Pop Culture

KLG, Hoda dare to bare (their faces)

Women have revealed their secrets, their souls, and occasionally (Drew Barrymore and Janet Jackson spring to mind) even their breasts on TV. But on Thursday, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb dared to go where few women have gone before — onto nationwide high-def television without makeup.

The anchors of TODAY’s fourth hour decided to do an episode almost completely au naturel, after being challenged by another media maven, Rosie O’Donnell.

“I feel like it’s the dumbest thing we’ve ever done,” Gifford, 56, said. “I had a classic anxiety dream about it last night.”

Kotb felt similar trepidation.

“I kept waking up in the middle of the night,” the 45-year-old said. “I didn’t think this was a big deal until I realized that I don’t even go running without lipstick on — because you never know who you’re going to see.”

Other than a swipe of lip gloss, the typically primped hosts skipped their 20-minute makeup routine, handled by TODAY makeup artist Mary Kahler. In a taped spot, anchors Ann Curry, Natalie Morales and Meredith Vieira showed off their naked visages in solidarity. TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas, 35, and correspondent Sara Haines, 32, also appeared live without wearing any makeup.

Hoda’s routine

Kahler, who also does makeup for Curry, Morales, Matt Lauer and Al Roker (yes, the men on the show wear plenty of makeup), shared an insider’s look at what the fourth-hour ladies go though each day.

Kotb usually comes in at 6:30 a.m., gets her hair done, and then heads over to the makeup area. Kahler starts her off with a primer to help close her pores and give her skin a matte look.

Next, Kahler layers three or four shades of cream foundation to even out Kotb’s skin tone and give her a sun-kissed glow. For her eyes, Kohler dusts on gold eye shadow, uses eyeliner, fills in her eyebrows, and coats both her top and bottom eyelashes with mascara.

Setting the foundation

As for Gifford, when she comes in an hour later and gets in the makeup chair, Kahler goes straight for the foundation. “I just use a little bit of foundation and spread it out,” the makeup artist said. “Her skin tone just needs a little evening out. She has really smooth skin, and everything comes out really dewy looking.”

Then, she gets to work on Gifford’s eyes, giving her a soft, smoky look by combining different shades of brown, taupe and caramel shadows, lining them, and applying mascara. Kahler uses a concealer under Kathie Lee’s eyes and contours her cheeks with a cream blush, to give her a “peaches and cream complexion.” Finally, she puts on powder all over Gifford’s face, lines her lips, and applies lipstick.

It may seem like the women go through a lot for a complete transformation, but, Kahler says, it’s necessary to get the job done. “HD TV really picks up on a lot of details. You want to have a professional appearance, and makeup helps you put that game face on.

For their parts, Kotb and Gifford said that wearing makeup helps boost their confidence, and having naked faces made them feel “vulnerable.”

“We just take it for granted as just part of our everyday routine, but it is almost like an insurance policy,” Gifford said.  “And I was surprised at how ill at ease I was about it.”

Dare to go bare?

So what prompted them to bare all in front of millions?

It all started about a month ago, when radio talk show host Rosie O’Donnell — who is friends with Kathie Lee but not above teasing her — speculated that the fourth-hour anchor had had extensive work done on her face.

O’Donnell apologized to her friend on her radio show — but in the process issued a challenge.

“Apparently I said I thought she had plastic surgery … I believe her if she said she didn’t,” O’Donnell told her listeners. “Maybe she had some shots of something. I thought it would be funny if me, Kathie and Hoda did an entire hour with no makeup. If I offended you Kathie Lee, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it,” she added.

O’Donnell also appeared on TODAY via Skype, with no makeup on, to defend herself.

“I was just watching you and I thought, ‘Kathie Lee looks so different!’ ” O’Donnell explained. She added that she talked to a friend who claims to be able to spot plastic surgery from a mile away, and the friend thought Gifford had had a few procedures.

“I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings; I thought you looked good, I just thought you looked different,” O’Donnell told Gifford.

Natural women

But the no-makeup show had loftier goals than just trying to prove that Gifford’s face is plastic-free. It was also a way to show what real women look like.

“The purpose of them doing this overall is to help women feel comfortable in their unique and very own look,” Kahler said. “Makeup is a tool to enhance what you already have, but it shouldn’t determine who you are.”

Many everyday women refuse to go bare even when doing mundane activities, but now some stars are trying to show that makeup isn’t always a necessity. TODAY’s no-makeup episode is just the latest in a trend of famous women showing off their goods au naturel — though Kotb and Gifford are older than most.

For example, reality-TV star Kim Kardashian, 29, recently posed for Life & Style magazine without any makeup. To which Kotb tartly commented: “Of course she looks good. She doesn’t need makeup — she’s like 12 years old.”

“Makeup is fun, but it’s just another accessory,” Kardashian told the magazine. “I’m happy with myself, and this is who I am.” Along with actress Joy Bryant and photographer Amanda de Cadenet, Kardashian also posed nude for unretouched photos in Harper’s Bazaar.

In the end, the fourth-hour anchors said that depite their initial trepidation, sacrificing makeup for one day was worthwhile. “I feel liberated,” Gifford said.

Kotb agreed. “I feel liberated too.”