GLOW isn’t a show I expected to love. Women’s wrestling in the eighties? Not my typical must-watch. But a few Fridays ago I plopped down on a hot, humid evening, clicked play, and was promptly sucked into a binge watch. The show is frank, funny, and honest—it’s a series that says the things in your throat, and to quote a meme, she has the range. But the moment that made me pause and rewind? When Sheila the She-Wolf nailed exactly how I feel about makeup. A sentence I never expected to write, but here we are.
To set the scene, the team moves into a motel and Ruth (Alison Brie; antihero) and Sheila (Gayle Rankin; she-wolf) find themselves rooming together. Ruth, an actress devoted to “the craft,” says she respects Sheila’s dedication to what Ruth believes is just a wolf wrestling persona, despite Sheila’s insistence that no, this is her. She eats like a wolf, sleeps like a wolf, and when metaphorically kicked in the face by Ruth’s refusal to acknowledge who she is, Sheila responds like a wolf: she leaves a dead squirrel in Ruth’s bed.
In response, Ruth calls Sheila a “goddamn wolf.” To which Sheila replies, “Well, most people call me a freak, so. Thank you. I’ve worn this or some version of this every day for the past five years. It’s not a costume. It’s me. And what I do in the morning, what I put on, what I wear, it’s not for you. It’s for me. I know that I’m a human. But spiritually, I’m a wolf.”
And in that moment, I saw myself. If you love makeup, you’ve probably said it too: The “it’s not for you, it’s for me” phrase is muscle memory whenever you’re forced to explain that red lipstick (or a short dress) aren’t some invitation for attention or speculation.
It’s infuriating. Hell, I’ve mentally practiced responding to catcallers along the very articulate lines of “I don’t exist for you and I don’t care what you think!!” On very crowded streets, I sometimes even say it. It might not do anything, but it feels better than accepting that women’s bodies, hair, and makeup are up for debate. Keke Palmer’s statement to the press after she shaved her head nailed it: No, her haircut doesn’t indicate anything about her sexuality or femininity. You exist for you, and if a wolf is who you are inside, that’s final.
The difference between Keke’s hair (which means nothing about her identity) and Sheila’s wolf look (which means everything about hers) comes down to what they say. All season long, Sheila says she’s a wolf. This is who she is, and how she wants to be seen. And Ruth’s decision to delegitimize her identity as a costume? That sucks. That’s worth a dead squirrel.
As someone who’s struggled with dysmorphia, living with the alternative—that the real you and the one other people perceive exist on separate planes—scares me a lot. It shakes your trust in yourself. When you look at a Facebook photo, and in the mirror, and wonder which is the real deal, it sways the certainty that you even have control over your own body.
Whether you’re opting to fill in your brows, have plastic surgery, or put on a wolf costume, that GLOW scene strikes me for how deeply it understands that your outer self can have everything to do with your inner. Makeup is so often dismissed as nice but unnecessary. But beauty is world-building, and when you look in the mirror and ask yourself who you are—a theme that persists throughout the series—it can be a confirmation that other people see you as you see yourself.
So Sheila’s resilience, confidence, and insistence that she decides is like a beacon. If creating yourself takes greasepaint, a wig, and the entirety of a Sephora aisle? That’s you, and you’re worth recognition.
–GLOW Star Betty Gilpin: What It’s Like to Have Pea-Sized Confidence With Watermelon-Sized Boobs
–GLOW Review: Netflix’s New Comedy Literally Kicks Ass
–I Ruined My Great Hair Trying to Have ‘Good Hair’