Fuse Views: This is What We Look Like — On “Selfies” and Self-Image

Sometimes using the Twitter handle #itsokKimNovak, at other times just linking to Laura Lippman’s Facebook page, women – primarily writers and our friends – have started posting our own “raw” photos.

Kim Novak at the Oscars -- ""

Kim Novak at the Oscars — Once the epitome of icy beauty, she looked frozen and bloated, more plastic than flesh.

By Clea Simon

Women in the raw. Lots of them.

It started because of the horror. I and presumably thousands of other viewers reacted with shock at the sight of Kim Novak at the Oscars. Her face, once the epitome of icy beauty, looked frozen and bloated, more plastic than flesh. Social media soon had us reading an interview with the 81-year-old actress in which she acknowledged how insecurity about her looks prompted her to trust a plastic surgeon who, shall we say, did not do a great job. “We do some stupid things in our lives,” she told SFGate.

What followed became a vitriolic back and forth across Facebook and Twitter, with many people calling out an industry (film) and a culture (us) that place a ridiculous premium on youth. Others, myself included, argued that we needed to take responsibility for our own decisions – and own up to the reality of aging. If we don’t age, we die. That’s it. And the gray area? The question of what any of us will do to appear more attractive… hell, to appear to the outer world as we (still) feel ourselves to be? That we left untouched, a little too scary to tackle.

Enter Laura Lippman. Laura is a writer, a former journalist who now writes New York Times bestselling crime fiction. She was on my radar this week because I’d just heard her speak most inspirationally at the Sleuthfest crime fiction conference in Orlando. (Yes, any excuse to flee New England in late February.) Tellingly, when asked what she was most proud of, she quoted the Soundheim song that Elaine Stritch made famous, “I’m still here.” Persist, she told us. Work hard. That’s what matters.

And now, post Sleuthfest, post Oscars, and maybe post Kim Novak catfighting, Laura has stepped forward again. On Tuesday, she posted on Facebook a “raw” photo: no makeup, no filters, no flattering lighting. And while Laura is both a lovely woman in the flesh and years younger than Stritch, the photo showed the effects of wear and travel. She looks tired in her selfie. At 55, she looks her age.

A Slide Show of the First Raw Selfies

And a meme was started. Sometimes using the Twitter handle #itsokKimNovak, at other times just linking to Laura’s Facebook page, women – primarily writers and our friends – have started posting our own “raw” photos. Men have joined in, too, and now there are hundreds of photos of real, unadorned faces showing up.

A 'selfie' of  Clea Simon

A raw ‘selfie’ of Clea Simon

I decided to post one, too. It’s funny now, in retrospect, how scary it was. I took several “selfies” before finding one that I would dare post, and I actually very rarely wear makeup. So, this is the face most people see. And yet… it was hard. My husband (who said nice things about my photo) threw out the following observation: “Photos lie,” he said. In real life, in person, we are so much more animated than any one frozen image. We are so much more alive and attractive. But still….

This morning, still in my nightshirt and robe, I decided to try one again. I smiled in this one, and I thought it captured more of my personality, so I posted it: my second “raw” selfie. A friend even suggested I should use it as my author photo. “You look as if you know a secret,” she wrote. Maybe I do now. This is what we look like. Won’t you share it?

A former journalist, Clea Simon is the author of three nonfiction books and 15 mysteries. A contributor to such publications as the Boston Globe, New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle, she lives in Somerville with her husband, Jon Garelick. She can be reached here and on @Clea_Simon.


  1. Donis Casey on March 8, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    It’s interesting how many are posed in front of shelves and piles and stacks of books.

    • Clea Simon on March 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Taken in our offices! I think I did mine in the bathroom because I was trying to make my hair behave.

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