Photograph – thoughts on the #nomakeupselfie


(No Gene, the idea was to have no makeup)

This week’s #nomakeupselfie craze has raised more than £1 million in A DAY! Love it or hate it, it’s hard to knock that amount of money being raised. It’s also been an interesting example of the masses taking control.

Like many of you reading this doubtless experienced, since Tuesday my Facebook newsfeed has been peppered with posts from many of my women friends posting their #nomakeupselfie to raise awareness of cancer.

Like many of you reading this, when I first saw them my first reaction was very much along the lines of:


I mean, other than writing the words ‘cancer awareness’ in the post accompanying the selfie, how does posting a photo help raise awareness cancer? That’s cancer, folks, arguably the most famous disease out there.

Most of the early selfies (I’m talking the #nomakeupselfie dark ages here, you know, like, Tuesday morning) that I saw on my feed gave no indication that the participants were actually doing anything to help cancer charities – ie donate some dough – they just seemed an opportunity for people to give gushing praise on how beautiful everyone looks, babes, without makeup, usually while pouting like Zoolander.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with this – people don’t need makeup to be beautiful…but, again, how is this helping raise awareness of cancer?

It also quickly became clear that this hashtag had no official involvement from any cancer charity; it seemed to have just sprung up, which again made it seem more like a vanity exercise than anything else and made it difficult to trust or take seriously.

Anyway, having something of an interest in social media stuff (!), I had a browse to try and find where this trend emerged from. After a bit of clicking, it seems that it all stems from an American novelist Laura Lippman, who did it in support of actress Kim Novak – aged 81 – after her looks were criticised following her first public appearance in years at the Oscars.

Pretty soon celebrities started to join in – no doubt to the joy of tabloid journalists across the globe – and it snowballed from there.

Still no obvious link to cancer though, right?

However, on my news feed at least, I’ve noticed a powerful shift of focus on these selfies over the past 36 hours, which has been really heartening to see, mainly because people just did it. Rather than just posting a photo and claiming it’s for cancer awareness, I’m now seeing photos posted with a note saying how someone can also donate £3 to Cancer Research by texting ‘BEAT’ to 70099 or similar.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Now it’s making a difference.

I also loved how Cancer Research got on board themselves with this brilliant contribution – in one picture they’ve made it clear the campaign is not theirs but that they really appreciate the support, as well as giving clear instructions on how to donate and having a member of staff model for the pic sans makeup, all done in the spirit of the campaign (showing the right way for a big brand to jump on a trending hashtag bandwagon).

Good job!

It’s also been amazing how much internet column space has already been generated about this craze (to which, of course, I have now added). Whether it’s this slightly ranty piece by the Independent, this really well-considered post by Rachael Tordraighen, or this frankly awful guide on taking the ‘perfect’ no makeup selfie by sofeminine, this little hashtag has certainly got people talking.

And it’s got them talking about cancer, which I guess is raising awareness.

Then, yesterday I read on the BBC that Cancer Research UK has had more than 800,000 text donations since Wednesday, raising more than £1 million, while two other charities have seen a noticeable hike in donations over the same timescale.


A million pounds!

Maybe these selfies are making a difference after all.

But what can a social media type learn from this?

For me, there’s definitely something about trusting your audience here; it became clear early on that I wasn’t the only one questioning how a self portrait can make a difference to cancer. Without much prompting, people nominated to post a picture quickly took it upon themselves to actually donate some money and encourage others to the same – ensuring that their photos were genuinely helping raise awareness of cancer.

They were left to get on with it, trusted to do the right thing and the results have been, in truth, amazing. They’ve also had some fun along the way – all of which sums up my attitude to what sort of attitude you need to enable ‘good’ social media, especially for an organisation.

Whether you raising money for charity, engaging with your customers or just trying to have meaningful conversations, this totally feels like the way to do it.

Now I’ve had my say, I’ll leave you with my favourite – and slightly silly – #nomakeupselfie, from @Guineapig_Guru on Twitter – if no other #nomakeupselfie makes you donate this one really should.

PS You may also be interested to know what role the University of Warwick plays in fighting cancer and helping with cancer research…there’s a really good summary of it right here.

*Photo: Gene Simmons from KISS, shot by me in Birmingham in 2010 – I think he misread the ‘no’ makeup part

**Blog post song title reference: Photograph by Def Leppard (the first band I ever saw live)


2 thoughts on “Photograph – thoughts on the #nomakeupselfie”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s