In Summary

  • Are we all missing the point in regard to what make-up stands for and what it doesn’t?  Lynn Rachel Mutethya, a civil engineer, thinks that we are.

  • In her opinion, the argument that women wear make-up because they feel that they need to should be dropped.

  • She reckons that there are women out there who, like her, wear make-up simply because they want to and they enjoy it.

A quick look at the women who are married to the most powerful men in eastern Africa reveals an interesting trend. You will notice that the four women – Janet Magufuli, Janet Kagame, Janet Museveni and

our very own Margaret Kenyatta – all sport short natural hair, and that other than a hint of lip gloss, they opt for the simple no-make-up look.

Then there is the wedding that took place last weekend that Kenyans will not stop wagging their tongues about. Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore’s bride Wambui Kamiru wore natural, locked hair and a fresh, bare face.

One could say that our rich and powerful men in the region are not swayed by expensive looking weaves and flawless make-up. This is clear. And yet, the multimillion Kenyan cosmetics market keeps rapidly growing.

Faced with these facts, many questions spring to mind. In indulging in the weaves and heavy make-up, is the Kenyan woman backing up the wrong tree? Are we missing the point?  If not flawless looks,

what is the rich and powerful man attracted to in a woman? Who does the Kenyan woman wear make-up for?

The assumption is that women wear it – and indeed, anything that makes them look pretty – to stay attractive to men. Not so. “I wear make-up for myself,” says Bilha Ngahu, a medical representative based in Nairobi.

A few years ago, she didn’t do make-up but now that she’s a convert, she can’t leave the house without it.

“I feel naked without make-up – like I am missing an item of clothing. I don’t wear make-up to change how I look but to enhance the parts of me that I love. It brings out my eyes, lips and skin tone. I feel

more beautiful and confident when my face is made up,” she says.

Are we all missing the point in regard to what make-up stands for and what it doesn’t?  Lynn Rachel Mutethya, a civil engineer, thinks that we are. In her opinion, the argument that women wear make-up

because they feel that they need to should be dropped. She reckons that there are women out there who, like her, wear make-up simply because they want to and they enjoy it.

Pauline Vata (left) prefers only lipstic while Bilha Nduta (centre) doesn’t mind makeup.Lynn Mutethya likes to wear makeup because it makes her feel feminine. PHOTOS| COURTESY

“Wearing make-up has nothing to do with how attractive a woman is. Make-up is fun and a (mode) of self-expression,” she says.

Working in a male-dominated field, Lynn likes to wear make-up because it makes her feel more feminine. She also feels that make-up helps enhance the beauty that is already there.

“It is not something I feel I need to do; wearing make-up is something that I choose to do. I have nothing against women who choose not to wear make-up,” she says.

THE MIND OF THE POWERFUL MAN

Enhancing beauty, boosting confidence, making her feel more feminine… the reasons that the Kenyan women gives for wearing make-up are valid. But does the man that the Kenyan woman is hoping to settle down in marriage with or work amongst, the rich

and powerful man, see it the same way? Is his choice of wife influenced by the amount of make-up that a woman wears, or are these incidents just coincidences?

Image consultant Robert Burale thinks that they aren’t. He says that choosing a natural looking woman is a powerful man’s subconscious way of staying in touch with reality.

He explains, “Powerful men live in a very unrealistic world. The people around them are always putting up appearances. If someone has a meeting with the boss they will wear their best clothes. When they come down to lifetime commitment, they prefer the

natural look. He has seen enough make-up and Brazilian weaves out there; when he comes home, he wants to see a natural woman.”

One could also argue that a man with wealth and power already has a variety of women for his picking. So he wants more out of a woman than just good looks – like intelligence or an exciting personality. It could also be that men are not as superficial as

women assume they are. Therefore, how well she can arch her eye brows has no bearing if her personality is not as pretty.

Wearing make-up is an age old phenomenon that goes as far back as ancient Egypt, where kohl, beeswax and even moringa were used as beauty aids. In ancient China, elites would stain their fingernails with a variety of dyes while in Japan, geishas stood out

for their painted eyes and lips framed by artificially whitened faces.

In the Middle Ages, women in Europe would make themselves look paler by bleeding out a little – pale women were considered elite because they did not have to work outside in the sun like peasants. And

since then, the make-up market has grown into a phenomenon unto itself.

Today, it is a symbol of a woman of means (quality make-up does not come cheap, and its correct application takes hours and even expensive lessons to achieve).

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