A longtime friend messaged me on Facebook to alert me I need to change my profile photo to a more flattering one. I snapped it in my sunny Istanbul kitchen on my iPhone. I’d just had my hair done -- and a facial, so not a stitch of makeup. I look somewhat natural, and somewhat my age of almost 45. I liked the image for that reason. An actual unvarnished look rather than the airbrushed Turkish portraits in my book publicity materials, my playful Photoshop-manipulated avatars on social media sites, or the pound-of-make-up glamour shot from my Today Show TV appearance in 2008.
The pic is not the only way I can look, and I’m not cementing it as my favorite of all time. There are some surprising wrinkles, but also a touch of grey in my eyes I'd forgotten. The image makes sense at the moment, relates to creative work I am doing to be my authentic self, and I am proud of who I am in it. I’m using it across the web.
When my Facebook friend and I first met (before she rushed me to the hospital with a high fever), she looked me over in my sick bed and told me all I needed was "a little eyeliner".
For two decades I’ve cherished that line as her special brand of caustic Southern comedy. She was raised in places where American women have been known to sleep in their makeup – just in case. Even if I enjoy a little maquillage and lighting magic too, I’m from a rather stripped down area in Northern California. It's only natural at our core we have different sensibilities about female presentation.
Delivered with love and true concern, yesterday's message was a reminder to me.
Only we can determine what our best self looks like.
What do portraits (and self-portraits) demand of us? Which version of yourself do you want to show the world today, and why?