAddiction. There’s a lot of history explored and a lot of excellent work cited, but it fell flat for me tonally. Pairs well with: the work of Tressie McMillan Cottom and Darian Symoné Harvin, and their respective newsletters, which do what this book was trying to (I think) with considerably sharper point-of-views C

  6. 4 out of 5

    Margery Bayne

    Make-up and beauty culture is political. It's personal. It's social. It can be a means of self-expression or means of conformity. It can be racist. It can be classist. It can break down gender norms and roles, and on the flip side reinforce them. ' another cog of capitalism, but can also be a tool of protest. It can be used, across time and history and cultures, to brand women as vain and superficial while wearing make-up was a necessary part of women succeeding in society or the workforce. It c Make-up and beauty culture is political. It's personal. It's social. It can be a means of self-expression or means of conformity. It can be racist. It can be classist. It can break down gender norms and roles, and on the flip side reinforce them. ' another cog of capitalism, but can also be a tool of protest. It can be used, across time and history and cultures, to brand women as vain and superficial while wearing make-up was a necessary part of women succeeding in society or the workforce. It can be a prison, or it can be liberating. It's not one thing, ever-changing depending on context, but was it certainly can't be is dismissed or ignored. Anyway, anyone interested in the social, political, or historical role of cosmetics across time and cultures, this is the book to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rene Cozzi

    Kept putting this one down, as it was fact heavy. Some interesting topics, but a lot I was already familiar with. Might be a good read for college level students studying cosmetology?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alison Miron

    Interesting! I enjoyed this book a lot. Some of it kinda seems like common sense but still a book where you can learn a lot and it’s v relevant

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennvw

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brey Holland

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kristie

  12. 5 out of 5

    Noah

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marrysparkle

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elise Harwell

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Phair

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heyder

  18. 5 out of 5

    Leah Blackwell

  19. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  20. 4 out of 5

    SB

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

  22. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Doeksen

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melody

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lira

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kalyn

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy Mauk

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Roberts

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maddie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dana

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