Beauty & the Botox: Joanne McNally asks why there's still a stigma around cosmetic procedures

Beauty is only valued if it comes naturally - at least that's what age-defying celebs with preternatural faces would like us to believe. Here, comedian Joanne McNally asks why, in an age of over-sharing and activism, A-listers still hide their cosmetic enhancements instead of boasting about them

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Joanne McNally. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

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thumbnail: Joanne McNally. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Joanne McNally

Have you ever heard a lie so brazen that you have to touch your ears to make sure they haven't cracked off? Like the child smeared in the food they swore they didn't eat, or the man smeared in lipstick, swearing fidelity? Sometimes the more brazen the lie, the more convincing it is - watching this person you think you know deny gravity with such gusto, that you start thinking you should strap the cat to something, just in case.

There is an actor I love, she is talented and gorgeous, 50 years of age but looks 36, tops. Her face is so symmetrical you could push her head down on to a sheet of paper and use it as a ruler. Her face, so smooth and taut that it looks like it has been ironed on with a Miele B3826 Fashion Four Steam Master. Her body, so perfect it's like it has been sculpted by God to remind the rest of us we are nothing but an unseemly flesh-bag stuffed with organs and cottage cheese.

She's not just hot, she's cool. She takes male lovers half her age and then spits them back out. She is funny, terrifyingly funny. I was raised to believe you get looks or wit, the fact she has both suggests she was beamed down here as part of an experiment, to see how long women like me will let her live - the more sensitive among us could consider her very existence problematic.

I look up to this woman. I find her, dare I say it, inspiring. OK, she hasn't been shot in the head for trying to get an education, but considering all the times we're warned that women over 50 fall off the edge of society into some dark sexual oblivion, this woman is, in my eyes, sensational. Has she had work done? Of course she has. Does it matter? No. At least, I didn't think so.

Joanne McNally. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

I was scrolling around her Instagram recently when I saw someone comment underneath one of her photos: 'Easy with the Botox, your face is freezing over.' I assumed she would have some sassy, funny, clap-back, or maybe she'd ignore him entirely. Instead, she denied it: 'Excuse me, how dare you, I've never even had Botox!'

Dear lord, she was a Botox denier! The lie stunned me - for once my emotions matched my own Botoxed face. It was confusing, she's so brazen, she seemed above the faux pearl-clutching.

But Joanne, you ask, why do you care? Well firstly, if we only concerned ourselves with our » » own business, we wouldn't have incredible things like Live Aid and Gogglebox and Dermot Bannon. But, more importantly, do we not deserve the truth? This woman is so gorgeous, so genetically blessed, that even at her lowest physical point - her ugliest day imaginable when she's too riddled with self-loathing to leave the house - she'd still be hotter than most of us on our wedding day. And yet, she still she feels she has to pretend it's all natural, no tweaks, 100pc organic.

Sometimes we don't need the full truth. Like say, when a celebrity has a breakdown, we the public are told they are simply exhausted. 'Dear followers, such-and-such has not had a psychotic break, she is just very, very tired. Yes, she threw a pipe bomb into a local tennis court but that was research for an upcoming role. She is just insanely tired, so we've wrapped her up in a straitjacket and put her in a room where the walls are made of mattress so she can take a large, long, private, handcuffed nap.'

We all know what's actually happening here, but ultimately it's none of our business. But the Botox bullshit, come on! You've already won the genetic Lotto, you don't have to feign immortality too; it's depressing.

I have to acknowledge there is a miniscule-sized chance she hasn't had it. That she is a freak of nature. That she relies on nothing but lemon water and a spritz of retinol to keep herself looking completely static. That time skids up, looks her in the eyes and instead of headbutting dents into her face, it merely blows her a kiss and moves on. I'll acknowledge it, but I don't believe it.

I'm not shaming her, I love her - it just strikes me as wrong that beauty is only considered admirable if it's a genetic windfall, a fluke. There is honour in having a work ethic, there is pride in building a six-pack, but apply that public determination to staying fresh-faced and you're a bit, well, embarrassing.

I can only imagine the pressure to stay youthful in Hollywood. I feel it and I'm a comic living in Clapham whose biggest role to date was modelling Communion dresses on Live At 3 in the 1990s.

Loads of people deny getting work done. I get it, the magic is in the illusion of effortless youth and beauty - maybe she's born with it, maybe it's neuro-toxic proteins causing flacid paralysis in her forehead, who knows? The first option feels cuter, of course.

However, the denial just seemed so out of character for my goddess. We are a generation of oversharers, constantly pulling the curtain back to reveal a messy mish-mash of addiction, heartbreak, miscarriages, bulimia, abortion, suicidal thoughts - yet the truth about the ageing process is still this embarrassing secret.

I guess if you're a celebrity, admitting you've had Botox won't alleviate your psychological demons, or win you fans for being brave, but it might make us civilians feel better about our own inevitable ripening.

Do we enjoy a magic trick as much if we know how it is done? I would, if knowing how the trick worked made me feel less like a curdling gremlin.

It's like the super-thin women who try and convince us they're a demon for Domino's; the models who pose up a storm with a doughnut as if to suggest when they're not modelling lingerie and filing their nails off their hipbones, they're living off lard. It's OK, we know you're living in a calorie deficit - if you can wear the doughnut as a bracelet, you're not eating the doughnut, it's basic maths.

Women are always dicing with that double-edged sword, punished for ageing, judged for trying to fight it and it's no wonder we try. As we age, we disappear from places like telly and fashion and conversations around sex, which is why the Real Housewives franchise is basically a beacon of feminism. Successful women, many of them over 50, talking all things sex, money, power; showing women to be the wanton, complicated, beautiful, fascinating creatures that we are. Even some deny the needles which, if you've seen them, would be wild.

Ageing can feel like the devil on your back, licking the layers off you as you sleep, and it's scary, even for the ones who seem to have all the guts and all the glory, like my actor icon. So I will continue to worship her, her and her amazing, incredible, magic face.