It’s possibly the most famous I-just-woke-up scene ever: In “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly is awoken by her doorbell. She shuffles towards the door, acting oh so adorably groggy and confused, and upon pushing up her doe-eyed sleep mask and opening the door, we see that Hepburn’s face is perfection. And we’re not talking a bit of undereye concealer here: Hepburn appears to be wearing foundation, concealer, powder, blush, lipstick, mascara, eyeshadow, eyeliner and even fake eyelashes. (If you’ve ever tried sleeping in fake eyelashes, you know that those babies tend to wander. You’re more likely to find one stuck to your knee than your eyelid after just a few hours in bed.) She's stunning, but far from sleep-ready.
Hepburn is not an outlier. Since women first appeared in film, they've woken up looking red-carpet ready. (Did they not know about the side effects of sleeping in makeup?) In the world of TV Tropes, this is known as "Wakeup Makeup." One needn’t go much further than a 007 flick to find supporting evidence — the Bond girls notoriously wake up with the same winged black liquid eyeliner or bright red lip that they’d apparently been sporting since seducing Britain’s most swashbuckling bachelor some eight hours before.
Obviously, Hollywood has done more than its fair share in perpetuating the illusion of female perfection, as well as highlighting the starkly different expectations of beauty between genders. But recently, Hollywood has given us reason to hope for (and even now expect) more realistic depictions of women on screen — particularly in regards to this hilarious idea that these female characters actually woke up with fully-contoured faces.
Women have woken up unkempt here and there on film and TV. In 2008 “30 Rock” laughed at this idea that female actresses should deceive audiences by waking up with their faces done. In season two’s “Sandwich Day,” Liz Lemon goes through an exhausting amount of effort trying to “gussy up” for an ex-boyfriend, played by Jason Sudeikis. Her hard work is all for nothing: Sudeikis unexpectedly arrives at her apartment the next morning. Fey’s character opens the door with scraggly hair, splotchy skin, what looks to be pimple cream, a dental retainer and — of course — no makeup. It not only made for wickedly good humor, but reaffirmed the audience’s love for Fey’s character who consistently rejected society’s view of the "ideal woman."
But the major impetus for change arguably came in 2011 in the opening scene of the wildly popular “Bridesmaids.” Kristen Wiig’s character, in bed with Jon Hamm, gets up early to sneak off to the bathroom and apply makeup before he wakes up — lampooning the I-woke-up-like-this stigma while showing off her character’s insecurities in but a single wave of the mascara wand. Before she snuck away, Wigg showed audiences a rare view of what female characters should actually look like after they’ve been unconscious for a number of hours.
Since Wiig revealed this little-talked about practice of putting on makeup before *gasp!* a man sees you, an increasing number of shows and films about real, modern women have made it a point to show un-made up actresses.
Thanks to Beyoncé whose self-titled 2013 album included the track "Flawless" and the lyrics "We're flawless ladies/tell them I woke up like this" the hashtag #IWokeUpLikeThis and a fleet of morning selfies began trending. Coincidence or not, but a wave of modern shows started to depict women with natural morning face.
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s down-but-not-out characters in “Broad City” seem to avoid makeup as often as they avoid work. The comedy, “Garfunkel and Oates,” films the actress-songwriter friends, Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, looking realistically unkempt after a drunken sleepover, or simply au naturale before breakfast. On “Love”, Gillian Jacobs appears not to be wearing a smear of makeup whenever she peels herself off the bedspread in the morning.
In one of the most notorious "no makeup" trends, “Inside Amy Schumer” featured a music video that highlighted the hypocrisy of the no makeup movement. At first, Schumer is serenaded by a boy band that tells her “Girl, you don’t need makeup/You’re perfect when you wake up.” But when a blushing, giddy Schumer re-appears with a naked face, the boys realize that “no makeup” isn’t quite what they’d expected and thus start backtracking, eventually singing “Think of a clown and then work your way back.”
Meanwhile, movies are losing the lip gloss as well: Schumer (“Trainwreck”) Tina Fey (“Sisters”) also created reasonable images of women in the mornings in film — Schumer with cosmetic-free skin and Fey with heinously-smudged makeup after a rowdy night. Even Jennifer Aniston, who is generally filmed and photographed looking glamorous with her razor straight hair and highlighted cheekbones, didn’t apply any makeup in 2014's “Cake.” While a completely naked face was deemed necessary for the role, Aniston also demonstrated to audiences — especially in a morning scene from a hospital bed — that, yes, it’s okay for actresses to be filmed looking less than perfect.
As women in films and TV continue to push the boundaries of how they’re expected to appear, it looks like we may see less Hepburn and more bare faces when filming those still-in-a-sleep-stupor scenes. As Aniston stated in a pre-Emmy’s panel, being without makeup was “so fabulous — so dreamy and empowering and liberating.” Preach.