Skip to main content
Being SeenHealthy Self Care and Soul NourishmentLed by Beauty: Editor's Diary

“Stop Telling Me to Smile.” Redefining Expectations, Creating Safety, and Freedom to Express Your Authentic Self

By October 25, 20186 Comments

One dimensional emotions are a mask.

I don’t believe that smiling is the only or best way beauty can be portrayed.

The complexities, the moments of stillness, the thoughts inside of us that mingle with our emotions, which allow us to have the contrast of light and dark, are flickering facets of the diamonds we truly are.

Making joy that much more satisfying when it appears because it arrives with sincerity from our authentic self.

I’m proud to present to you my new photography, makeup and hair work here with actress Amber Stonebraker, who’s also the model you may recognize from my “Makeup Secrets For Hooded Eyes” workshop.

Amber has a bubbly, sweet laugh and likability that made her a blast to work with! If you saw the class you know what I mean.

Psst! If you want to see the clean, natural beauty products used on Amber you can scroll to the end for a list.


Stop Telling Me To Smile

Almost every image I saw of Amber before booking her for the “Makeup Secretes for Hooded Eyes Workshop” was of her smiling and looking very sweet.

So when I asked Amber how she wanted to be portrayed, she was adamant that I not ask her to do any super smiley photos.

I was happy to oblige, because while smiley photos might have been more marketable for both of us, I’m not interested in making another woman, or human, uncomfortable to get my needs met.

Every time a man has yelled, “Smile!” to me on the street (usually whilst I was walking deep in thought), I’ve wanted to punch him.

I never have acted on that, but the first feeling that rises up is an angry response to being commanded on how to look/be/feel.

That’s what our social constructs are doing to us all the time, and it’s infuriating, wouldn’t you agree?

And yet, we are participating in it on some level – particularly if we aren’t aware of our agency of choice in it.

…So we didn’t do smiley.

I love images that are unconventionally beautiful, and I love seeing the depth that an actress can pull from inside and into her eyes.


It can either be invigorating or disappointing when how you show up isn’t inline with the expectation.

The “should’s” we play out in our lives and the facades we present to the world are not who we truly are.

People’s perception of us is shaped within the first few seconds of meeting. The image we present tell stories that stick in others’ minds which are hard to undo later.

There’s something haunting about Amber’s expression that makes me stop to wonder what’s going on inside.

The photos I took aren’t what people expected to see of Amber and they won’t get her a high-paying commercial for breakfast cereal, but I think this series speaks to her range beautifully!


Range is a term used to describe how well or how diverse an actor can be and expressing different characteristics that make you believe in the character they’re portraying.

We all have range, and we selectively portray what we want others to believe about us on a daily basis — some more than others hide their authentic self (particularly on social media, where the facades are thick!).


Is there a side of your personality you are longing to show to the world? What stops you from showing your authentic self?


“I really love the things we were able to capture on this shoot. The BIGGEST ‘thank you’ to Kristen Arnett. She was the photographer, the lighting designer, the makeup artist, the costumer, she made me feel safe and she created a space in which I was able to let loose and feel confident, dangerous, and sexy. She rocks.”

Reading Amber’s words about her experience meant so much…because feeling safe allows us to break free of “being safe” (AKA boring) with our choices to freely express any aspect we desire to reveal of our dynamically beautiful, authentic self!

Don’t assume being close makes you close. Approach with respect.

Actress Kelly Rutherford and I were discussing this very topic (amidst so many) of safety, protection and full self-expression. Kelly rightfully said our potency and power is magnified when we harness our wild fierce, sexual, creative, exuberant energy with focused intention.

Yes, it has felt dangerous in society to be that bold.

Yes, we have experienced collective fear around the potency of female power.

But I think, and hope, we are waking up.

We absolutely must create safety, not only for ourselves, but also for every other human being. Right now.


Protection doesn’t have to be based in fear.

At this moment, I believe we are being called to protect ourselves so that we can step into our most authentic self. To turn away from the old, fear based stories of the past, and establish new rules for ourselves in relationships, our values and feeling liberated.


Recently I worked with Georgette Star, who asked me to consider a new word for myself: “Freedom”

She explained there’s no true freedom without a true “yes” and a true “no.”

I realized, the fear of what will happen if I say “no” needs to stop ruling why I say “yes.”

So my dear friends, I hope you will choose more freedom for yourself.

And my fellow Americans, please go vote in the elections and put people in power who will help create safety for all to be free.

What does it mean to you?

Consider what it means for you to create a safe, loving space which allows your vulnerability, as well as your ferocity, and everything in between, to be completely expressed as You.

You get to decide that. You get to show the light, the dark, the facets, because you are truly the only person in charge of you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve written in the comments below.


Natural Skin, Makeup and Hair Products Used

All photos, makeup, hair and styling by Kristen Arnett.

Kristen Arnett

Author Kristen Arnett

A makeup artist and green beauty educator helping you find the very best safe cosmetics. Teaching pro secrets for enhancing your natural beauty at every age, so you can be empowered to make healthier choices, and radiate confidence every day.

More posts by Kristen Arnett

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Jenna says:

    I agree 100% with being authentic (not smiling all the time because we feel we have to), and I agree 100% with helping others feel safe. There’s a lot to like in this post! 🙂 Something that does make me bristle a bit (but not enough to unsubscribe – no worries, Kristen! lol), is the tendency so many people have to link beauty/confidence with sex. As an asexual woman (who has normal hormone levels – no, asexuality is not a hormone imbalance or psychological disorder) it bothers me when people assume your ‘energy’ is inherently sexual, when it may not be at all. While this is true for some people, it certainly isn’t true for everyone (myself included). Some people’s energy/confidence/inspiration stems from simply being healthy, fulfilled and happy in life. Many things factor into this, and sometimes sex doesn’t factor in. Just food for thought. 🙂

    • Kristen Arnett says:

      Hi Jenna, I sure appreciate you bringing this up in such a kind way. It isn’t a topic I’ve had much discussion about, and I am very appreciative of your point of view and experience. It’s great food for thought! I took a moment to read through the article again to look for the connection to the words surrounding sexuality. Interestingly, the two times I found it was when other people were quoted. The model in her words of how she felt, and the friend who I was talking about the topic with. I was pleased to see, based on your explanation of energy and confidence, that in my own wording I actually put forth more of what I believe you are talking about. So I’m curious if you would agree with that? For instance in the last paragraph: “Consider what it means for you to create a safe, loving space which allows your vulnerability, as well as your ferocity, and everything in between, to be completely expressed as You.”

  • Adeena says:

    Great topic Kristen!

    I think people who want others to smile may be dealing with their own discomfort with what have been deemed ‘negative’ feelings. But we are not happy all the time. We shouldn’t have to smile all the time. We need to embrace the positive and not positive emotions – they make us who we are. They make us human.

    I am reminded of a certain (older) man who years ago saw me at a gathering and told me to smile! As if on a demand I would smile for him – to make him happy! I have remembered that incident all these years later because it had an impact on me. You nailed it, Kristen. Congrats!!

    • Kristen Arnett says:

      Oh Adeena! Yes, you are so right that people are uncomfortable in their own places of “negativity” and look to the outside world to cause a shift rather than address or face themselves. Indeed none of us is immune to the variety of human emotions. I’m so glad you found this article to ring true for you!

  • Deborah Lindsay says:

    “Is there a side of your personality you are longing to show to the world?”
    This is a powerful question! I don’t know what the answer is fo me, but I do know I will be percolating on it. Thank you.

    • Kristen Arnett says:

      I’m so happy to know that the question resonated with you, Deborah, and that you’ll be percolating on it. I’ve always found that the questions that provoke me to think deeper end up being incredibly transformational, in a positive way. I hope that is true for you too. Keep in touch!

Let us know your thoughts below

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *