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Danielle Cormack: Back to basics

It can be a disguise, a power move, a saving grace or a waste of time. Well-known New Zealand women go makeup-free to show why it’s okay to love your natural self.

Danielle Cormack with no makeup

Makeup means different things to all of us but to go bare-faced can be a scary thought. For many of us makeup is the mask we wear on a day-to-day basis. We put it on and – ta dah! – we’re ready to face the world. Recent Nielsen Media statistics have found households in New Zealand spend a whopping $9.2 million on beauty products over a typical week. That’s a lot of lipsticks! And we’re wearing them too, with 63.9% of us using some sort of makeup product at least weekly.

Mascara, eyeshadow, foundation – you name it – we’ve got it on. Added to that 29.1% of us choose to wear it every day – like a modern-day war paint. So would you ever go without it? And, if you had the choice, would you get photographed in a magazine without any on at all?

Danielle Cormack shows us her creases and fine lines without any qualms. We got a glimpse of her skin tone and texture. And you know what? We think she looks beautiful.

Doing a magazine shoot without any makeup isn’t the norm for actress Danielle Cormack. The 44-year-old Wentworth star has done a few shoots in her time, and when she’s not being made up for the camera, there are red carpet appearances and press events. It’s the glitz and glamour side to her job, and part and parcel of being in showbiz. So when we approached the mother of two about being part of our no makeup shoot, she jumped at the chance to do something a little different.

“I wasn’t worried about not wearing makeup on a photo shoot at all,” she says nonchalantly from her temporary home in Melbourne. “We live in strange times where anyone can doctor images and put filters on them and make sure they’re as flattering as possible. I think the quest for the perfect image is becoming a little tiring.”

Not all the notable Kiwi women we approached felt the same way. In fact, the majority of them chose to not be part of the shoot, preferring instead for the public to see only the perfected image of themselves. When we tell Cormack this, she’s shocked.

“Really?” she says, incredulously. “Wow… I'm really surprised to hear that. Oh I’m sad to hear that too. The most beautiful thing in the world are imperfections. What is perfection anyway? It doesn’t exist. The best you can do is try to see your body as a whole, and not compartmentalise yourself. That always leads to self-objectification and judgement, which is no good!”

Jailhouse rock
What saddens the actress most is the fact these days women feel they can’t be seen with any flaws.

“There is so much pressure on women in terms of how they should look – especially in my industry, in maintaining a certain look and a certain weight. Fortunately people are shifting the focus, like Lena Dunham.”

Aaah yes, Lena Dunham. Creator of TV series Girls and poster girl for accepting what you look like. Unlike most celebrities – and most of us, really – who post only the most flattering versions of our image on social media, Dunham is almost at pains to do the opposite. Her outfits are tight, her poses unflattering; her flaws on display.

Cormack can relate to this. She rose to fame playing nurse Alison Raynor on Shortland Street, before graduating to roles in Xena, Hercules and The Cult, so she’s used to being a chameleon, changing her look from set to set.

At the moment she’s ‘back in prison’, filming the fourth season of award-winning Aussie series Wentworth. As jailbird Bea Smith, Cormack doesn’t wear any makeup for filming, apart from when the crew add dark circles under her eyes. It’s a draining role, but one that has paid dividends. This year Cormack won a highly coveted Logie and then an ASTRA award for her outstand-ing work as an actress.

After crossing the ditch and locating to Sydney five years ago, it’s safe to say her career has skyrocketed. In 2010 she snapped up a lead in Australian series Rake, followed by her role as underworld figure Kate Leigh in Underbelly: Razor in 2011. Then she landed Wentworth, which is currently screening on TV2. So how does it feel to be hitting her stride in her 40s?

“I don’t know if I’m hitting my stride exactly,” she says, laughing. “I still stumble, and I still sidestep,” she says. “I’ve been working in this industry for nearly 30 years, chipping away, but I don’t have a particular goal where I think, ‘When I reach this point, I’ve made it’. For me every day holds small victories – for example when I manage to get my son to school on time – and myself to work on time too – with matching socks!”

When not behind bars
Cormack often has to work long, gruelling 12-hour days, but when asked how she juggles filming with being mum to Te Ahi Ka, five, and Ethan, 19, she simply shrugs and says, “I guess I just do it. Like any other parent or caregiver that has a full-time career, I get up in the morning, take a deep breath, then throw myself into the day and hope everything flows smoothly.”

And that day is usually a long one. When she’s not acting, or spending time with her children and partner, producer/director Adam Anthony, she’s trying her hand at directing, having completed a course two years ago.

She’s also recently created a TV show with one of the Wentworth directors, where she’ll be creative producer. It’s too early to tell us what she’s working on but she does say, “We’re not creating a TV show about a bunch of men”, so it’s safe to say she’ll be working to create more interesting roles for leading ladies.

The joy of ageing
When she does have spare time, she rides her customised Yamaha XVS 400 motorbike, plays guitar and likes to build, pursuits she’s found help calm her down from her work. She also meditates.

“It can be hard to switch off from Wentworth some days; it started to wear me down a bit. Especially as Bea’s journey has been so turbulent. I thought I was looking after myself emotionally but at the end of series two, I realised my body had no idea it was all make-believe. Intellectually I knew I was acting, but over time, the violence and grief of Bea’s situation started to infuse itself in me. I had to start taking time to reconnect with myself and not carry around Bea’s experience.”

Something that doesn’t faze Cormack is her age. By Hollywood standards she’s almost past her use-by date, but she’s proved the critics wrong by landing her biggest roles yet in the past few years.

“It’s concerning to me when people are petrified of getting older. They spend all their energy and money on trying to halt time, nothing else matters. Find a balance, because life goes on; might as well be present and accept our bodies do deteriorate and diminish.

“Yes, we’re going to end up having wrinkles around our eyes, and we will end up with skin sagging in places. My tummy doesn’t look like it did at 25, neither do my arse or thighs. I have to live with that. When I start to obsess over things of no great importance, my alarm bells ring. I’m still learning to redirect those thoughts because they don’t serve me, they can be so destructive. There are more important things to dwell on. But you know what? I’m still a sucker for buying the most expensive face cream.”

It’s like the old cliché says – you’ve got to be comfortable in your own skin – and clearly Cormack is. Which brings us back to the bare-faced photoshoot. What did she see when she caught a glimpse of the photos of her sans makeup?

“I think it looked like me,” she says, smiling. We did too.

Words by: Sarah Murray
Photos: Yianni Aspradakis, Michael James Rooke, Getty Images and Supplied
Hair and makeup: Lei Tai / Viviens Creative Management and Lisa Matson

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