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Curse of the rouge

Are you hot? Are you burnt? Are you ill? Is something wrong? Did you just go on a run? Have you tried sensitive creams? Stop drinking coffee. Stop drinking alcohol. Stop eating spicy food. Did that work?


These are just a few of the things that have been said to me throughout my life as a red-cheeked woman. It’s safe to say that the body positivity movement has come a long way, however I’ve still never seen an article that proudly showcases bright red cheeks as a positive quality.

Let me give you some context. This is me [above], red cheeks ablaze. When I was younger I didn’t realise anything was different about my face. Not until I was about 12 when, on a school trip to London, one of the other girls pointed out that I had weird red areas on my face. Appalled I told her there was nothing weird about my face, however the blissful world of ignorance that I had lived in before was shattered. This meant that the ritual of looking in the mirror in the morning now included a close scrutinisation and a plethora of questions: why were they like this? Could I do anything to change it? Has everyone else always known? You may be thinking that it’s Rosacea, a condition in which you get painful red cheeks, often at random times in the day, brought on by a multitude of external and internal forces. Mine have never been this serious, they are simply a result of both my mother and father’s blushed cheeks, passed down to myself and my brother. Nowadays I have a refined routine of moisturiser, primer, green colouring [combats the red], foundation and setting powder to keep my skin looking less ‘lobster’ and more ‘English rose’. I’m still in the slow process of showing them to people I know, like Clark Kent revealing to Lois Lane that he was actually superman, except decidedly less surprising or cool.

Up until recently, I had never felt like broadcasting my anger, it had been more of an internal tempest that occasionally showed its face in the form of a crying fit. A recent article posted by Stylist magazine, however, gave me a reason to put my fury into words. Usually, I go through phases of despising my red cheeks to almost being on the precipice of letting them out of their cage of daily foundation, however this article sent my self-confidence spiralling downwards. It was an article that looked at a new trend of ‘excessive blush’ that some fashion designers were using in their runway shows. My body froze when I saw it. Usually red cheeks as a ‘trend’ is only brought up in relation to the pinching of cheeks before renaissance balls, therefore seeing it in a modern context was...exciting. Was this the first step towards a rosy-accepting world? I crossed my fingers and prayed for the best. It was a resounding no. The article was heartbreaking.

Not only did they go into detail about how much they hated it but, to add insult to injury, they all decided to try out putting as much blush on their cheeks as humanly possible, as if trying to say ‘look, who would ever consider this to be something beautiful?’. Imagine this in a different context: people putting on fat suits and writing an article about how stupid and ridiculous clothes look on plus-sized bodies. Unacceptable, right?

Even a crude search of ‘red cheeks’ brings only medical advice and offensive terms, such as ‘slapped cheek syndrome’. If I didn’t feel bad about it before, that name certainly wouldn’t help. You can also see that people are asking what they ‘mean’ and how to reduce the redness of their face. To bring it back to the plus-size comparison, their ‘advocates’ are positive, encouraging, even hopeful. If you were someone who was unhappy with your body, this search could perhaps lift your spirits, either temporarily or permanently.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some out there acting like they’re fighting for the red corner, This article from Beaut, called ‘Flushed cheeks is the fresh new trend you've got to try’, talks about the ‘flushed cheek’ movement that swept through all the fashion weeks worldwide. It looks promising at first glance, but a closer interrogation reveals mostly ‘coral’ or ‘peachy’ tones, with a majority of them barely even showing on the skin of beautiful models. ‘That’s fair’, I think to myself whilst closing the tab. I’ve been so indoctrinated to believe they are ugly that I don’t even feel sad that no-one is posting positively about them. I truly believe that they shouldn’t be shown, which is something I’m desperately trying to change.

They say always end a piece of writing with hope, so this is my hopeful ending. I’ve decided to start an Instagram page [@checkoutmyrosycheeks] which features times when I’m feeling super cute in my natural skin, as well as times when I’m feeling horrendous, but will all be about promoting confidence among the rosy gang. I’m sure there are more like me out there, or people with similar conditions, who just need a little encouragement coming out the shadows. I’ll show my favourite face masks , my morning routines and the best ways to feel confident on hot, summer days. It’s all about bringing the ‘accept yourself’ movement to everyone, even if the media still doesn’t think you’re worthwhile. Time to get angry, people, time to see red.

Matilda Godson - Cohort 23

Twitter - @godsonmatilda

Instagram - @checkoutmyrosycheeks

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