Zadie Smith’s comments on make-up have divided the internet

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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Zadie Smith has spoken out about the amount of time young girls are “wasting” on their beauty routines.

The bestselling author also revealed that she has imposed a crisp 15-minute time limit on how long her seven-year-old daughter can spend looking in mirrors, after noticing that she had developed a habit of “spending a lot of time” in front of them.

“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this,” Smith reportedly said while speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 19 August, 

“Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a s**t if you waste an hour and a half doing your make-up.”

Smith went on to lament the hour and a half time window she assumes it takes to contour a face with make-up, describing a 90 minute beauty routine as “too long”.

“From what I can understand from this contouring business, that’s like an hour and a half and that is too long,” she told the audience. 

And referencing how her daughter took to the time limit, she added, “It was better than giving her a big lecture on female beauty, she understood it as a practical term and she sees me and how I get dressed and how long it takes.”

Beauty and feminism are themes that Smith has explored frequently in her books. For example, in her 2003 novel On Beauty, we meet a character who has cheated on his wife because she gained weight and became less attractive to him.

But it is worth noting that women spend time on their beauty routines for a whole host of reasons, most of which are not aligned with the need to attract or keep a partner. More often than not, it simply boils down to them wanting to please themselves.

And Smith’s comments have certainly proved controversial in the Twitter-sphere.

“I'm not a big time-wasting idiot because I put eyeliner on every morning,” wrote one woman.

“This is weird. Boys love looking at themselves in mirror too,” added another.

However, other users jumped to the author’s defence, with fellow bestselling author JoJo Moyes writing, “Reading the skewing of Zadie Smith's comments about make-up makes me despair of our culture of hot takes. So much judgment.”

“What Zadie Smith is advocating for young girls is actually what I went through growing up. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup, etc.,” added another.

Either way, whatever you think of Smith’s words, your beauty routine is yours and yours alone – so if you want to spend an hour and a half sculpting fierce cheekbones, we are here for you.

Images: RexFeatures