Emilia Clarke and The Pressure to Have Young Looking Skin
When the name Emilia Clarke is mentioned, images of mighty Dragons, and clouds of blazing fire flood to mind. Apart from her success in the Game of Thrones franchise however, Clarke has also been credited for her refreshingly positive attitude towards and celebration of her natural skin.
Speaking to Elle magazine in 2021, the much-loved actress addressed the fixation we all seem to have with our skin’s appearance, and the subsequent pressure many of us feel to look picture perfect all the time in this modern age of selfies and filters, saying that “you don't want to have to put make-up on all the time... you want to be able to wake up and look at your skin and think, "It's alright, ok, yeah, it's good".”
Societal pressures to wear makeup in order to have a more widely accepted complexion is nothing new to most of us. Historically, people’s skin, in particular female-identifying people, has been scrutinised, critiqued, and held to near-impossible standards, hence the increasing pressure to cover up any perceived imperfections using makeup, and even go so far as to undergo appearance-altering procedures to fit the mould expected of us all. Common imperfections have been demonised to the point where, The New York Post revealed in a 2020 article that, in a survey conducted by OnePoll, 59 percent of Americans revealed that they are not comfortable with their skin, with 57 percent admitting to skipping or leaving work early due to bad skin days, and many also confessing to missing out on social opportunities because they do not feel confident with the appearance of their skin.
When asked about the worst skincare advice she had ever received, Clarke recalled “I once had a facialist who told me I needed fillers”, her exact words being “Then, you can have your face back.” Admirably, this led the then-28-year-old Emilia to show this facialist the door, refusing to let the pressures to undergo extreme procedures to maintain a youthful appearance overshadow her skin positive outlook. I think that we can all agree that 28 is not old by any means, and media-influenced warped ideas of youthful skin that we apparently should all aspire to are not only unrealistic, but harmful to those that may be driven to resort to drastic measures in order to avoid condemnation.
It's no secret that the film industry favours youth, and that this had led many actors and actresses to turn to fillers, lifts, and injections, to modify their skin’s appearance. For example, actress Courteney Cox, famed for her role as Monica in the iconic television show Friends, has since been candid about her regret that she let pressure by medical practitioners and the industry in which she works influence how she viewed her skin. In a 2017 interview with New Beauty, Cox recollected having similar experiences to Clarke, remembering how she would have doctors tell her “‘You look great,’ but what would help is a little injection here or filler there. So you walk out and you don’t look so bad and you think, no one noticed.” The actress then went on to say “The next thing you know, you’re layered and layered and layered. You have no idea because it’s gradual until you go, ‘Oh sh*t, this doesn’t look right,'” offering an example of how societal pressures to undergo invasive procedures can cause one to make decisions they may regret later on in life.
Though the decision to have cosmetic procedures is one’s own personal choice, and should not be automatically condemned by any means, Cox’s renewed pledge to love her natural skin is an encouraging sign that we as a community are gradually beginning to distance ourselves from toxic narratives that provoke self-hatred and put traditional images of youthful skin on a pedestal whilst shaming skin that bears the slightest sign of ageing. This is a sentiment also echoed by Clarke’s reaction to similar pressures.
After all, a world where we can love and feel comfortable in our natural skin, rather than be shamed and ridiculed for it, sounds pretty good to me. Because, at the end of the day, our bodies, and what we decide to do with them, are our own. Whether we wear makeup, or go makeup free, get injections and fillers, or decide against it, we all deserve to feel comfortable in our skin, and undaunted by media narratives that try to pick apart and condemn every single thing about our appearance.
With an increase in airbrushing filters on social media platforms such as Tiktok and Instagram, we can only hope that more loved and revered celebrities like Clarke and Cox continue to speak up about skin positivity, and keep the conversation about loving ourselves unconditionally, regardless of age, and breakouts, alive.