A very bad hair day (underarm, that is)
Published 23/08/2011 | 05:00
It's something we would never have caught Cheryl Cole doing. The immaculately preened former X Factor judge would probably rather cut her own arm off than raise it to expose unsightly underarm hair the way her successor, Tulisa, was snapped doing at last weekend's V Festival.
Perhaps it would have been a good idea for the N-Dubz singer to opt for a two-armed dress, rather than the one-shouldered leopard-print number she donned on stage because when she lifted that sleeveless arm it exposed a tell-tale shadow of stubble that would have otherwise remained under wraps.
Cue horror from men and women alike, because in today's world there's no excuse for being hairy. Every year some €25m is spent in the UK and Ireland on waxes, gels and creams for female hair removal.
The average woman is estimated to spend £13,700 in her lifetime on getting rid of unwanted hair, an occupation that boffins in America have worked out will take up 58.4 days of her life.
The trend for hairlessness can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where hair was associated with status and only women of low ranks would have any body hair.
More recently the move towards sleeveless dresses, and subsequently the development of female razors in the early 1900s prompted women to start shaving their legs and underarms.
Hair is associated with being masculine -- the less hair, the more feminine a women is deemed to be. Research has also shown that, perhaps because there's such a wealth of hair-removing choices available, choosing to hang on to leg or armpit hair is associated with being lazy.
"Hair removal is always increasing in popularity," says laser therapist Carol McDonagh from Dublin's Therapie Clinic.
"Women feel more attractive, more hygienic and more feminine without hair. Being hair-free also makes it easier to apply fake tan. It's a vanity thing to do with fitting in with what's considered fashionable in today's society."
She adds: "More and more women are coming in wanting to get hair removed from practically everywhere. With so many options available there's no need for anyone to have hairy armpits -- especially with permanent solutions like laser hair removal now so affordable."
Tulisa's not the first celeb to leave us reeling by revealing a less-than-groomed underarm. Julia Roberts unveiled her au naturel approach when she waved at crowds outside the Notting Hill premiere in 1999. Bewildered by the wave of coverage that ensued she said: "On a day-to-day basis I don't tend to think about my armpits."
Beyoncé suffered a similar fate at the 2008 premiere of Cadillac Records and Hilary Swank's gorgeous, gold Calvin Klein dress was undermined somewhat by her furry underarms at the Elle Magazine's Women in Hollywood Tribute Party in LA last year.
Joan Rivers once quipped that Madonna was "so hairy, when she lifted up her arm, I thought it was Tina Turner in her armpit".
It doesn't stop at underarm hair, other celebrity beauty faux pas include Precious star Mo'Nique lifting up her gown at the Golden Globes last year to reveal two very hairy legs, Halle Berry showing off vast underarm sweat patches on the Ellen DeGeneres show last year or Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas's now-infamous damp crotch at a gig in 2005.
But stylist Cathy O'Connor from stylist.ie reckons we're too quick to leap on the imperfections of celebrities. She says: "The scrutiny women, especially famous women, are under today is ridiculous. At the end of the day we're all dealing with the same issues and to get in such a frenzy about a stubbly underarm is unforgivable."
Thanks to airbrushed magazine shoots and the fact that so many female celebrities have a team of stylists and image consultants on hand we expect our ladies in the limelight to be perfect, and then attempt to emulate that 'perfection' ourselves.
"But female celebrities aren't perfect," says Cathy, "they're people who have busy schedules and sometimes don't get everything done. When I see a celebrity with a hairy armpit or a bit of cellulite I think 'thank goodness' because it makes me feel like I'm not alone.
"Of course aesthetically it looks nicer to have hair-free armpits and shaved legs but it's not the end of the world if you're not perfectly groomed 100% of the time."
She adds: "I don't think it was a statement by Tulisa to say that she's fighting against the society's perception of beauty or an attempt to be non-conformist. I think it's just one of those things, and a big 'so what' in my opinion."
But whether she meant to or not, Tulisa has made a statement with her armpits. For all those who were saying she was just a clone of Cheryl Cole, she has once and for all hammered home the point that she most definitely is not the meticulously groomed Cheryl.