The Internet loves a good before-and-after photo.
In this age of extreme contouring and highly advanced makeup, it's no shock that beauty before-and-afters make the rounds. But there are real people in those photos, including in the vulnerable "before" shots.
Ashley VanPevenage is one of those people. According to BuzzFeed, the 20-year-old college student was having serious acne issues when she let her friend, who runs the makeup-themed Instagram account @makeupbydreigh, help with her makeup. Her friend posted the photo, which was a stark, beautiful side-by-side:
The photo quickly went viral, but not in the way VanPevenage might have hoped. As Buzzfeed tracked, it was picked up by one college student's Twitter account with a new caption — "I don't understand how people can do this and I can't figure out how to conceal a single pimple on my face" — and quickly spread, with every kind of ugly reaction and commentary attached.
Months later, VanPevenage is finally responding to what the Internet hath wrought of her vulnerable yet ultimately happy moment — and reminding everyone who's been subjected to the same scrutiny that staying confident in your own appearance is key.
The crazy thing is how viral the photo went — and how the comments hit on every possible critique, from the accusation that women trick men with extreme makeup to the fact that there's no way the "before" was the same person as the "after."
But mostly, they were just hurtful.
VanPevenage is just one in a long line of women whose faces, both natural and made-up, have been subject to Internet scrutiny.
Beauty blogger My Pale Skin created a video to powerfully demonstrate the unfairness of this double standard, in which she was called "horrible" and "ugly" with her natural skin showing and then told "you wear too much makeup" and "this is false advertising" when she covered her blemishes up.
Ultimately all women can do, as VanPevenage says, is aim to feel confident in their own skin, naturally but also with whatever makeup they so choose.
And in the meantime, all those awful commenters could remember there's a real person on the other side of that viral meme.
Watch her full video below: