Kerry

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I've worn make up every day of my adult life, until today. I don't wear a huge amount but it's always there, even if it's just me on my own that day, I don't feel comfortable, smart or attractive without it. Today is the first day I've gone without and it's made me think I would do it again, no-one has stared at me yet at least.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I had a baby 10 months ago and it's changed how I think about my body and my appearance generally, made me realise that my body is capable of amazing things and that I should appreciate it and look after it a little more, rather than looking at it with such a critical eye. I have more grey hairs now, more lines on my face, I don't remember the last time I had a full night's sleep which shows in my face and I have a small scar on my cheek from when the baby scratched it because we were so frightened cutting his nails that we didn't always do it often enough at the start. 

Having my son has changed my outlook on life, made me rethink my goals and opinions and I think the changes in my appearance are a reflection and a reminder of that so I'm trying to be more accepting and embracing of them.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Yes, I'm ashamed to admit it but it is, I feel very exposed. I once had my hair and makeup done for a wedding and I showed a photo from it to a colleague and she commented, 'You look really pretty! Nothing like normal!'. To be fair to her this was in another country so there were cultural and language differences to take account of but it definitely made me more self conscious about how I looked than I had been before.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

I think it takes a certain confidence to not compare yourself to others. Perhaps I needed to be a little older before I could compare myself to others be it in magazines, TV or real life and know that what other people have isn't necessarily achievable for everyone, either because of genetics, privilege or even just priorities perhaps. 

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Train in a skill when you're young, don't just continue education for the sake of it, make it something useful. Education for the love of learning is wonderful but can be done at any age; having a skill you can fall back on will give you flexibility in later life. 

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

I'm sure I'm not the first to say this, but the day I gave birth. I'm still genuinely impressed my body could do that, I was exhausted but I felt like I could conquer the world at the same time.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

My mum had the courage to leave a terrible relationship with two children, leave her support network and move to a new city and start again. She then went back to college and got a first class honours degree. I don't know how she found the time or energy! More recently she has got healthy, got fit, lost a lot of weight and really changed her life. She doesn't have a lot of confidence which I think is a huge shame but what she has shown me is the importance of perseverance even when things are tough, of the power of being determined and focused. She inspires me all the time, I wish she realised how strong and brave she is.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

I've often done things that have really scared me from public speaking and online dating to travelling on my own and moving to a country where I didn't know a soul. Even though I've been petrified I've signed myself up and committed, meaning I have to go through with it - it hasn't always been easy and sometimes there have been moments where I've sat in tears wishing I hadn't, but at the end, looking back, I've always been glad I did, I've always learned from it and it's never as scary the second time.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

This one probably sounds silly to other people but I'm proud that I met my husband. We met online, I had been on dating sites for years but always too scared to message anyone so I had never spoken to anyone on these sites, let alone met anyone. Once we arranged to meet I was petrified, I spent the whole way there in a taxi messaging my friend, threatening to turn back home and once I got there I think my hands shook for most of the evening. So I'm proud that I messaged him, that I didn't turn back and that I kept chatting despite the shaking. That one message changed my life.

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

I definitely feel a pressure to 'have it all'. To be a great parent, a great wife and be successful in my career while still managing to spend time with friends and family, exercise, read books and look presentable! In reality of course not only do we all have off days but for some of us 'having it all' just isn't possible, something will be compromised. So far I've been unable to find a part time job in my field for when I do return to work which means I feel pressured to go back full time and therefore see less of my son. Opportunities become more restricted for women after having children and the world is a poorer place for it as there are so many wasted talents of people who are forced to choose between family and career, people who stay in jobs they don't like or have outgrown because they know they will find it difficult to find part time or flexible hours elsewhere. I wish I had been able to appreciate this when I was younger because I would have made different choices and trained in something more flexible.