Now that the FDA has approved a medication called "Latisse," which actually grows eyelashes, Kim Kardashian, her mom and sisters will probably buy the stuff by the gallon! Not that Kim and kin will need it. Miss Kardashian's eyelashes are a subject of some dispute on assorted blogs -- with some arguing that they are genuine, while others are convinced they are fakes. The answer is that her eyelashes are both real, and fake, apparently depending on her mood or whatever nightclub or celebrity event beckons her that evening. She is, in fact, already endowed with eyelashes that the makers of Latisse want every woman -- and perhaps even some men -- to have. Strange but true.
For those who haven't heard, Latisse is a medication derived from a treatment for glaucoma, a side effect of which is eyelash growth. The irony for the Kardashians is that it's stepdad Bruce Jenner who really NEEDS the stuff. And while Latisse is ONLY meant to be applied to the upper lashes, Bruce might want to consider washing his entire face with the drug! Apparently, the manufacturer is concerned that Latisse, if applied to the lower lashes, will dribble onto one's cheeks and promote hairy growth there as well. In Jenner's case, this might be an improvement. At the end of Kim's "reality" TV show, "Keeping up with the Kardashians," there is a propensity for group hugs with dear ol' stepdad in the middle. He looks thoroughly out of place with his "eyelashian" family -- as though he's an alien having dropped in from another planet. Nestled in his family's curvaceous embrace, at least this much is clear: Bruce Jenner doesn't suffer from...arachnophobia.
...Which brings up the subject of eyelashes in caricature. They're great fun to exaggerate, especially with a fine pen nib and India ink. (Kardashian, however, was rendered in marker). Doesn't matter if the lashes are natural, a la actress Winona Ryder, or famously fake, as with Liza Minnelli.
But as a close observer of the human head, I've long noticed that lengthy lashes are, throughout much of the world, primarily a male trait. It's an observation millions of moms can agree with, as they admire their young sons' lashes, and dispair of their own. I suspect the reason for this trait is simple enough: Male facial hair includes the likelihood of heavier eyelashes and eyebrows.
However, there are major exceptions to this rule, Ms. Ryder notably among them. And, from my close studies of eyes, so essential for caricature, I've discovered what I would call "eyelash belts" -- large swaths of the Earth where long eyelashes are common and gender-neutral.
The biggest belt stretches from the Iberian Peninsula, across Arab North Africa, including islands of the Mediterranean, and then into the Middle East, over the Caucasus, Iran and Afghanistan, and, finally, south through the Indian subcontinent. (Kim Kardashian is of Armenian descent -- an inhabitant of "Eylelashistan").
A second, narrower, belt begins in Mexico and stretches down the Andean spine of South America. My explanation for the larger belt is just a guess: Blowing dust, sand and grit across the arid climates of the Middle East and North Africa would have made long eyelashes a useful trait to have. Same with India, where the dry season can get very parched and dusty. Not sure about the reason for Meso-american eyelashes, except that the Frida Kahlo "monobrow," hints of a moustache, as well as a faint trail of "sideburns" among women there is not highly unusual or unappreciated. And there are those handful of Mexican families, made famous by Ripley's and Guinness, whose members have "hypertrichosis," or "Werewolf Syndrome." Curiously, it seems that upper lashes in this part of the world often grow straight and angle downward.
There's also at least one "eyelash island" -- Ireland. I have no explanation for this, unless long lashes there guard against mist and moss, or Guinness Stout has the same active ingredient -- bimatropost -- as Latisse.
This is not to suggest that people who aren't Armenian, Arab, Irish or Inca can't have long eyelashes. Nor that all those folks from the dustier (or mossier) parts of the world are similarly endowed. But when it comes to drier climes, what works for camels, elephants and llamas surely functions equally well for Homo sapiens.
However, there are always a zillion exceptions. While people from Sub-Saharan Africa, and their descendants around the world, may typically have shorter, albeit curly, eyelashes, the late rapper Tupac Shakur surely needed no Latisse. The many great black-and-white portraits of Tupac appeared to emphasize his long lashes for dramatic effect. I suspect many women were envious.
People of East Asian descent, however, appear to come out on the short end of the stick, or lash, as it were. This may be primarily due to the "epicanthic fold" -- a fold of skin covering the inner corner of the eye, partly concealing eyelashes. Or something like that -- consult your ophthalmologist, or local anthropologist, for details.
Well, I've browbeaten this subject to death. So, rush out to your doctor and get a prescription for Latisse! I plan to get some myself -- but only to dribble into my ears and nose, and maybe down the middle of my back for a racing stripe. And for those of you too squeamish for such things (Latisse is known to cause itching, burning eyes and darkening of the eyelids), there's always good old-fashioned Hollywood fakes. You, too, can look like Liza!
Thanks for visiting. If you'd like to see more samples of my work, click here.
...Oh, as for my own eyelashes, I'm afraid I was one of those boys my mom liked to embarrass in front of her friends. All part of screwing me up, turning me into a voyeur of human faces, and ultimately becoming a caricaturist.