Meghan Markle, guest editor of British Vogue’s September issue, had a strong vision when it came to the issue’s imagery, shot by Peter Lindbergh.
As the veteran photographer said in a behind-the-scenes interview, “My instructions from the Duchess were clear: ‘I want to see freckles!’”
And see them we do. Of the 15 “Voices for Change,” whose portraits grace the glossy’s cover, none are as blown up as the one featuring Adwoa Aboah.
The model's close-cropped photo was pointedly positioned next to the “mirror” on the cover, which “was included so that when you hold the issue in your hands, you see yourself as part of this collective.”
The idea of Markle barking, “I want to see freckles!” over the phone to Lindbergh makes for a fun re-staging of the “Show me the money” monologue from Jerry Maguire. But it was not the first time Markle, a noted frecklephile, made the demand.
Shortly after Markle and Prince Harry announced their engagement in 2017, the makeup artist Lydia Sellers told Refinery29 that, “Every time I’d do [Markle's] makeup, she’d say, ‘Can we just make sure my freckles are peeking through? I don’t want a ton of foundation.’”
That same year, while Markle was still best known an actress on Suits, she said something very similar to Allure in a cover titled, “41 Women of Color Get REAL About Beauty and Diversity.”
“To this day, my pet peeve is when my skin tone is changed and my freckles are airbrushed out of a photo shoot,” she revealed. “For all my freckle-faced friends out there, I will share with you something my dad told me when I was younger: ‘A face without freckles is a night without stars.’” (Credit for that line should be shared with the singer Natasha Bedingfield, who used it for a chorus of her 2007 self-love anthem, bluntly titled: “Freckles.”)
The splotches previously best-known for dotting Alfred E. Neuman’s face have a new ambassador in Markle, and fans of the duchess have noticed this with their typical enthusiasm. For instance, People magazine keeps a thoughtful tally of “The Best Photos of Meghan Markle’s Freckles.”
Last year, Rose Minutaglio of Elle wrote the rather gonzo, “I Loved Meghan Markle’s Freckles So Much I Got Some Tattooed on My Face.” According to the writer's research, dedicated Markle enthusiasts have taken to “poking” temporary dots into their cheeks with a needle.
Those who were born with freckles are basking in the trait’s newfound trendiness, but its reputation hasn’t always been so stylish.
Camilia Maniti, a 22 year-old microbiology student from Montreal, told The Daily Beast that she used to dream of “lasering off” her freckles.
“Given that I was an Asian kid, not only was I visibly different but I also carried this feature [of freckles] that really set me apart,” Maniti wrote in an email. In elementary school, one boy compared her dots to “multiple bullet holes, similar to the aftermath of firing a machine gun.”
It was enough for a young Maniti to ask her mother to book a dermatology appointment in hopes of clearing her face of any blemishes. Her mother said to wait until she turned 18. By the time she came of age, Maniti had “learned to love” the trait.
Maniti does not cover her freckles with foundation; she prefers to think of the dots themselves as “decoration” for her face. But when visiting the Philippines for a wedding a few years ago, a makeup artist “completely caked” makeup over her skin without asking what she wanted him to do. “He just assumed that’s how I wanted to be done up,” Maniti wrote.
“Having Meghan Markle advocate for this kind of representation might pave the way for new beauty standards,” she hopes.
Deirdre Darden, a 29 year-old independent curator currently based at Eaton Workshop in Washington, DC, told The Daily Beast that she also considers her freckles “a natural concealer.”
“The best part of having freckles is that they often hide blemishes and spots for me,” Darden said.
Darden’s complexion is covered in spots from her forehead to her chin, which she said can sometimes elicit “a gasp” when strangers meet her for the first time. She has a list of frequently asked freckle questions or statements like, “You’re so exotic, where are you from?” and “I’ve never seen a black person with freckles before.”
Growing up, Darden often read fashion magazines. “Rarely, if ever, did I see a girl with freckles on the pages—and if I did, she was white,” Darden said. “Now the flux of models and celebrities with freckles really makes me happy for people coming up now who look like me.”
Dr. Howard Sobel, a cosmetic dermatologist based in New York, claims his patients have felt “more accepting” of their freckles in recent years. He credits this to the popularity of “natural,” healthy-looking skin, and a newfound resistance by women to slather on extra makeup.
The spots are caused by genetics and sun exposure, and while freckles are harmless, Dr. Sobel warns that those afflicted are “more prone to developing skin cancer.” (The American Cancer Society says anyone can get skin cancer, but people with freckles need to be especially careful in the sun as they are more susceptible to UV damage.)
Dr. Sobel advises patients to wear an SPF 30 or higher all year round—not just while on vacation or at the beach.
Those who do want to remove their spots can opt into glycolic acid chemical peels or the Fraxel laser treatment. “None of those procedures have a significant down time,” Dr. Sobel said.
Chris Damon, 40, is an actor based in Los Angeles. “When it comes down to me and someone else for a role, I always think, ‘They either want someone who has freckles, or they don’t,’” Damon said. “I’m curious to know if it’s affected my career at all. It’s such a specific look.”
Growing up, the closest thing Damon had to a freckled role model was Patrick Renna, who played Ham Porter in The Sandlot. “If you’re a little kid, that’s not necessarily who you want to represent you,” Damon said. He also remembers watching Julianne Moore’s early films when he was a preteen and thinking she was the first person on film to look like him.
“My brother had them growing up as well. But not nearly as many, and his did fade. We look very similar, but he doesn’t have any freckles. I heard a friend of my mom’s say, ‘I used to have freckles as a little kid.’ I was like, ‘What? You don’t anymore? So they’re going to fade?’ I got so excited.
Damon believes that women “embrace” their freckles more than men do. “When I see someone with freckles, I’m like, ‘Hey! Freckle friend!’ Whenever I do that to a guy, they brush it off a little bit. It’s almost like I’ve just outed them,” he said.
Damon lived in New York for 10 years and has been in Los Angeles for six.
“I know for me embracing them even more, and why I made them such a thing in my public persona if you will, is because when I came to LA, I realized you have to be really specific about your brand. This is the thing that makes me different from all the blond-haired, blue-eyed people. There’s no one else that has this amount of freckles on their bodies, so I just run with that.” Producers and directors “are either going to want someone with freckles or they won’t.”
Like Meghan Markle, Damon has had his freckles smoothed out of promotional photos, though he has never covered them up himself. He takes stock of any time he sees freckles in commercials or advertisements.
“In the last five years, I’ve seen a lot more,” Damon said. “Eddie Redmayne—where was he when I was little? When he came on board, I was like, ‘Thank goodness.’”