The news of Ellen’s latest project, that of CoverGirl spokes model, has left more than one person I know wondering, “why?” I have to admit I’m part of that bandwagon. Maybe becoming a CoverGirl (that sure is odd to say while thinking about Ellen) is the next logical step in the career of the country’s most beloved celesbian. No one said she couldn’t wear sneakers, a suit, and CoverGirl mascara and lip-gloss. Partially I’m excited that a 50 year-old, not typically feminine person is going to be on a national ad campaign to sell make-up. But in that very act isn’t she intrinsically trying to sell youth and feminine beauty?

The pictures that have been released of her photo shoot don’t show her dramatically made up, though frosty pink lipstick is not the first thing I think of when I think of Ellen. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Ellen made up, she wore full mime face for a well known Annie Leibovitz portrait (okay, that probably doesn’t count, but I really like the portrait) and sported a soldering smokey eye on the March 2007 cover of W Magazine. I picked up that issue of W when it came out because I needed some airport reading. I went through the magazine in my usual fashion scanning through all of the photos and illustrations first, reading captions and headlines before I actually read the articles and after perusing the photos of Ellen I felt a tiny bitty bit betrayed, annoyed that even Ellen would tread down the path of traditional beauty. I thought they were awesome photos, but the sky high heals and runway make-up felt incongruent and unsettling. Fortunately I actually read the article and found this quote regarding Ellen’s thoughts on wearing a dress for the shoot, “I know what this magazine is. It’s a beauty magazine; a fashion magazine. For me to even be considered and asked to be on the cover—it’s huge… When I [first] thought about doing it, I thought, okay, I’ll be open to this. I’ll play dress up. Then I thought, I just don’t feel comfortable in it. I don’t want to apologize for who I am.” After that I felt a little ridiculous about trying to police Ellen. Obviously she’s a person and not a whole pant-wearing, short-hair-having segment of the population and if she wants to play around and take fancy photos I am the last person to try and stop her.

I don’t think that Ellen working for CoverGirl means that we’re going to see her wearing gowns on the red carpet or that she’s going to become a Victoria’s Secret model though it probably means that we’ll see her wearing a bit more visible make-up and not just the normal TV make-up. I kinda wonder what this will do to Ellen and Portia as a couple, visibly. In some strange way, they will be lipstick lesbians (that’s a technicality, based on the fact that they will both be wearing lipstick). Honestly I think the greatest concern about Ellen’s CoverGirl status should not be one around gender or sexuality, but as Miriam at feministing points out, the apparent conflict between Ellen’s veganism and selling make-up that is tested on animals.

But Ellen is not the only “butch” (I do not endeavor to give out identities, I’m simply using a shorthand for a style of presentation) persona who has folks atwitter about her appearance. Rachel Maddow has folks talking about the softening of her look for her new MSNBC show. I have to agree that Rachel’s look on TV has a lot less edge than the one we don’t see when she’s on the radio, but I would endeavor to say that even with the extra wave in her hair, the muted eye-shadow and the quasi traditional news garb, she’s still a lesbian political commentator with her own show on a cable network being beamed into millions of homes in America and in comparison to most female commentators and news anchors her fairly androgynous look is a bit of coup. They don’t have her wearing jewelry or pastels and though her suits are most defiantly women’s suits, they are not overly feminine. While I know I and others (like Sugarbutch) would like our political eye candy in Ira Glass glasses at least we can rest assured that she hasn’t really changed, she’s just wearing a new uniform to work and hopefully as her ratings climb and her viewership grows her look will be allowed to evolve into a something a little more Rachel Maddow. In the meantime we have her recent appearance on the Tonight Show to keep us happy, an appearance, which puts in great relief the way that her MSNBC style is most specifically an outside force policing “Rachel Maddow MSNBC News Commentator” and I think this outside appearance in full pre-TV show Rachel Maddow garb partially invalidates the policing. If Maddow is going to be seen by the mainstream public, rather than just the gaystream or liberal public, out of her news commentator uniform, then why put her in it in the first place?

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