Beth Ditto on Why Makeup Is the Heart of Feminism—And There's No Such Thing as Ugly
Gossip front woman Beth Ditto discovered makeup as the ultimate tool of self-expression through the punk-feminist Riot Grrrl movement. Now, with YouTube tutorials, Instagram influencers, and select spring shows encouraging women to reacquaint themselves with the transformational power of cosmetics, her boundary-pushing battle cry is gaining ground. Following turns on Marc Jacobs’s spring runway and in Alexander Wang’s fall DoSomething campaign, Ditto shares her thoughts on the enduring art of embellishment.
Some people can draw, some people can sew, but putting on makeup has always been my jam. I used to say that if things went off a cliff with singing, I’d go straight to cosmetology school! I think it comes from being a child of the eighties. I grew up in a dry county in Arkansas, and there were a lot of Church of Christ influences, which were strong enough that the local cable company stopped carrying MTV after only two years. My mom was a young rock mom, though, so there was always music in the house, and I have lasting images of Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson, of Madonna and Human League and Boy George—all these artists who looked as incredible and outrageous as they sounded. I used to spend hours drawing on the Madonna mole, and dyeing my hair with Kool-Aid mixed with some kind of creamy base, like Noxzema. (Turns out just pouring it over your head doesn’t work.) It was a wild time of pure pop culture. Video was new, and everything felt full of energy and experimental. In some ways, my visual sense is still a little stuck in this two-year MTV time capsule.