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Fakeup: How female prisoners in the US ‘ad-lib’ their cosmetics

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In US prisons, women have limited access to cosmetics and hair products. Their only option is to improvise, leading to a phenomenon called ‘fakeup’. Writer Simone Weichselbaum, who originally reported on the story, explains more

Orange is the New Black, the women’s prison drama based on a true story, is due to return next year for a third season, and has been nominated for a handful of Golden Globes. It has also alerted to the world to an important new DIY makeup trend – otherwise known as “fakeup”.

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One of the key plots from the second season involved the return of George Mendez, a sadistic prison officer, who jumped on board the newly implemented shot system, which saw inmates get reprimanded for the tiniest infractions, including wearing makeup. Although some makeup is available for the prisoners to buy at the commissary, much of what they use is contraband. Eagle-eyed viewers will have clocked Alex’s twiggish eyebrows, unpencilled when she’s at her most vulnerable; Piper’s increasingly crap hair; a slew of eyeliner. The makeup the prisoners wear is never incidental – it carries important plot information. As the New York Times explained, how makeup is used within the show to “correct and mess up”.

Piper Kerman’s autobiography , on which the TV show is based, examines the role of makeup in prison in some depth. Kerman spent 13 months in prison 10 years ago on felony money-laundering charges. During her time inside, the prison commissary offered “liquid eyeliner, Maybelline foundation, and Great Lash mascara … mascara and lip gloss went a long way toward making me feel like perhaps I still had something to offer my fiance.” Although as the TV series corroborates, its purpose shifts from confidence-booster to bonding tool.

This year, The Marshall Project , a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organisation, launched with a focus on journalism about the American criminal justice system. Its content makes searing read. Simone Weichselbaum, a staff writer at the publication, sparked an impressive debate after reporting on the role of makeup in women’s prisons. “It might seem glib but it was a way of getting people interested in the rights of female prisoners and prison conditions,” she says.

It was hard to find information, though. She contacted the Federal Bureau of Prisons to ask them what items they had banned. Reticient to divulge information, it eventually transpired that they do sell some makeup, but not a lot. So she contacted ex-inmates through various mediums including advocacy groups

“It’s interesting to see how lipstick and tampons cause such a huge debate. We don’t think about that sort of thing. We take it for granted. Some facilities offer a few shades of foundation, mascara and lipgloss,” she explains. “But as a woman you want multiple colours, hair products.”

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Her findings were pretty staggering. Lipstick, it transpired, could be used to transfer narcotics. Jolly Rancher candies were used as hair gel and the pink ink from T-Mobile adverts as blusher. And you won’t believe what you can do with M&Ms. “Mix the sweet candy-coated shells with hot water to make a lip stain. And you can crush the leftover nut — if you’re using peanut M&Ms — into a spoonful of face cream, creating a protein-packed facial mask,” explains Weichselbaum.

There’s a serious side to “fakeup” of course. Access to basics – tampons, some cosmetics – might not seem like a big ask, but, says Weichselbaum, “you could say it highlights a debate as to whether you have rights when you are incarcerated”.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014

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2020 Election

Masks take center stage in presidential race as Biden slams Trump for ‘costing people’s lives’

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In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden laid into President Donald Trump for his comments belittling his decision to wear a mask at the Memorial Day events at the beginning of the week.

"He's a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way," said Biden. He added that "This macho stuff ... It's costing people's lives."

Trump has frequently refused to don a mask while speaking to the media, even when he is in public places where masks are required.

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“He’s a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way,” Biden to @DanaBashCNN about Trump belittling his wearing of a mask. “This macho stuff ... It’s costing people’s lives.”

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Trump says he can ‘absolutely’ force governors to reopen churches if he decides to do so

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At Tuesday's coronavirus press briefing, President Donald Trump was pressed on whether he really has the authority to force governors to allow houses of worship to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. "Can you explain what authority you had in mind when you said that you would do that?" asked a reporter.

The president emphasized that he does have the power — but did not elaborate on how specifically he would do so, and added that he doesn't think he will have to.

"I can absolutely do it if I want to," said Trump. "I don't think I'm going to have to, because it's starting to open up. We need our churches and our synagogues and our mosques. We want them open, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other — we want them open and we want them open as soon as possible."

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Trump continues pushing conspiracy theories about Joe Scarborough — immediately after reporter tells him about widower begging him to stop

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At Tuesday's White House press briefing, President Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he was aware of the letter from the widower of deceased congressional aide Lori Klausutis, begging the president to stop promoting conspiracy theories that she had been murdered by former representative and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

The president replied, "Yeah I have." However, almost immediately after, he used the moment to continue pushing the conspiracy theory, adding, "As you know, there's no statute of limitations."

Asked if he's seen the distressed letter from the widower of Lori Klausutis about Trump turning her death into fodder, Trump says "yeah I have," then continues propagating his conspiracy nonsense, then says, "As you know, there's no statute of limitations."

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