I Was Just Thinking: COVID-19 Exposes our Human Vanity

By Norma Adams-Wade
Founding Member of NABJ

Sounds a bit downcast – depending on your perspective. This Biblical statement takes a deep look at life and concludes that all the hustle and bustle is pointless. Agree or disagree, the point provokes discussion. I was just thinking…one of the first casualties of COVID-19 was our dependence on routines that make us look better than our natural selves. These practices give new meaning to enhanced beauty vs “natural beauty.” There’s an old joke about a newly-married couple. The new husband is shocked when the new wife begins to remove all her attached beauty boosters – fake hair, eyelashes, face cream, powder, eyeliner, eye shadow, lipstick, pads in various places, and enhancements to hold in unwanted extra pounds.

The new husband discovered that the woman who stood before him was not the image of the woman he thought he married. The underlying message is: who are we really? For centuries different cultures have perpetuated torture practices that make no sense – foot binding in China, corsets that hindered breathing in the 1700s, giant disks that stretched lips in some African regions, and even stiletto heels in America. On recent television talk and variety shows, newscasts, and nighttime entertainment programs, hosts reluctantly have been forced to show their true selves. Forced to shelter-in-place at home, hosts lost access to hair and makeup crews – shattering illusions of beauty.

There used to be a saying: “Only her hairdresser knows.” Today, it’s intriguing to hear celebrities discuss their natural appearance sans the usual makeup and hairstyles. Some classic comments have come from Wendy Williams (The Wendy Williams Show), Roland S. Martin (Roland Martin Unfiltered), and Meghan McCain (The View). Not to worry, though. Meghan’s The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg has remained as comfortably natural as greens from Gramma’s backyard garden.

Wendy talked about skin flaws on her face that makeup artists had been skilled at covering. Meghan — with her hair uncharacteristically pulled back in a single ponytail, roots showing — ‘fessed up that her family grays prematurely. She said she rapidly is losing the battle against unwanted grey strands that appear unannounced many mornings. The usually light-blonde haired host later said she has decided not to color her hair anymore and henceforth to rock her natural, much-darker color.

That reminded me of a magazine article I read years ago about how Camille Cosby vowed to stop coloring her hair to conceal her gray. She kept that vow after she lost her swimming cap in a pool and hair dye streamed down her wet face and dripped on her shoulders. She has sported natural gray ever since. Nighttime hosts Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel look disheveled, hair askew, as they host their shows from their homes. Their small children running through the camera shots or climbing all over their shoulders. Even Lady Gaga in one nighttime interview from her home wore big glasses; hair pulled back, and looked like the friendly average neighbor next-door about to run out to buy groceries.

The kicker may be Roland on Facebook, standing in what appeared to be his bathroom or at his bedroom dresser. He gives an impassioned, trademark Roland lecture ordering men to stop hassling him to shave his thinning hair to bald. As usual, Roland was having none of it. He stressed that he is comfortable with the convenience of not having to shave a bald head regularly and will proudly retain his receding hairline.

“Y’all think your hair is attached to your manhood. It’s not!” the popular broadcaster exclaimed. “Stop being so self-conscious!” So, whenever the pandemic goes away, will the world return to glamour and glitz as usual? Or will it become a stylist to be our authentic selves? Time will tell.

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