In the midst of a besieged Sarajevo, as bombs rained down and people risked lives for a loaf of bread, in the basement of an old, derelict building a 17-year-old blonde named Inela Nogic was crowned the city's beauty queen.
When asked what she would do with her year as Miss Sarajevo, Nogic replied: ''I have no plans, I could be dead tomorrow.''
Beauty, you may think, is too trivial - even too self-absorbed - to count in a crisis. But history, and the human spirit, proves otherwise.
Before she took the crown, Nogic told foreign media how continuing to look good was her form of resistance. No matter how long the enemy tried to destroy her city, who died or what buildings crumbled, Inela would put on her lipstick in the morning and look beautiful. They would not break her spirit.
Her story isn't unique.
Throughout war, poverty, genocide, terminal illness - and yes, even a global health pandemic like coronavirus - people strive to look good.
It's why, in recent days, Amazon announced that, although it will limit sending "non-essentials" to warehouses until April 5, it will continue to ship (as part of its list of five "essentials" such as health products and groceries) ''beauty and personal care'' items.
It's why in the 2008 financial crash, sales of lipstick rose despite people feeling more cash-strapped than any time in the previous decade.
An interest in physical appearance is more than vanity. It's a psychological weapon. It's about keeping normalcy and holding on to the things you can just about control when your world is falling asunder. It's about showing people you are staying positive, maintaining your sense of pride and self-worth, even when going through hell.
It's why doctors skilled in spotting depression warn that one of the first things to go is physical appearance. When the human spirit is crushed, simple acts like combing your hair or brushing your teeth feel pointless. Just as the gentle sound of a shower running or a loved one appearing at the kitchen table out of their pyjamas for the first time in weeks, can signal the green shoots of recovery.
In her blog ''The power of lipstick'', Tonya Leigh describes being a nurse in an intensive care unit where a beautiful, vibrant 63-year-old woman was dying of breast cancer. She recalls: "When I'd walk into her room to start my shift, I'd often find her with her beautiful engraved mirror, lining her lips and putting on her lipstick du jour. One day, I overheard her son ask, "Mom, why are you putting on lipstick?" She replied: "Son, I may be dying, but that doesn't mean I have to look like hell while doing it."
If personal stories don't convince you, then know it was crisis itself that propelled make-up to go mainstream. In World War II, women stayed at home and joined the workforce taking on traditional male labour roles. Make-up became an essential tool to maintain ''femininity'' and uphold the day's gender norms.
Cosmetic companies cashed in, warning that the stress and strain of ''war face'' was to be avoided at all costs. They also offered the chance to give a V-sign to the enemy. Compacts carried propaganda messages and news that Hitler hated lipstick meant that smearing on shades like ''Victory Red'' was empowering as well as uplifting.
Even in the top echelons of the government where you would think they might have better things to worry about, secretaries working in an underground bunker and under constant threat of attack, left their boss Winston Churchill a memo before that prime minister set off on an official trip to Washington. Typing the words ''Operation Desperate'' on official paper, they demanded he return with supplies of three "vital commodities" - silk stockings, chocolate and cosmetics. He duly fulfilled their request.
But as the war ploughed on, things became really desperate. The ingredients used to produce cosmetics were redirected into producing war materials. Make-up became "cherished, a last desperately defended luxury", according to Vogue magazine in 1942, and women were forced to ration the precious contents of their make-up bag.
Lipsticks were used down to their bare nubs and every last drop was squeezed from face creams. Who you chose to put on your face for became the tell-tale sign of where your heart resided.
Indeed, one of the most famous war photographs of all time does not capture death or suffering but a woman named Meliha Varesanovic in Sarajevo in 1994. Head held high, wearing heels and a figure-hugging dress, she passes an armed soldier, cocking her face up to the sky, as if he has no bearing whatsoever on her day. "I always tried to be neat and nicely dressed," she told journalists afterwards, "spite and defiance were added to that walk and pride, it was my way to banish fear."
The same pride and dignity displayed by Sarajevan beauty queen Nogic was eventually immortalised by Bono in the song Miss Sarajevo, which in turn forced the world to pay attention to the conflict. Performed with Pavarotti, the lyrics "Is there a time for Kohl and lipstick? A time for cutting hair?" alongside "Is there a time for keeping your head down?" pay homage to the fact that the simple pleasures of life and the difficult nature of it can exist - and yes, even feel important - all in the same day.
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