When she called on her Facebook and Twitter followers on Wednesday to post selfies sans makeup, filters or Photoshop, New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s goal was not to start an Internet meme or something that would be viral.
|The Laura Lippman selfie
that started it all.
“I think it began because I was bored,” Lippman says. “It was the rainiest, coldest Mardi Gras day I’ve ever seen. It was so bad that we could not, in good conscience, take our young daughter out. So I scrubbed off the heavy make-up I had put on and removed my green fake eyelashes and spent some time reading on the Internet.”
Some of what she read distressed her. “I hadn’t watched the Oscars, but it’s interesting how much bubbles up from social media and someone had linked to a very interesting piece about Kim Novak’s appearance. I was struck by the damned if you do/damned if you don’t societal pressure (and also the intense secrecy that surrounds people who have had very successful cosmetic surgery/treatments). I decided to take my photo in solidarity with Kim Novak, not as a criticism of her.”
Though a desire for virality may not have been the goal, within hours, members of the mystery writing community — men and woman, both — were posting their selfies to Facebook and Twitter.
Part of the way through a day of the beautifully bared faces, Lippman summed things up via Facebook. “Has anyone else noticed that these photos are becoming MORE beautiful as they proliferate?” Lippman asked. “Seriously the more we look like ourselves, the more the aesthetic skews toward that standard.”
There was something to what she said as photo after photo was posted via Facebook and Twitter, on the latter connected via the hashtag #itsokkimnovak.
Though many Facebook users saw the parade of bare faces, Lippman claims it was far from viral. “I cannot begin to put a number on this. I wish someone would tell me how.”
Even so, many of the hundreds who participated were deeply moved by various aspects of the experience. One of those was author and journalist Clea Simon. Simon blogged that, after the Oscars there came, “a vitriolic back and forth across Facebook and Twitter, with many people calling out an industry (film) and a culture (us) that place a ridiculous premium on youth. Others, myself included, argued that we needed to take responsibility for our own decisions — and own up to the reality of aging.”
Lippman says that, even though they were expressly invited, she was most surprised at how many men participated. “I thought that was cool,” Lippman says. “Because, alas, the only progress that we seem to have made on this front is to make men as self-conscious.”
Lippman’s most recent book, After I’m Gone, was published by William Morrow last month. A film adaptation of her 2004 novel, Every Secret Thing, directed by Amy Berg and starring Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane, will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.
With #itsokkimnovak still drawing participants and commentary, Lippman continues to be fascinated at the result of her impromptu Internet experiment, as well as what caused it.
“Years ago, I went to the Television Critics Association with my then-boyfriend, David Simon, now my husband,” Lippman says. “And I was so outlandishly different looking from the teeny-tiny actresses with enormous heads that I felt perversely — not gorgeous, but striking, like I was from a different species. I caught a very famous actor looking at my butt, almost as if it were a curiosity. ‘Look, there’s a butt that sticks out! I’ve never seen one of those in person!’ So I’ve been thinking for years about the way an aesthetic develops, takes hold. And I’ve always said if there were a procedure that could allow me to look as I did at age 30 or so, I’d be happy to avail myself of it. I do dye my hair, exercise, watch what I eat. I have a good friend (more than one, I think) who uses Botox and I think she looks good, but botulism in my face, near my brain? No thank you.”