"You're being true to who you are and how you look," the award-winning journalist says of stripping down to her bare skin for this year's powerful photo shoot

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When Katie Couric was first asked to go makeup-free for PEOPLE's annual Beautiful Issue, she had an instant gut reaction.

"Are you out of your mind? Hell no," the award-winning journalist remembers. But after some thought, the 64-year-old star decided, "Why not?", and stripped down to her natural, makeup-free self.

"Doing a shoot without makeup, makes you feel both liberated and vulnerable," Couric tells PEOPLE. "You feel great because you're being true to who you are and how you look. It's a huge dose of reality! On the other hand, let's face it, people feel prettier when they have some makeup on that enhances their features. So I think doing a shoot like this requires a lot of trust."

no makeup portfolio
Katie Couric
| Credit: Ramona Rosales

Couric, who has been busy during the pandemic producing her online daily newsletter, Wake-up Call, and podcast, Next Question with Katie Couric, feels proud to embrace her natural beauty and hopefully inspire other women of all ages to do the same.

"When we start seeing women as they age and appreciate the beauty that comes with that, women will stop trying to look young all the time," Couric says. "Someone said to me, 'I have so many wrinkles.' I said, 'I think wrinkles show a lifetime of laughing and smiling.' And that's an awesome thing to show on your face."

Now that she's in her mid-60s, Couric describes her relationship with makeup as "interesting" and says she doesn't do "the full spackle treatment" anymore.

"If you wear too much, it's really aging. If you wear none, it's terrifying. You just have to wear the right amount to enhance yourself but not to cover up who you are," she says. "Now people are saying to me, 'We don't like you with all that makeup anymore!' I think people appreciate showing the real you."

PEOPLE's 2021 Beautiful Issue Cover Star Will Be Revealed on Wednesday, March 31. And for More Inspiring Barefaced Celebrity Beauties, Pick Up the Issue on Newsstands Everywhere Friday, April 2

Recently Couric has pared down her routine to only her essential products. "Mascara makes a world of difference" the iconic the journalist says. "My eyelashes are pretty light and my eyes kind of disappear when I don't have mascara on. L'Oréal mascara from CVS is my go-to."

Couric says when raising her daughters Elinor, 30, and Caroline, 25, her goal has always been to lift their confidence and be "very cognizant of not focusing too much attention on their appearance."

"I always had to stop myself from saying to my daughters when they were little, 'Oh, you look so pretty.' If I caught myself saying that I'd add, 'And you're so smart.' Girls put so much emphasis on their appearance and it diminishes their intelligence and their competence and their contributions," says the star.

She's also aware of how she speaks about herself in front of her daughters.

"Sometimes I'm neurotic about the way I look. I try not to say, 'I feel fat or look fat in this.' It's such a bad example for your kids. I haven't been perfect and I don't think I've always been great about that, but I tried to balance that focus," says Couric. "Girls are so much more than their packaging."