The beauty icon of the year, Fox’s make-up epitomised 2022 and all its messy, chaotic nihilism
Our love for Julia Fox and her madcap make-up is emblematic of our current state. We don’t have the time, emotional, or indeed spiritual capacity to attempt to emulate the unattainable beauty standards that have haunted the past decade; the simulacra of professionally applied make-up layered over thousands of pounds’ worth of Botox and filler, then posted on social media after a quick FaceTune and some Photoshop. What we do have time for is smearing the crumbs from a battered eyeshadow palette over our eyes like a contemporary Boudica and rounding it off with a stumpy, old eyeliner shoplifted from Boots.
Post-lockdown, in the face of the cost of living crisis, it’s not surprising that sweaty, hedonistic, messy make-up has replaced the meticulous, multi-step Instagram Face of the 2010s. We just want to go out and let loose. That was the spirit Fox captured at the beginning of the year when she stepped out in her now infamous signature black eye make-up. The look instantly seized our imaginations, a relief from aspirational celebrity beauty. Most crucially, it was fun, and seemed to signal a mode of self-expression beyond prescriptive ideas of attractiveness.
A series of equally chaotic looks followed, cementing Fox’s status as the patron saint of the so-called bad beauty movement. In March, she appeared on an Oscars party red carpet with bright-red, bloodshot eyes framed by her signature black wing – a look achieved by being stoned to the bone. Then came the black lips and a painterly white wing, the latex-wrapped ponytail, the pencil brows drawn over bleached eyebrows, the grey hair. Fox also started vocalising this reaction against conventional beauty norms, making bold proclamations and predictions on her TikTok account like, “Ageing is fully in… dirty girl, ugly, not wearing clothes that fit your body type – just fully wearing anything you want – all those things are in.”
On the one hand, these statements feel easy to say for a conventionally beautiful, thin, white woman who, intentionally or not, reaps the rewards of meeting societal beauty standards. It’s easy to say “I wanna see bellies hanging over the low rise jeans pls” when she herself has one of the flattest stomachs you have ever seen. And the discord of proclaiming that ‘ageing is in’ while having just weeks before been paid to be the face of Botox-alternative Xeomin, is not necessarily negated by Fox’s defence that she is “always going to get my bag”.
On the other hand, Fox has always been honest: she’s openly discussed how, when she realised she was being seen as a commodity in her teens and twenties, she consciously capitalised on her looks and sex appeal to gain money and resources from men. This is one of the contradictions inherent in womanhood – beauty can equal power, but this “power” is always dependent on being seen as desirable by the patriarchy. Fox felt that it was “a humiliating position to be in”. What we now seem to be witnessing is her experimenting and coming to terms with how she wants to look for herself. Purposefully choosing to look messy, alien-like and intimidating. Along the way, we can afford her the grace and space to grapple with the contradictions she is spouting and unlearn the messages that are ingrained in all of us.
Fox has undoubtedly changed how we approached beauty this year and, alongside people like Doja Cat and Aoife, spearheaded a perspective on make-up that doesn’t centre the male gaze or appease societal beauty metrics. Her looks are confronting and female-focused, they are relatable and accessible – as demonstrated by Fox’s charmingly chaotic tutorials which involve drug store products, bare fingers and the occasional “fuck”. That’s the thing about her make-up: all you need is a bit of time, enthusiasm and not to take yourself too seriously.
Here Fox shares her thoughts on her year in beauty and gives her predictions for 2023.
Which is your favourite Julia Fox beauty moment of 2022? The fox eye, the red eyes, the grey hair…?
Julia Fox: I honestly love the grey hair look the most. It’s so beautiful. It’s rare but I love when older women keep their grey or white hair. My grandma, who I look like, went completely white like a pearl. I always used to say when I was little that I couldn’t wait to get old to have hair like that.
Did you ever think that your beauty looks would be so impactful?
Julia Fox: No, not at all, but I’m happy that I make people feel better about being weird. I encourage everyone to express themselves authentically and I really don’t care about trends or what other people think is cool. I’m always doing my own thing and I hope more people can do that too.
What do you think messy/bad make-up is so popular right now? What does it say about the general cultural mood?
Julia Fox: I think the girls are fed up! I think beauty is leaning away from the male gaze. Women are tired of listening to the little man inside their head telling them they need to look a certain way to be accepted by society. Fuck that… I don’t care what men like. And if they don’t like it, it’s probably ‘cause I’m on the right side of history, since men are historically not.
What are your predictions for beauty in 2023?
Julia Fox: More smudgy. No perfect lines. Alien vibes. Trashy girl. Glossy lips. Accentuating our “imperfections” instead of concealing them.
@juliafox Ooooo I know this is gonna make the broke boys mad #OLDISIN ♬ original sound - Julia fox
What does beauty feel like to you?
Julia Fox: It doesn’t feel like anything. Beauty is subjective and there isn’t a way to measure it. I only find beauty in ugly places and I’ve always been that way.
How did you find what your expression of beauty is? Do you even care about beauty as a concept?
Julia Fox: I care because it’s political, and capitalism and the patriarchy makes women live in fear of getting older when it should be something to be celebrated. For me, being alive at all is a miracle so I focus on the bigger picture.
What does ageing feel like to you?
Julia Fox: It means feeling increasingly comfortable in my own skin. I am so much happier now than any other time in my life.
What is your beauty and skincare routine?
Julia Fox: I honestly don’t have one. It’s a miracle if I even brush my teeth before passing out.
What do you think about filler and Botox?
Julia Fox: I’m all for it. Women should be able to do whatever they want without being stigmatised. To force a woman to live in fear of getting older and then shame her for getting enhancements, is such a scam. It’s a lose-lose situation that we’ve been forced into.
What are your favourite beauty products?
Julia Fox: I love my Pat McGrath eye shadow pallets. I have them all and I’m obsessed with the pigments. I love the Isamaya Liplacq maximising lip serum - it’s a game-changer. I love the aboutface liquid eye shadow sticks too, and the liquid highlighters are amazing for the body. For classics, I love Egyptian magic and the Biologique P50 toner.
What do you think of celebrity beauty brands? Would you ever start your own?
Julia Fox: I don’t think the world needs another celebrity beauty brand, but if I were to do it I would make it super eco-friendly and use only recycled materials.
What are your tips and tricks for applying make-up?
Julia Fox: Look at what you’re wearing for inspiration! Usually, the vision just comes to me after I put on my look. You really need to feel it. Good make-up can make or break an entire look.