There is a photo of me circulating on the forums of Counter-Strike website HLTV – a website I visit daily as it’s a brilliant resource for anyone who works in CSGO.
Whether the photo is actually me is slightly questionable – someone has taken an Instagram photo (embedded below) and has disturbingly scrubbed at my face. The effect is jarring; that’s my face they have tampered with to produce something that isn’t me. But they are saying it is me and there’s nothing I can do about it. Usually that’s not too much of a problem – it’s the HLTV forums, after all – but then someone on Twitter sent me a new thread where the comments are sexually graphic, inspired by this photo, and the lack of agency bothered me.
As my follower count has grown on Instagram, so has the complexity of my relationship with the platform and how I feel about what I post there. These days it’s just my face, face, face, face, photo of me with a horse/dog/miscellaneous animal, face, photo with a pro player, face (and repeat).
Full disclosure – I love a filter; professionally taken photos will commonly have colour balance and exposure levels adjusted, so I don’t have an issue popping a filter on. I don’t tend to use filters at full whack, but adjust as needed. The most doctoring comes in Instagram stories, where the “one-swipe-to-the-right” filter Paris gives me more confidence in posting no-makeup selfies or videos (I never go to shows with makeup on as a professional is going to sort me out once I arrive). It’s a personal choice to use apps like FaceTune, and that’s not a choice I make.
Yesterday I posted a photo after filming was done for the day and a user requested an “OG” photo. When I asked them to clarify they said “og means original photos, i. e. without any makeup, natural”.
To me, the phrase “original photo” actually implies “without any filter” (given the request this user may very well have come across from the HLTV forums), and so in the interests of transparency and this blog post, I’m happy to feature both the Instagram post and the unfiltered photo below.
You can see the filter I’ve used has brightened up my face, masking some of the tiredness I refer to in the photo caption (also some of the mascara has started to smudge, so the extra exposure has eliminated some of the greyness). Like many photos I’ve posted, I’m using natural light by my window – I’d recommend this to fellow selfie-takers; windows are your friends!
As far as I’m concerned, this is my face. If you have a problem with the idea of me wearing makeup, that’s your problem, and not mine.
Certain things perform well on Instagram; behind-the-scenes photos can do well, but only if I’m prominent in the photo. Professional shots aren’t typically as popular as selfies. Close-ups inspire more comments than full-length. And understandably, if I’m in my show clothes and make-up, I get more of a reaction. My 92% male following have predominantly followed me after seeing my work in esports, so it makes sense. Unless it’s a very popular player, images of me featuring another person – especially a man – do not attract likes.
The makeup-free selfies I post aren’t hugely popular and often aren’t related to shows, so there isn’t too much need to post them, but I assure you they exist. Look! Here’s two totally unedited shots taken in different lights from today. (In other lights I’ll look totally different, I’m sure.)
Right now I’m working back-to-back shows, and have visited five continents in the space of six weeks. I am knackered and have a tendency to look it, and what given that I know what works on my Instagram account, I’m not going to post photos like these there.
No makeup is associated with my days off, when I have privacy and play games offline or catch-up on Netflix. Or visit Aldi, or the dentist. The online world isn’t entitled to see that face, no more than they are entitled to doctor photos and pretend it’s me.