In an average city of an average country, there lived a girl. You’d be hard pressed finding someone to recall her name, so we might as well call her Blanca.
If you were to describe Blanca, you might find yourself up for a challenge. Her average school, average grades, average friends, and average appearance – not off-putting, and not particularly memorable of itself, – would leave you no corner stone for the description.
Blanca came to a point of contemplating highly melodramatic ways of suicide, and she might even go through with one of those elaborate plans, if only she could hope for anyone to care. Let’s face it, there is no point in suicide, if it won’t lead to a deeply moving dedication on a somber memorial marble stone. Or weekly fresh flowers. Or monthly flowers. Or at least a prayer over a Thanksgiving turkey and fries.
If only they remembered… Directed to no specific place, Blanca’s thoughts and prayers were nevertheless answered. That day, she discovered a video blogging platform.
Later that night, Blanca stayed up long after midnight editing her profile until the rising sun snuck in the bedroom window. Exhausted, she crushed on her sofa choosing to miss the SOC101 at the community college.
It was late in the evening, when she woke up and melted into the chair in front of the screen. A bit foggy after a deep sleep, Blanca found the utter silence in her head rather unpleasant. Not a single idea seeped thought her scull as if enveloped in a soundproof padding. Quiet, too quiet, and absolutely nothing to blog about. Right when she was about to shut down her laptop and go back to sleep, a chat window popped up.
“Hello. Welcome to the VideoBlogging.Com. I am your Admin. Let me know if you have any questions.”
Blanca stared blankly at the chat window for some time, but decided to give it a try.
“Hi, I do have a question. I don’t know what to talk about.” Blanca pressed the ‘send’ button.
“I’m glad you asked!” Popped up the new message. “Let me see if I can help you. Do you have any hobbies?”
“Not really.” – She typed back.
“That’s ok. Maybe you have some thoughts about politics or celebrities?”
“How about movies? You could discuss movies.”
“I’m not really into the movies…”
“Ok. Not a big deal. I know there is something that you can talk about. Everybody can. Just think of something that you do daily and can discuss with some expertise.
Blanca pounded her fingernails on the desktop processing a seemingly large data file in her brain. As if through a duccessfully installed update, her brain generated The Thought.
Every morning, before leaving the house, Blanca performed a specific ritual. Since young age, Blanca covered her skin discolorations with a thorough layer of foundation-powder-concealer, always in that order. One thing that made her stand out she meticulously hid from everyone. Constant repetitions made her a pro. She knew all there was to know about covering up skin blemishes.
Blanca glanced back at her beauty station. The drawer with a large mirror was covered in makeup products. And just like that, the Beauty Blogger was born.
After some time, Blanca became used to creating daily videos applying various makeup products. There was something however that nagged Blanca once in a while. Although her makeup spending budget skyrocketed, the number of views hit a plato. One evening, the chat window popped up again, and surely enough it was the Admin.
“Hello again. Congratulations on your successful blogging startup. I have noticed that your site does not generate enough traffic. It is time to take you to a whole new level.”
“And how do I do that?” Typed Blanca as fast as she could.
“You need to identify your niche.”
“What do you mean?”
“You need to find something that would make your blog stand out among the others. There are thousands of beauty blogs out there, and they have a head start.”
“I see. But I don’t know what else I can do. For every video, I select beauty products and discuss them while applying to my face…” Fingernails pounding facilitated intense thinking. “Wait a minute…”
That’s it! Everybody can apply makeup! But nobody removes makeup for the blog! I will be reviewing makeup removers! A quest for a perfect makeup remover!
Immediately Blanca went through her collection picking makeup removing products. Then, before the camera, she applied some of the liquid fluid to the cotton disk and swiped the cotton disc across her thoroughly beautified face. Wet cotton left a track of smeared mascara and foundation revealing pale pink spots. The process looked edgy. Swipe after swipe, Blanca removed thoroughly sculpted eyes, perfect skin and plump lips, as if it was an artist’s canvas stripped with turpentine. By the end, average eyes with average eyelashes lumped together looked into the camera with no particular expression.
Save. Publish. Time to go to bed.
First thing in the morning, Blanca fished out her smartphone from under the pillow. Squinting hard without her contacts, she accessed the blog stats. Even though she could barely see past her nose without the contacts, the figures certainly looked longer. Blanca straightened up in the bed and reached for the glasses.
“It can’t be. I am famous…” Mumbled the girl getting off the bed. Her inbox had hundreds of messages, and the video had several hundreds of comments as well. The excitement vanished shortly after she realized that most of those messages were hate mail. She read a few of them and burst into tears. At that very moment, the chat window popped up.
“Congratulations, Blogger! You have become an overnight sensation! Over the past 12 hours you have gained 300.000 views! This is a complete success, and it is time to build upon it. Let’s talk about further strategies of your promotion.” The girl stared at the message with her swollen eyes, but did not respond. The Admin, however, did not give up.
“I see that you received a lot of angry messages here, but you should not be worried about it. It’s all part of the process.”
“They hate me! They think I am a freak!” Angrily typed the girl.
“Some, yes. But they bring you traffic, and traffic good, it makes you visible. Doesn’t matter if those messages are good, bad, or ugly. Because of them, you are getting more views. All of these haters, in fact, are doing you a great service. Trust me, they will make you rich.”
“What do you mean?”
“Very soon you will find out, but in the meanwhile, you need to capitalize on your success. Go ahead and answer to all of those haters. And don’t apologize for anything, be as brutal with them as you can.”
“You think?” Typed the girl and pulled the tissue from the box.
“Absolutely! Trust me, it’s my job, and I am good at it.”
One hour and three cups of coffee later, Blanca decided to give it a try.
“Dear jjjbuster, I am not going to apologize for interrupting your romantic evening with yourself and free porn. However, I am disgusted knowing that with the same hands you typed me this message. That is why I will make sure my ‘freaky’ face shows up in every your wet dream and ruins it. You know how I am going to accomplish that? By posting more and more of my videos! Have a good one! Don’t grind yourself into the sawdust.“
To her great surprise, she found a number of supportive fans as well.
“To LadyBird: Thank you for your kind words. I know how difficult it can be in the high school, but you must not get discouraged. All those who call you ugly, one day will find themselves with the dilemma of how to get more cheap scotch late at night when they are already loaded, and the nearest gas station is a 15 minute drive into the city. And who knows, maybe they will even drive themselves into an electric pole that night.”
The strategy worked and numbers rose up like charmed. It wasn’t too long before the distributors were sending products for Blanca’s review, particularly the makeup removing products. Her little bedroom filled up with stuff so fast that she barely had space to move around. Soon enough, paychecks followed. On the flip side, Blanca received the note from the college that due her excessive absence, they dropped her from the program. Not a big deal, she thought.Why would she waste time on college when she is already making more money than her mother working night shifts as a nurse? That’s when the Admin showed up again.
“Hello, Blogger! Let me tell you, how impressed I am with your performance, but it is not the reason to rest. Fame comes and goes, unless we take you to a whole new level!”
“What new level is there? I am making cash hand over fist, and with all the freebies I don’t have to buy anything anymore.”
“True. But now you can get an exclusive contract! A deal of a lifetime!”
“How do I get that?”
“Your platform was selected by a company that specializes on state-of-the-art makeup removers.”
“That’s a narrow specialization, don’t you think?”
“Well, they are carving their niche of the market, just like you do. You are perfect for each other. Take a look at the product description and let me know what you think.”Said the Admin sending the link.
Blanca followed the link to the web site, but the page was completely white. She looked closer. In the corner of the site there was an off-white button with a barely visible off-white arrow inviting her to click on it. So she did. On the next page she saw an image of a cosmetics bottle with clear liquid inside, and nothing but the white block letters:
“They might need to work on their marketing strategy,” Thought Blanca, but was intrigued. Being a face of a FACEOFF sounded rather quirky to give it a try. She typed in the chat window:
“Ok, I’ll give it a try. What do I need to do?”
“Let me send you a contract!”, popped the message, with the document attached.
Blanca saw longer utilities bills than the contract of her lifetime. It was simple, straightforward. According to the contract, Blanca agreed to become an exclusive face of the FACEOFF brand and would not advertise anybody else’s products. She would get a lifetime monthly paycheck, big enough she would not have to worry about money again. In return, she would need to make a video of her reading the description of the product and removing the makeup with it. Simple. Too simple. At the bottom of the contract Blanca found a checkbox: “I agree with the terms and conditions of this Contract. Checking this box is equivalent to the handwritten signature.” So she did.
Next day, the mailman brought her usual batch of products for the review. Blanca tossed all of it in the trash without even looking, sparing only one white shoe-size box with the familiar block letters on it:
Blanca brought the white box upstairs and prepared for the usual product review routine. First, she applied the makeup. Carefully and thoroughly, she prepped the face with moisturizer and primer. Then, giving it a few minutes to set, she followed with the under-eye concealer. Like a Photoshop airbrush, the chubby concealer stick erased puffiness and dark circles. Then she applied a different product to her eyelids to remove the pigmentation and fine blue veins. The eyes looked youthful and fresh. Next, she applied a layer of liquid foundation, carefully buffing it in with a dense Kibuki brush. The face had no blemishes, large pores or discolorations. It was perfect. She continued the routine with a layer of setting powder, contoured the cheekbones with the darker shade and highlighted the bridge of the nose, the cupid’s bow and under the eyebrows with a shimmering product. Smokey eye routine and the lip gloss completed the look.
Blanca stared at her reflection for some time assessing the quality. “I’ll be damned, if this is not my finest work!”, she whispered. It was show time, and she hit the ‘record’ button.
“Hola, Hi, Buenos dias! Today I have a very special feature for you. I am officially a face of the new product, and I am so excited together with you to discover what it is all about. As always, I try to be transparent in my reviews. This is what the packaging looks like when I received it in my mail this morning. A slick white box. It is completely white, with nothing written on it, except for the name of the brand. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the FACEOFF! Now I will open the box for you guys. I am soooo totally excited right now. Let’s see if it does what it claims to do.”
The girl opened the box and retrieved two items: the bottle and the card.
“Here is the bottle, again, same slick design. Very minimalistic, I should say. I don’t know how about you, but I like it. Inside the bottle is some clear liquid. Let’s open it.”
She opened the lid and brought it to her nose taking a good whiff.
“Interesting, guys, no fragrance whatsoever. But you know, there is nothing worse than liking a product and hating it’s smell. How many times this happened to us! And plus, a lot of you guys have sensitive skin, and we know that fragrances can be rather irritating. Anyway, so far so good, no real cons to the product. Ah, almost forgot!”
She grabbed the card, unsurprisingly white as well, and showed it to the screen.
“I am supposed to read this card to you. Here it goes:
Again guys, very simple, the brand does not waste it’s breath on fancy advertisement. And we all know that the fancier is the marketing campaign, you know, the higher costs, and to be honest, flashy adds usually compensate for the lack of substance. As you can see, this is not the case with the FACEOFF. But let’s get right to it, and see if it really delivers as advertised.”
The girl smiled and applied some of the liquid to the cotton disc.
The moment of truth…
She closed her eyes as the wet lump of cotton pressed to the eyelid.
It is amazing how fast our thoughts travel sometimes. In the fraction of a second it took Blanca to wipe the eye with the product, she traveled to some distant happy places, nothing in particular, but the feeling was good, like the smell of an apple pie, holiday spice, roasted turkey…
She thought of stuffing turkey with home-made stuffing, getting the hands right in it. Warm inside…
“Odd…” Thought Blanca when her fingers slid into a dent in place of her eye. She opened her eyes only to shut them up immediately. When she finally opened her eyes, she saw a gaping hole in her head, where her eye used to be. The edges were smeared and translucent. She jumped of the chair and pushing away from the desk where her laptop stood.
“What… I am hallucinating…”
And with that thought, she swiped the cotton disc on the right side of her mouth and down to the chin. Immediately on that spot she saw another gaping hole.
“This can’t be, can’t be…”
Hysterically whispered the girl.
“I need help…”
On these last words, she saw a pop-up chat window and the message coming from the Admin.
“Hello there, just a quick message, we upgraded you to live streaming platform a few minutes ago. Your video now is streaming live. Also congratulations, you have 1.3 million viewers at the moment, live! You are officially our top rated Blogger!”
The girl frantically typed a response.
“Can you see me now live? Can you see what’s going on?”
“Yes, I can see you live, so you can speak, and I will type back. You are doing great! The numbers grow every second.”
“Are you crazy?” Yelled the girl out loud. “There are two gaping holes in my head!”
“Yes, I can see, the product is really working!” Popped up the new message.
“What the hell is going on? Am I going insane?”
“I don’t think so. It seems that you are finally reviewing a product that does what it advertises, that is removes everything.”
“Oh my God! We are all crazy! No, wait, maybe it’s a dream.” With those words, she slapped herself on the face, but two fingers got caught in the hole where her mouth was. The physical sensation of a hole though her head gave her an electrifying jolt of fear, at the same time removing any hope for this whole thing to be an ordinary nightmare.
Blanca dropped in the chair and rocked her body back and forth covering the face with palms.
“I need to wake up, I need to wake up. Admin, what’s going to happen to me now?”
“The way I see it, you got a one in a million chance to become famous. Do you know how many bloggers would like to get your numbers? You made it! You are it! You achieved everything you ever wanted or could be. There is only one thing left to do.”
“And what is that?”
“To fulfill the contract, of course!”
That day, top trending hashtag in the world was #SheRemovedEverything, but the next day the world forgot all about it. The world is known for a rather short-lived memory.
It remains unclear, why Blanca’s ‘everything‘ could be simply removed with the makeup.
By Ellie Maloney