I’ve started, at the suggestion of someone who’s opinion I respect, making some YouTube clips of myself reading the chapters of the book I wrote, called ‘Unicorns and How to Hunt Them’ (available on Kindle and Amazon). The first of these is a little introduction and, I must say, I came out looking absolutely stunning. I re-watched it over and over, mesmerised in a narcissistic trance at my own image. Yet it is not really my image. After a mixture of ‘Damn I’m hot’ and a sense of sadness that I don’t really look like that, I’ve been engulfed by a sense of shame, artifice, and failing women everywhere by conforming to the beauty standards expected on YouTube.
Let’s be clear, on the swing scene there are many beautiful people, in terms of conventional looks and otherwise. I’m not sure I’d really consider myself to be in the top echelons of either category, even less so these days than when I first started (no picture of Dorian Gray taking on my marks of sin and hedonistic living for me), yet I can still scrub up okay for an event or photo sometimes. Not like this though. This is the wonder of technology.
In aiming to disguise myself as the image of Alice Hunter, I don a certain style and look. I wear a mask. I’ve talked about why I do this before, here on The Woman Behind The Mask. I use pictures that don’t look much like myself in promoting the blog and book. This is partly for my own anonymity, and partly to keep up with the Jones’ of YouTube lovelies, flawless, smiling, with perfect white teeth and borderline-medicated mania of energy and joy beaming out of computer screens. I know I’m not really that person.
In the name of honesty (and I’m all about the honesty) let’s have a look at what I actually did. Here is the Instagram Clip:
The video above is the final product. It has an X-pro III filter applied over the top. It lights me up centrally, disguising wrinkles (to the point that I actually don’t appear to have a nose) and enhances the contrast between the skin and hair. My eyes pop in a turquoise blue. If we take it away we get:
Here we have the original (ha!) version on YouTube. It still looks pretty good, but doesn’t have the golden glow of the X Pro III filter. It still has a filter though, from Video Beauty Filter, which is a free app on the phone. It provides nice lighting and smooths out imperfections. Gives my skin an unreal glow. Let’s see it without this:
Here we have the original version, looking slightly more human and less like a 20 year old doll. Even so, the lighting was just right, bright on the centre face to the point of overexposure covering wrinkles and freckles. The angle was really good for me. I’m not reading from text, so I can look at the camera, flirt a little and smile. I’m wearing an absolute tonne of make-up, way more than I would ever wear out, even at night. Even to a drag show. The portrait view slims the arms by trimming off the sides. I’m shooting downwards, enlarging the top part of my face and slimming the jaw and body in comparison with the use of perspective. I’m in a booster bra. Even the hair isn’t real. This is the constructed image of Alice Hunter, who narrates the book, blog and presents as the author persona. This is an impossible image to maintain, even online. It bears no resemblance to real life.
When you look at other clips of me reading, you’ll see I haven’t gone so overboard. Its’s often shot from slightly below. There aren’t multiple layers of filters. I appear to have suddenly gained 25 pounds. Yet they were filmed in the same session. Outer beauty, my lovelies, is an illusion. One I don’t feel great about using a bunch of tricks to perpetuate. I’m not a model or a beauty queen, I don’t present myself as one. I’m over 35 (by an undisclosed amount), I’m not primped and polished, kept up with lots of money and surgery or even an especially healthy lifestyle. These are just the same tricks everywhere uses online- less than most images you will see, in fact.
I’d love to post a no make up, day to day selfie. I expect you’d all be horrified. For reasons of preserving my anonymity, I can’t do that. What I can tell you is that when you look at yourself, don’t sigh and squeeze and feel bad. The images you see are not real. When you look at the websites of swinger events, decked with lounging, flawless, monochrome models, don’t expect the guests to be like that either. Let’s regain a little love for real, human flesh. After all, if we all wanted sex dolls, we can certainly buy them.
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