Makeup Anxiety During The Trump Times

Do our current leaders trust makeup artists?

Sarah Graalman
Thoughts And Ideas
8 min readJul 8, 2017


There’s a siren going off my head, growing louder by the day since the new administration took power. It blares as certain faces flash across the screen. I could be talking about so many things, but I’m currently talking about makeup. My brow furrows as I ponder how all of this has happened. Who is powdering these faces?

Maybe most of us are simply used to it now — but haven’t you once wondered: Why is Trump Orange? IS Steve Bannon actually OK, health-wise? Why does Stephen Miller look like he’s sweating under so much matte makeup? Who did Kellyanne Conway’s makeup today? She could look better! Is there anyone in the wings over there with some powder and a comb? The universe bellows back “I don’t think so”. It leads me to wonder if there’s something deeper going on? I ask this as a concerned citizen, emotional empath, and professional makeup artist.

It’s easy, cruel fun to pick apart how people look on television. It’s a catty sport many of us play. I’m occasionally conflicted about my right to judge the appearances of those who aren’t myself. I justify any judgements based on my career: I have an opinion on faces! After working on thousands of faces, I can definitively say I know when a client is happy, sad, or is struggling with a soul that is restless. I know when a person lives and dies by bronzer, even if they show up clean-faced. I know whether or not someone will suggest contour, regardless of age. I can tell by the darting of one’s eyes whether they trust me, or anyone else for that matter. A seasoned artist can tell whether or not a client is comfortable in their own skin. I have never ever seen a crew of bandits who knew themselves less than the Trump administration, and I’ve only seen them on screens.

A public figure tells us who they are by what they say and how they allow themselves to be presented to the public. How you choose to look when recording begins is 100% intentional, unless you’re in jail or are being ambushed by a crew. Those whose chosen jobs place them on screens (politicians/gurus/hosts) are giving us permission to see them. They want to be in the public eye. They want to run our country, sell us our goods, or save us from ourselves. Look at the late Tammy Faye Baker. That’s who she was, from the tips of her lashes to the tears down her cheeks. She patiently, thoughtfully painted her face on everyday. Then she wept. She wanted us to see the mascara’d tears.

If someone chooses to not wear makeup, they’re saying ‘I don’t wanna be a makeup person’. Alicia Keys is telling us she doesn’t wanna be judged by her vanity, makeup wise. She is foundation free, and seems gloriously happy that way. There’s no disputing what her narrative is. If a personality wants to feather their bangs, layer on 10 coats of mascara, and rock some indigo blue eyeliner, that is a lot of solid information to base an opinion on.

Trump is orange and his hair is famously peroxide blonde. He rocks a fake-tan like a star from the 80’s who can’t let that go. Have you ever really looked at the whites around his eyes? Chances are those lighter patches are the result of tanning bed goggles. We have a bronzer addict running the country, and I have very strong opinions about bronzer addicts. I’ve rarely ever met one who doesn’t have a disjointed view of who they are or nurse a strange self-image. Sometimes that self-image is inflated. I wouldn’t be confident in saying this if I’d only been a makeup artist for a few years and simply hated the orangey hue of excessive bronzer. He likely reached his physical and sexual (sorry) prime in the 80’s, and though his power has skyrocketed to his being the most powerful man in America. It seems he is still chasing the dragon of his 80’s Trump facade. Why else would he still emulate that 80’s bronze glow?

Beware of anyone stuck in any decade. Especially the 80’s.

Meanwhile his top advisors look as though there is something wrong, in various dark ways. I’m not being glib — it’s worrisome. Steve Bannon looks as though he has ceased taking care of himself. He looks like he may drink a lot. Perhaps doesn’t sleep. He has a rigorously stated bleak world-view, which sound to be the rumblings of a darkly depressed man. If I judge his facial health, combined with his point of view, I am led to ask whether or not he is making decisions from a solid mental place? Yes, his skin quality tells me that. And what about Steve Miller? Why so much matte foundation, and why does he still look like he’s sweating? Is he nervous? I’ve never seen such an upper lip sweat under that much powder. He seems uncomfortable. Most broadly — what is going on with Kellyanne Conway?

Deep sigh.

Kellyanne Conway has a tendency to look busted. (I pondered delicacy in word choice when writing that sentence, but that’s just the truth whittled down.) I’ve scrutinized this for nearly a year. Something is amiss, deeper than ‘please, curl your lashes and blend your shadow.” It causes me both confusion as well as sharp twinges of empathy. She looks tired. She looks like she’s trying hard, but failing. But should she be trying that hard, makeup wise. Why isn’t anyone helping her?

Her makeup is wrong, in a paint-by-numbers sense. She’s a beautiful woman. Yet, the foundation is off, in shade and consistency. The concealer doesn’t work. (There are concealers that work for everyone, trust me.) The lashes are wonky, the mascara is clumpy, and the eyeshadow palettes she uses change practically every damned day. *There is absolutely nothing wrong with ‘new makeup every day’, but she is not that kind of make-up wearer. That’s not her journey. She is not living that kind of life! She’s a talking head of our government, and is clearly rejecting the help of makeup artists with regularity. Which is disconcerting, based on her desire not only to help run the free-world, but also to be one of the few public faces of it. We want our leaders to trust the advice of professionals. Does she not trust a makeup artist?

If she worked at the bank, I wouldn’t care. I’d find the blue no, wait green no, wait gold eye-shadow switcharoo endearing. If she was my hair-stylist, I’d chalk it up to creative choice. If she made my coffee or brought me my pizza, I wouldn’t care, beyond wishing I could recommend a new concealer. I love watching people make creative choices. Some people are ‘themselves’ in the very act of creative re-invention (yes, like Cher). I have many friends who cut, color, or even shave their heads when they need a change. Myself? I change my own lip color daily. That’s how I’m ‘me’ — I’m living that life! But if I’m going through something difficult, my instances of changing my hair and adjusting my eyeshadow tick up a bit more dramatically. Then I know my soul is restless. Over-done concealer and clumpy mascara is my canary in a coal mine. I know something is wrong. Is Conway changing it so often because she’s ‘finding herself’ while being internally conflicted?

If I need to hire a lawyer, and if that lawyer showed up with wonky eye makeup and unmatched foundation, I’d shout without pause, “Not today, Esquire! I need you to know who you are and I need that you to be professional!” Those I’m hiring to help me should know who they are, and I openly reject ‘too kooky’ in any professional setting. Same reason I don’t look busted when I show up for a job. My job is helping people so they need to trust that I know who I am.

I desire the same for those running our country. I need you to know and trust yourself now. Their beauty routines make them appear restless, unhappy, erratic, and uncomfortable in their own skin. If they have a professional artist at their disposal, then that artist is likely being rejected.

“But what if the artists they’re using are bad?” Impossible. It’s a ludicrous notion that a highly skilled artist would be that bad that many times in a row. “What if they don’t wanna pay for a makeup artist?” Nope. I know poor 21-year-old’s who put together the money to pay for an artist for a big event.

When someone of significant stature appears on a network, that network supplies an artist, or they will pay for the cost of one. I’m occasionally that artist in the wings at CNN with a personality on a publicity tour. Sometimes I show up to studios, and they have ANOTHER artist there on staff, just in case. It seems rare that any artist is doing the work. Yes, I’ve found a few instances where Conway is done and it looks fabulous. She isn’t obligated to look ‘done’ if that isn’t how she wants to be seen. But she’s putting on a lot, so she’s trying. She’s rejecting the use of a professional makeup artist.

In the instance when a personality insists on doing makeup him or herself, I still always ask ‘Can I blend this or that or add some powder?’ They never say “no”, at which point I remove some of the sparkles or blend for the sake of the person and the viewers. Always. Maybe twice in a decade I’ve been turned down. Only when the most nervous and untrusting figure decided they were a better makeup artist than I was. They powdered themselves up, looked at me like they knew better, and then plopped themselves in front of the camera with uncertain eyes and uneven skin.

So, here we all are. They’re on our TV constantly. They are running our country. I’d love to give them some HD powder and proper concealer. If only they trusted the experts.