Make-up on the sports field

Friday, 13 July 2012

Make-up on the sports fieldSure Wimbledon’s over, but a recent comment by Maria Sharapova had this beauty writer wondering why some women think make-up and sports are mutually exclusive.

Sigh. Tennis star Maria Sharapova recently insisted that she’s not a diva because she doesn’t wear make-up on the court. ‘I’m sure divas do that, right?’ she quipped, possibly referring to fellow players.

Her comment upsets me for a number of reasons. First off, plenty of people don’t take Sharapova seriously as an athlete because she posed sexily for mens’ mags, and that obviously has nothing to do with her skill as a player. She won the French Open – the girl can play ball. Now she’s taking another arbitrary choice and using that against her opponents. But what’s more troubling is that her opponents are quick to say that they don’t ‘really’ wear make-up either; while admitting to putting on mascara, eyeliner, spray foundation, and concealer before a match, other players knock Jelena Jankovic for powdering her face mid-game. (Yeah, yeah, everybody is vain except for you.)

I’m not going to say that there isn’t an absurd double standard with female athletes: They are expected to look their best as they play their hardest. The public doesn’t ask that of men. But to say that a woman who is wearing make-up, or a certain subjectively chosen amount of it, is not as serious a player is just as wrong. Make-up and sports don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and this point is illustrated by how many elite athletes obviously wear make-up.

That’s why a new PSA from the Womens’ Sports Foundation also got under my skin a little. ‘Keep Her on the Field’ was inspired by the very real statistic that teenage girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. The ad points to make-up and clothing advertising and messages from society that women are only as good as their appearance as the cause. But I find that far too simplistic, especially when one of the Womens’ Sports Foundation’s supporters is tennis player Serena Williams, a nail tech who designs clothes. Those interests didn’t steal her away from the sport – she recently won this year’s Wimbledon trophy! Pressure to have a feminine image is certainly a factor in teenage girls dropping out of sports. And it’s easy to blame that reason alone almost because it’s sexier than the other factors. But there are many others.

I played basketball for four years in high school, and I wore make-up to school every day, sometimes on the court. I grew up loving hoop, and there was no way I would give it up for any reason – and I wasn’t even that good! The girls who dropped out of my school’s basketball programme largely did so due to bullying. Competitive sports can be cutthroat. And when someone didn’t pull her weight, there were teammates who let her know it – brutally. Then there were the nonathletic points of ridicule, like what neighbourhood you were from or how cheap your sneakers were. (The number of times that I’ve cried in a locker room outnumber the times I’ve cried in a funeral home.) But bullying is not solely to blame either; that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Girls also drop out of sports programmes because no one comes to our games. The stands would be virtually empty as we played our hearts out, sometimes to bare bleachers that didn’t even include our parents. How schools and families value women’s sports is a massive factor in girls continuing to play them.

The bottom line: A lot of things buck the confidence of teenage girls. And while image is definitely one of them, blaming that alone is just too easy – just like Sharapova saying wearing makeup is what makes one a diva is too easy.

Originally written by Kate Sullivan, this article appeared in Allure.


Written by

Megan Kakora has helped launch the websites of, and been the online editor for, some of South Africa’s biggest glossy magazines. She believes in less-is-more, except when it comes to her collection of nail polish colours.
Megan on Google+

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  1. foreverGLAM

    Wearing make-up is fun but I only use lip balm when playing sports. Great article.

    6 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    Usually wering make-up when I go to gym because I go at lunch time – the difficult part is putting it on again afterwards when your skin is still flushed!

    7 years ago •

  1. Botes

    Great article, woman should get more support in sports, its so sad that us girls are put under a magnifying glass, especially in the sports industry!

    7 years ago •

  1. Chicara

    Great article! I think a more natural look is obviously better suited to sports as you don’t want to be sweating off tons of mascara and foundation. Haha.

    7 years ago •

  1. Mpbutterfly

    I am not saying make up as in dolled up! A bit of powder and mascara because I put it on in the morning for work. I am really not going to wash off my make up because I am worried about people thinking I am vain.

    7 years ago •

  1. Mpbutterfly

    Great article, I don’t see myself as vain and I wear make up to the gym and when playing sport. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It doesn’t mean that you are vain. I won’t go to the shop without make up. I think its just a matter of what makes you feel better about yourself.

    7 years ago •

  1. BeautySouthAfrica

    Hi Des,
    You should try using a primer.

    7 years ago •

  1. Des

    What is the trick to prevent makeup from sliding off?

    7 years ago •

  1. kunene

    Serena definitely puts her make-up on, the other ladies must follow suit and that Maria woman always looks nice, you do not have to sweat and be ugly too.

    7 years ago •

  1. desiree

    Really don’t see the point as it melts right off

    7 years ago •

  1. Charles

    I really don’t get why this is an issue?! Can’t every girl decide for herself? If you feel more confident wearing make-up on the field, go for it!

    7 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Kay

    I don’t think wearing make up on the sportsfield or the gym is healthy for your skin. Give your skin a breather!

    7 years ago •

  1. Guccigirl

    Nothing wrong with subtle makeup that’s not going to run and look messy, in my opinion.

    7 years ago •

  1. julandism

    I think one should always try to look good when in the public eye, even if it is just a soft, natural look.

    7 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    It doesn’t make sense to wear make up while you work out or playing, you are going to sweat and make up will run down and you end up looking like a mess. you can always apply your make after.

    7 years ago •

  1. Maria Meyer

    Make up on the sports field just doesn’t make sense to me, you are sweating for goodness sake! What is the use?

    7 years ago •

  1. Clarad

    I don’t agree with ‘make up makes one a diva’…wish teenagers (specially nowadays) would embrace their natural beauty and flaws!

    7 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Stewart

    I think make up and sport shouldn’t mix!

    7 years ago •

  1. Tanya

    Eyeliner,lip gloss and I’m good to go on the sports field

    7 years ago •

  1. Zu

    Cheek and lip teint is more natural for me..
    Effortless look

    7 years ago •

  1. joubert

    Don’t think it’s such a good idea wearing make if you are active no matter what sport you practice.

    7 years ago •

  1. ricebunny

    I never wear makeup when playing sport or going to gym. Really don’t see the point as it melts right off

    7 years ago •

  1. Le Noir Pearl

    Maybe I am Vain but how can I wear make up that I use everyday to a pitch(tennis court) to me it just doesn’t make sense. Its like wearing make up in the gym knowing exactly your sweat your eyebrows off and wena ufika all dolled up. And maybe beside being vain,its how and where I grew up. Where I come from if you are a great athlete you get praises for it,not cos you look sexy and pretty while you were at it.

    7 years ago •

  1. landman

    I think a waterproof mascara and a peachy lip balm or a natural pink for the lips is more than enough to apply if you are active in sport.

    7 years ago •

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