Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
May 24th, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment — WAR PAINT

This blog entry is the sixth part of a continuing series.

If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.


Step Five



In case y’all haven’t figured it out by now (and if you haven’t – whuff – time for that Remedial Reading Comprehension course, folks): I am not a girly girl.

I take no joy in dresses, or heels, or doing my hair, or any of that other shit chicks do to look “pretty.”  Far as I’m concerned, “pretty” is just the word that comes before “sure,” or “goddamned sure.”  For me, it has little to no aesthetic meaning, and most of the time, I feel about “pretty” like I feel about C-SPAN: it bores the fuck out of me.


There is one aspect of the girly oeuvre that I do enjoy… and that’s make-up.

Not wearing it, mind you – it’s a shit-ton of work if you want to apply it correctly, and I’d rather invest that time in tweeting inappropriate thoughts about Benedict Cumberbatch – but I do love collecting it, like my brothers used to do with those tiny rubber M.U.S.C.L.E. men figurines, whose sole raison d’être was hiding on the floor in plain sight until stepped on, then provoking stream-of-consciousness cussing my parents mastered like Mozart did the clavier.  If you never knew that “shitballsmotherfuckingballshitfuck” was a word?  Step on a M.U.S.C.L.E. man and increase your vocabulary.

So wearing make-up?  No.  Having a big box of it sitting under my bathroom cabinet?  RuPaul would be proud.

My only problem for The Pilot Season Experiment was that nearly every piece of my vast make-up collection was upwards of five years old.

Guys may be like, “So?  I have some cologne my mom gave me for high school graduation and I still use that shit!”

Women, on the other hand, know that after about a year, make-up goes to hell on you.  It really does.  Mascara gets clumpy, eye shadow gets crumbly, foundation turns to syrup that looks like radioactive self-tanner.  Even powder foundation (which is what I use, considering I have oily skin that repels make-up as if it were vinegar) starts to streak across your face like Sioux war paint.

And in fact, that’s what I call make-up when I’m obliged to wear it: war paint.

Because if I’m going to the trouble of applying that crap, you can be guaranteed one thing: it is not peacetime.  I am going to war.  I’m leaving my house AND I’m trying to make a good impression.  In any other case, I would rather draw dicks on my face with a Sharpie than slap on the war paint.  When The Finance comes home after I’ve had a meeting, even he says, “Ah, you still got your war paint on?  I like you better without it.”  Which is when I love him so hard it feels like my spleen will burst.

I’m sure some of you women out there will protest, “But make-up’s not that hard!  I do mine in five minutes every day!”  And with the greatest respect, fellow females, I say: BITE me, you lying lady liars.  Any woman who can apply her make-up in five minutes or less doesn’t need make-up to begin with.  Which on the one hand – hey, great for you!  you’re genetically blessed! – but on the other hand – don’t be giving Quasimodo advice on standing upright.  It’s just hurtful.

For instance, here’s model Adriana Lima with no make-up on:

There is not enough “fuck you” in the world.


Atrociously gorgeous, no?  Well, not all of us look like Aphrodite when we roll out of bed.  Some of us look more like the Kraken:

This is my driver’s license photo.


Thus, when I decided to do The Pilot Season Experiment, I knew I’d have to visit Sephora, because it’s the only store I trust to have quality make-up that won’t drip down my skin and give me scary clownface.  I wept over the expense and trouble I’d have to go through for approximately .08 seconds, then planned my trip like it was fucking D-Day.  For luckily, I had exactly one item of war paint that was less than a year old:

Good old Maybelline mascara.    Don’t knock it, you snobby bitches.



(Really, it’d be indecorous to show you the dance I did when I realized this; mostly because I wasn’t wearing a bra and I might knock someone out with a stray flying tit.)

My trip to Sephora started like all my trips to Sephora do: with me rushing around the store like a bratty 4 year-old in a candy shop.  “I want thish!  No, I want thish!  Mommy, can I have thish?”  (Which is a little odd, considering my mom wasn’t there, and I don’t have a lisp.)  In my head, though, all I heard was, “Yes, darling, yes!  You can have everything!  You can have it ALL!”  Which is sort of awesome when you’re an adult with her very own credit card and an excuse like, “But I’m doing this for work!”

Because what shops like Sephora and MAC and all the high-end make-up counters in department stores offer is something deceptively simple — something everyone wants — something people will do terrible things in order to have.  And that something?


Hope that if you smear this on your face, or delicately dab this on your eyelids, or brush this on your cheekbones, you will somehow transform into the most beautiful, incredible creature who ever deigned to alight on this planet.  You will haz ALL TEH MENZ! (or ALL TEH WIMMENZ!  or ALL TEH HUMANZ!) just begging to slay dragons for you or, more likely, to go get you a mocha latte whenever you want, because you are a goddamned supermodel, goddammit!

And while it’s true, beautiful people do have an easier time making it in the world (see here, herehere, or, I don’t know, fucking open your eyes), odds are, if you look like the Kraken in the morning, you can be relatively certain that no matter how much war paint you apply, you are not going to be Aphrodite when you’re done.  Make-up is not plastic surgery.  Make-up is not a structural renovation.  Make-up is a new coat of paint in the living room and possibly some new posters to distract from the cracks in the walls.

Hope can be wonderful.

But hope can also be awful when it shows itself false.

To really hit it on the nose: it’s just like pilot season.

Me?  I was fortunate in that I knew exactly why I was shopping for make-up — pilot season and The Experiment — so I didn’t have my sense of self-worth wrapped up in it, since I also knew I’d only be wearing that war paint for the equivalent of two weeks out of the year.  It’s sort of like eating an entire birthday cake while you have the stomach flu.  You know it’s not going to stick around for long anyway, so you might as well indulge.

And indulge I did.

Yes, primers. Like paint.


These are primers (or what I call “face spackle”).  I bought two kinds since I wasn’t sure if the anti-acne gel in the blue bottle would dry out my skin — because trust me, there’s nothing worse than having oily skin… AND dry little bits of face flaking off and floating on top of the sheen.

After you wash your face, you spread this spackle over your skin like moisturizer.  Except it’s not moisturizer.  It’s simply designed to make your skin as uniformly flat as possible, so you can apply foundation evenly without looking like you’re trying to cover smallpox scars.

Powder foundation, blush, and setting powder.




I started using BareMinerals about ten years ago, after having used liquid foundation for the ten years before that, then finally realizing I’d been doing it wrong.  Adding liquid foundation to oily skin gives you a very small window to look good: like, so small you won’t get out of the house before turning into Tammy Faye Bakker.  (Dear Baby Jesus, please let some of my readers remember who that is.)

What we have here is the powder foundation (in Fair, since they didn’t have a color called Whitest White Girl In The Whole White World), some blush, and some powder named Mineral Veil, a “setting powder,” which is basically just code for “Hey Oily Chicks, You Need This Like WHOA.”

Each with a different function.  Admit it, guys — you thought this shit was easy-peasy, didn’t you?  Fools.  Fools!


You know those little Q-Tip-wand-doohickeys they include with the cheap-o eye shadow you buy at CVS?  Yeah.  Those suck donkey-schlong.  Problem is, you don’t realize the schlong-suckage until you’ve used real brushes.  Kabuki brushes, face-contour brushes, angled eye shadow brushes, smudger brushes, eyeliner brushes, eyebrow brushes, lip brushes, pubic hair brushes (just seeing if you’re still paying attention) — the list goes on forever.  This is what I meant when I said applying your make-up “correctly” takes a shit-ton of work.  Like any good painter, you have different brushes for different techniques, and what works to spread foundation over your face will not work to apply eyeliner beneath your lower lids.  At least, not if you want to stay on this side of the Goth I-write-to-men-in-prison line.

If you haven’t used Stila eyeliner, please turn in your vagina before you leave.


Every make-up artist I’ve ever met has said to apply your eyeliner before you put on your eyeshadow.  It allows you to remove smudges easier, and if you accidentally poke your eye out with the eyeliner pencil, you can usually pop it back in without it ruining all the make-up you’ve put on up ’til now.  (You might have to touch up your foundation and take a Vicodin, but honestly, I’m not seeing a problem there.)  Since I have blue eyes, I bought Stila eyeliner in black, grey, and brown — because putting teal or jade eyeliner near my eyes generally results in me looking like that green chick Kirk bangs in the original Star Trek.  (Oh, he did TOO bang her.  I’m not even going to argue this.)  In other words: we’re talking freaky extraterrestrial.  This would be fine if I was going out to party — I vaguely recall — but when you’re trying to convince a showrunner that you’re a responsible, intelligent human being, “Alien Eyes” is not a good nickname to walk out with.

Know what colors look good on you. As a general rule, “rainbow” is not anyone’s color.


Simple, right?  Two small cases, six colors, nothing flashy.  Not that I’ve never done flashy. In your twenties, flashy is your birthright.   Could I have gotten away with being Kirk’s bang-buddy ten years ago?  You bet your ass I could’ve.  My hair was fucking blue.  What were they gonna say about my eye make-up?  But if I’m going to be real (which I promised in the very first installment of this series), I must tell you: when you hit your mid-thirties, flashy stops being flashy and starts looking desperate.  While I would never deny that desperation is a large part of being a Writer in Hollywood, another large part is making people think that you’re not desperate at all.  Because the more you can project a sense of “ZOMG, like, this whole town wants me to work for them,” the more people will want to steal you away from everybody else. For no other reason than they just don’t want to be The Guy Who Missed Out On Hiring The Hot Thing.  This is insane, I realize; it’s based on air and attitude and nothing else — but don’t think for one second it’s also not 100% true.  Therefore, if the barest whiff of desperation can tank you, you avoid anything and everything that might imply you’re even familiar with the word “desperation.”  And glittery silver eyeshadow on a near-40-something?  Screams “desperate” so loud even Helen Keller would grab her ears.


The color I’d smear ALL OVER this guy.


Look.  This is the lipstick I bought.  I know you can’t see it very well in this picture, but it’s low-key, kind of mauve — and if you don’t know where this goes on a female face, there is absolutely nothing I can do to help you at this point.  I’d go into more detail about lipstick in general, but one, I give zero fucks about lipstick, and two, I’m really distracted by Mr. Cumberbatch in the background there.  He has nothing to do with pilot season or The Experiment, but he does have a lot to do with how I unwound during it.  Which reminds me, I need new batteries.

For the remote control, you pervs.

Just kidding.  They’re for my vibrator.



You hear that? It’s a heavenly choir of angels.


If you are a fellow tribe member of the Oily Face Nation, and you only buy one thing from Sephora in your whole life, it should be this.  I have tried numerous kinds of blotting papers, and these are the best by a loooooooong shot.  Press these suckers on your nose, chin, and forehead five minutes before a meeting, and you’ve got at least an hour before you start looking like BP came on your face.

It’s a small thing — as close to inconsequential as you can get when you’re talking about war paint — but the fact is: oily skin looks like greasy skin.  Greasy skin looks like dirty skin.  Dirty skin says, “I might not have showered before I got to this meeting.  I might not shower if you hire me.  If you’re going to sit in a tiny room with me all day for the next six months, you’d better hope I wear deodorant.”  Which is a long side-track of thought for a showrunner to follow when he’s supposed to be listening to your brilliant ideas (that is, when he’s not staring at your camel toe).  So anything you can try to de-grease your face?  Do it.

It’s one less thing to pull focus away from your brain.

And when it comes down to it,


is what war paint is all about.  

When you wear make-up to a meeting, all it should say is: not only am I smart enough to talk character and story arc and potential episode ideas — I got my personal shit wired, son.  I can bring home the bacon AND look like Charlize Theron while I’m doing it.  (Some of us can only hit Charlize Theron in “Monster,” but effort is effort.)

Use that war paint to show off those sparkling green eyes, that seemingly flawless skin, and you will learn — like the thousands of Adriana Limas that have come before her — that looks really do matter.

People more readily attribute good qualities to attractive people.  Sucks for us Average-to-Middlin’ Folk, but when we take advantage of every opportunity we have — even when we know it’s all bullshit, and unfair, and forcibly normative — then we can look back on pilot season with a certain satisfaction, knowing that we have done everything in our power to get hired.




Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?


28 Responses to “The Pilot Season Experiment — WAR PAINT”
  1. Carissa says

    ” because trust me, there’s nothing worse than having oily skin… AND dry little bits of face flaking off and floating on top of the sheen” I laughed out loud. The only thing I am disappointed in is that I did not see a finished photo. Is that coming later? Damn you are one funny bitch. Hugs!!

    • There will come a time next week when I have to slap on the war paint, and I promise I’ll take a picture for you. I will not WANT to, but I will do it. For you, Moddie. Only for you. You nagging bitch. 😉

  2. I’m not kidding you: This is so good I’m del.icio.us bookmarking this as one of my “Me write lady character but no know makeup” resources. For reals.

    (Yeah, yeah, I’m really going to use it when I put my makeup. Just get it out of your system. Done? Ok.)

    You did awesome with the pictures and the texts next to them, too. Worth all the frustration, yeah?

    Anyway, I’ve seen your driver’s license picture. It looked way more like King Ghidorah than the Kraken. But that might be because you hit me so hard I was seeing triple.

    • Em… I don’t know that the pics were worth the frustration. Honestly, I wish there were an easier way to do it in WP. The last time I remember it being easy was in high school newspaper. (Some Mac program I no longer remember the name of.) THAT layout I understood. This was an enormous pain in my ass. Sort of like you. Which brings me to King Ghidorah. After all that make-up, do I look a thousand years old to you? Well, do I? DICK?

  3. I’m really, really jealous of your trip to sephora. Did you get tips from people there, or load up the basket on your own?

    As usual, awesome installment.

    • Thanks, R.! Mostly I shopped on my own, but towards the end — of course, after I’m carrying around a giant fucking basket of stuff — someone came along and offered to help — and snagged that commission, you betcha.

  4. I love make up way more than I love wearing make up SO MUCH, I am with you there IN SUCH A BIG WAY. I like to get sephora catalogs in the mail just so I can look at the wacky colors I would buy if I a) had the TOTALLY DISPOSABLE income and b) the time to sit in my apartment and play with make up and then wash it all off before I am seen by anyone else.

    • I am so with you, Mels. I feel like having to wear it for a reason just sucks all the fun out of it. Plus I just like going in the store and smelling all the make-up. Which is completely insane, yet nonetheless absolutely true.

      • I am happy to wear it for special occasions if they’re FUN occasions (like deja bruise!) but no matter how much I want to do the daily spackle, after a week I’m like “fuck this shit”

    • peridot2 says

      Why don’t I get Sephora catalogs? I shop there. *is jealous*

  5. aboleyn says

    I think I use the same color foundation as you. For years I joked that my skin was the color of alabaster. Then I went to Clinque to get a new foundation and guess what color they matched me with… yep Alabaster. It is like chalk only The Police sing about it.

    I may have to turn in my vagina as I have never used Stila, but if that gets me out of applying makeup with a pubic hair brush you can have it.

    • I have to say, for a woman who doesn’t like wearing make-up, I really do like the Stila eyeliners. They go on where they’re supposed to go on, they stay (without turning you into raccoon-face — which, as Oily Girl, all my eyeliners tend to do), and their colors are super-saturated. No swiping the pencil across your lid over and over and over again just to get it dark enough. So I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do: I’ll just hold your vagina here until you pick up a Stila eyeliner. Just let me know when I can give it back.

  6. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m as besotted over Cumberbatch as you are (and no way I’m giving up my vagina on the tiny teensy weensy little chance that it could play host to him(, I would have to turn in my vagina. But no.

    I have never worn full face makeup in my life. Eye makeup because I wear glasses, a bit of blush, very occasionally some lipstick but I never manage to buy the right color so not even that occasionally. We are not talking Adriana Lima here, but I’ve gotten by mostly on decent skin. Otherwise, potato-face. But I don’t care, I HAVE A SPARKLING PERSONAL— er, well, no. I don’t. (I don’t talk.) (This might explain why I haven’t had a boyfriend since I got out of the army. 😉

    • ::laugh:: I love how you’re unwilling to give up your vagina on the off chance you might need it to entertain The Batch. And man, I wish I could say I had “mostly… decent skin”. I would KILL for mostly decent skin. In fact, maybe that’s how I get decent skin: just flay someone else for it.

  7. This is a perfect discussion, chalk, to store or not to store one’s vagina(yikes, I hope there not be atrophy), smell of makeup in the morning… Thanks. And the blog entry should be proud of this offspring.

  8. In my 20s, I used to buy a lot of makeup. I had eyeshadow in green, blue, violet, bronze – all sparkly with diamonds. I also had eyeliner to match (maybe not green). Then for a number of years I didn’t wear any makeup expect some Cover Girl foundation.

    Now I only wear bare minimum when I go out – that I CAN apply in under five minutes! ;P Moisturizer, liquid foundation for oily skin in Fair or Vanilla (I have rosacea and fair skin so definitely need as pale as possible), eyebrow colour and lipstick – all my Elizabeth Arden. Then I don’t do anything for the rest of the day unless I’m going out after work.

    For very special occasions, I do put on eyeliner and eye shadow, and rarely, mascara. Since I wear glasses, my lashes hit my lenses and if I wear mascara, my glasses get even dirtier than usual. :(

    What I most hate about makeup is when you find a lipstick, eyeshadow, moisturizer, etc. (and perfume) that you like and that works well for you in all ways, the company changes it or stops making it all together! I have sensitive skin and I used the same EA moisturizer for years because it worked but they have discontinued it. The sample they gave me of their new line is wonderful but it costs almost $200!!

    Anyway, enough about me. I’m glad you like shopping for makeup and I’m looking forward to seeing you in your new clothes (including Spanx) and full makeup.

    In the meantime, I think I will hold onto my vagina myself, thank you very much! Okay, that didn’t come out the way I meant it – or maybe it did.

    • My grandma used to use Lady Venus Aloe Vera Moisturizer — and so did I, ’til I reached high school and they discontinued it. The weird(er) part? I still have that little empty jar, and when I open it, the smell is like visiting my grandma, who’s since passed. Funny how something as trivial as make-up can still pack an emotional wallop.

      Btw, are you sure you don’t want me to hold that vagina for you? I even built a vagina cellar…

  9. Sephora is a magical sparkly playground for face-paintin’.

    You didn’t mention blush, I don’t think? If you’re looking for something to play with on your next trip to Sephora, I recently succumbed to the cult of Nars Orgasm blush and can confirm that it really is all that.

    And I’m with you on going subtle with eyeshadow post 35. If you don’t have it already, you will love the Nakeds palette (either #1 or #2) from Urban Decay. It’s nothing but ethereal, beautiful nude-ish colors of all types that can be combined in infinite, um, combinations.

    Looking forward to the next installment of the series!

    • Damn you, Heidi, you sinister temptress! Now the next time I go to Sephora I just know I’ll be re-checking your comment. Damn you!

  10. Hi Mere, I’ve been lax in reading your Twitter posts — I go through phases what can I say. But I just checked Twitter and saw you posting so I was inspired to look at your website. What a nice rant/primer on makeup essentials. I just went back to BareMinerals but I have hardly the accoutrement you do. One brush, lip stick or lip gloss, a little mascara, no eyeliner (yet). I, like you, am not very enamored of the whole girly girl thing. Hell, my fingernails won’t even grow right to have nice ones and I refuse to get that glue-on crap. If someone wonderful were to come along, I suppose I’d make a bit more of an effort, but as it is I just try to look decent for work. I’m also doing work on my skin and I do make an effort to keep it moisturized (I have the curse of dry skin) so my wrinkles are minimal. Because as you showed here, eventually the make up comes off to go to sleep at night and not all of us look like that supermodel up there. Though I suppose and it is a far shot suppose, if I did feel more confident about myself I might have just walked up to Jeremy Northam recently in London as he was about to go in the stage door to prepare for Hay Fever (which I saw) instead of stalking, I mean observing him from a distance. No, truly, no stalking. I just wanted to get a glimpse of him in person. Maybe next trip, when I have all my makeup shit together! :)

    • Girl, next time you see that man in the street, lick him and run. I say if you’re going to do crazy, GO BIG!

      • HAR! Don’t think I didn’t have that impulse. I sat aways down the alley from the stage door and observed him talking to colleagues for about 15 minutes, so my powers of control have to be massive. I would so enjoy though, being able to lick him without then going to jail!! He’s 50, you know, and still as gorgeous as ever.

  11. I love makeup and I love *wearing* makeup so much that I call it “magic”, as in “Hang on, I just need like 10 minutes to put on the magic”. That said, I have learned something very interesting now that I am no longer in my twenties and..erm…not really in my thirties any more either: less is more. If I apply too much makeup now I look like Gloria Swanson getting ready for her closeup as opposed to a charmingly over-spackled young chippy. I’ve also had to move on from “glitter” to a slight “iridescence” . I still love it though.

    • I was freakishly overspackled as a young chippy, so I suppose my karmic make-up pendulum is swinging the other way now. And I can speak from experience here: absolutely no make-up is required to experience the Cyn-magic. For example, I love that you used the word “iridescence.” Me ladyparts are all a-tingle!

      • Well then frankly my job is done here! I appreciate that you see me through fabulous-tinged lenses, promise me that it will always be that way.

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