This Makeup-Free Event Wants Philly Women to Live More Confidently

Naked Networking, a wellness social meant to empower women, will take place August 14th on the Moshulu.

Founded by Shelby Wildgust (third from right), Naked Networking gets women to take off their makeup in order to have vulnerable, raw conversations. / Photograph courtesy of Shelby Wildgust

We all wear masks, metaphorically speaking. Depending on where we are — work, happy hour, the gym, family get-togethers — we tend to speak and behave in slightly different ways. While these so-called functional masks help us navigate a variety of environments, they often don’t allow other people to know our true selves. As a kind of defense mechanism, we wear masks out of fear of being judged and not accepted for who we really are. With so many masks, it can be tough to form genuine relationships with ourselves and others.

To help women find the confidence needed to take off their masks, Philly’s newest women-only social event hopes attendees will make real, vulnerable connections with each other. The first step of Naked Networking: remove your makeup. A symbolic gesture, taking off the literal mask women typically wear encourages everyone to step outside their comfort zones together — transforming what could be an uncomfortable situation into a communal, potentially freeing space.

Founded this past April, Naked Networking is the brainchild of Philly native Shelby Wildgust, a training coordinator for Vector Marketing and founder of Women in the Workplace, a coaching and mentorship program for young women in corporate America. With a lifelong entrepreneurial spirit (she opened and managed her own Cutco Cutlery office at age 19), Wildgust found herself eager this past January to create “collaboration over competition” for like-minded women in the Philly area. When toying around with ideas and names, Wildgust revisited a TEDx Talk she gave in 2016 about embracing authenticity. “[When coming up with the title ‘Naked Networking’] I knew I needed to stay aligned with my brand, which includes embracing your vulnerabilities in order to live confidently,” Wildgust says. “Doing that involves [metaphorically] ripping off your mask and getting naked.”

But that’s easier said than done. When pressed about what living authentically really means and actually looks like off paper, Wildgust claimed that, for her, it involves tapping into her strengths and weaknesses, rather than showcasing the former and hiding the latter. “I act in my strengths by speaking up when I have something to offer and in my shortcomings when I admit I need help and ask for it,” Wildgust says.

The second Naked Networking event takes place this Wednesday, August 14th, on the Moshulu. Similar to the first one held this past June at Smak Parlour, Wednesday night’s event will begin with women removing their makeup at designated stations. Then, six panelists, including Anita Oh, Alex Butler, and Marla McDermott, will discuss what it means to be confident, strong women in the face of various challenges. The event concludes with the chance to mingle and network as well as shop from female-owned and operated local businesses, such as Addison Bay, Ello Boutique, Klean Skin, and Coco Kitty. There will also be light bites and bubbly, a raffle for two free tickets to the Positivity Charge’s August event, and a swag bag full of health and wellness goodies.

For anyone hesitant to attend, Wildgust says that nervousness is “exactly the reason you should come,” as the goal of Naked Networking is to foster a safe space to be vulnerable. While taking off makeup might not actually catalyze “authentic” relationships, it just may help you learn to sit with being uncomfortable for at least a night.

Tickets for tomorrow night’s event are still available and can be purchased for $45 here. The second Naked Networking is in collaboration with Fearless Women’s Network, a female empowerment organization run by Sydney Grims, director of business development for Fearless Restaurants. In case you can’t make it this Wednesday, a third Naked Networking event is in the works for this October.