What I’m Reading: “Foxy Ladies”

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Growing up in the South, my friends and I had a unified theory of beauty: the more blue eye shadow you were wearing, the better you looked. We used as many shades as we could, buying big discount-store palettes and layering the stuff from lashes to eyebrow. I don’t know how this look got started or why it has such a regional flavor. But it was with a certain amount of nostalgia—you might say a shock of recognition—that years later, sitting in the makeup chair at Fox News, preparing to promote a book, I watched as the makeup artist lavished blue shadow onto my lids, so much shadow that I felt I should be wearing a sash and tiara.

Afterward, I made some inquiries among other women who had been guests on Fox and among the makeup professionals who work in the brightly lit warrens of the news-talk-show industry, transforming dozens of faces a day. I learned that while the vivid blue of my eye shadow may have been an aberration, its heavy application was not. “Pageant queen” was one of the kinder articulations I heard of the female aesthetic at Fox News and its financial counterpart, Fox Business; “glamour nighttime” was another. A publicist who works with high-profile news makers recalled that Fox covered one client’s face with so much bronzer that she “looked like a female George Hamilton.”

Of course, TV news shows have always put a premium on appearance, more so for women than for men. And it’s hardly a revelation that some networks place more pressure on women than do others.

But here’s the newer development: It’s not just anchors who are pressured to look good while talking, it’s relatively ordinary women, too. For a contingent of female bloggers, ideologues, advocates, pundits, and writers, a Fox gig brings with it an unexpected dilemma. There you are, a renowned expert on nuclear proliferation/immigration policy/the Middle East, obliged to regard yourself in the mirror and ask: Will I really go on national television looking like a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow and a waitress from Hooters?

Excerpt taken from The Atlantic, “Foxy Ladies.”

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