Earlier this week, one of the most followed streamers on Twitch, Pokimane, surprised viewers by kicking off her stream sans makeup. On Monday, the Fortnite player, podcaster, and IRL streamer decided she’d walk her fans through what it takes to do her makeup for one of those streams. It ended up touching off a wide conversation about women, makeup, and unrealistic expectations.
Early on in the stream, Pokimane even predicted that there might be backlash to her showing her naked face, but she still felt like this was an important thing for her to do. “I know not having makeup on is unusual, and some people might meme me for it, or say whatever,” she said. “But I think it’s good to not always just be promoting ‘I look like this naturally.’ Because girls just don’t. When you have makeup on, you look like you have makeup on.”
What happened next was, given the nature of the internet, inevitable: a barrage of insults pointed Pokimane’s way from men and teenage boys. Fortunately, this was quickly followed up by a wave of support for Pokimane, as fans and other streamers rallied behind her to point out that that people’s expectations were unreasonable, and that nobody’s face is naturally up to society’s absurd standards all the time.
“Hate to break it to you, but if you think you’re going to find a girl who looks flawless with and without makeup, you’re going to have a hard time,” said Omen community manager and streamer Sloane. “Also you have to be really insecure to make fun of someone else’s looks. Time to grow up.”
“People shocked about how Pokimane looks w/o makeup just outing that they probably haven’t had a girlfriend. Even worse outing that they’ve never had a female friend consider them close enough to hang out with no makeup on. Big yikes,” said League of Legends analyst Mark Zimmerman.
“If all these internet kids are surprised that Pokimane looks different without makeup, they’re going to be really surprised what I look like when I have yet to feast upon the blood of innocents to preserve my eternal life that day,” said game designer and streamer Brian Kibler.
Other women streamers even began posting pictures of themselves without makeup, in order to demonstrate how much effort goes into it and that—shock of all shocks—they, like Pokimane, look different with and without makeup!
“This is gonna sound crazy but...did you KNOW that girls aren’t born with black lines on their eyes, their skin isn’t flawless, and get this, their hair isn’t perfect when they wake up either???? WOW THIS IS SUCH CRAZY NEW INFO FASCINATING DISCOVERY,” said Twitch and Discord partner Girlwithyellowspoon in a tweet accompanying makeup-free pictures of herself.
“For Pokimane and every girl in the world: Rock the bare look, or a face full of makeup,” tweeted Miisty, another streamer who posted a picture of herself. “Rock your hair all messy, or completely done up. You’re beautiful no matter what you decide to do. If you judge someone for ‘too much makeup’ or lack thereof, you can frick off dudes.”
Men having unrealistic expectations of women’s appearances is hardly a new thing, but one of the central selling points of Twitch is the perceived accessibility of streamers. Viewers can, in theory, spend whole mornings, afternoons, or even days with their favorite streamers, getting a front-row seat to intimate spaces like their homes and bedrooms. That does not mean, however, that streamers can just let their hair down on stream. It may seem like they’re your virtual pal kicking back, having a laugh, and playing video games, but it’s a performance—one that can take a toll over time. This goes double for women, who are expected to look all at once flawless and natural, so as not to break the illusion that they’re just regular people chilling out.
“When it comes to online personalities, especially popular ones, they’re often held to the same standard as your typical entertainment celebrity. In short, all perfect all the time,” Miisty told Kotaku in a DM.
Pokimane, other streamers say, is very good at makeup, which may have added to viewers’ surprise at seeing her without it. “Her makeup is super clean and natural looking,” streamer and cosplayer Tiger Lily, who also posted pictures of herself in support of Pokimane, told Kotaku in a DM. “It accentuates her natural features rather than adding unnecessary focal points (like dark lipstick on a mouth or dark eyeshadow on the eyes, etc).”
“If you don’t know anything about how makeup works, you might think she barely wears makeup at all,” Tiger Lily said. “So I think people were shocked when their perfect image of her was shattered by the fact that she doesn’t look like that all the time. They were shocked to the point that they thought they had been ‘duped,’ when in reality they were just ignorant about the ways makeup works and also ignorant to the pressures women face to look beautiful all the time.”
Both Miisty and Tiger Lily decided to post pictures of themselves because, among other reasons, they didn’t want Pokimane to feel like she was staring down the inconsolable hordes all by herself.
“I just wanted to call out the fact that Pokimane chose to be brave, vulnerable and human with her fans, and that it was met with immaturity,” said Tiger Lily. “Even though I don’t know her personally, I didn’t want her to be alone facing all that criticism.”
“To be honest I’ve never posted a picture with zero makeup and zero photo editing,” said Miisty. “For years the thought never crossed my mind, it was to always look Instagram/Twitter perfect. Makeup, no blemishes, filters, etc. I still look at the tweet I posted, and my stomach starts aching all over again. But I’m happy that I did it. To show support for Poki, women who are struggling with self image issues, and myself.”
Though the experience can’t have been pleasant, Pokimane seems to be taking things in stride, reacting to a comment from a pro Halo player about how she’s “hoarding the world’s greatest skin care routine from the rest of us” by posting her whole skincare routine and thanking her supporters.
“I’m at peace with myself, my body & my imperfections, and I wish the same someday for anyone who feels the need to hate on someone else for such shallow reasons,” she tweeted yesterday.
Today, she posted a series of no-makeup selfies to “conclude” the saga. “No one looks good 24/7, and a lot of different things can affect someone’s appearance!” she wrote. “We’re all only human, so let’s be kind to one another.”