How Black Lipstick Made Me Stronger

Photo: MCV Photo.
My makeup routine has always been just that — a routine. A swipe of eyeliner, some spot concealer, and red lips.
But after Rodarte's spring runway show this past winter, I started fantasising about the powerful, beautiful "bitchy lips" (makeup artist Mark Carrasquillo's words, not mine) that the models wore in the show. They were a deep-purple, almost black colour, contrasted with barely-there blush. So, I decided to pick up a black Kat Von D lipstick on sale. Why not? I thought. Maybe I'll try it at some point. A few days later, I did, expecting to be turned off by the black's contrast against my pale skin. Instead, I swiped it on, and realised I felt really fucking amazing. Which is weird, because it's just lipstick. I've always had a problem with self-confidence, apologising for taking up too much space in an elevator, afraid of speaking up in large groups. It can be exhausting — I always feel apologetic, overly aware of other people's feelings, guilty for being seen and heard, you get the picture... I'm fairly certain my attitude has affected the way people interact with me. I've always been the girl strangers talk to on the subway. This isn't always a bad thing — sometimes it's someone asking for directions. But other times, it's someone coming up to say drunk, obnoxious things. "I want to take you out, I'll treat you nice," or "Babe, come on, don't judge a book by its cover." I've always tried to be nice, while feeling incredibly uncomfortable. "Sorry, but no thank you," I'd say. Or, "Sorry, I'm really flattered, but I'm not interested." One guy was so persistent that I eventually had to tell him I was seeing someone, and he lashed out at me. "You should've just told me you were seeing someone," he said. "You made me waste my time and look like a fool."

It was then that I realised my words couldn't be my only armour.

I know this is bullshit. Why can't a woman just say, "No, I'm not about finding a dude on the train," or, "No, and I have no responsibility to you," or simply not say anything at all? It was then that I realised my words couldn't be my only armour, so I started thinking about how I could protect myself in a way that made me feel good. That's what happened when I put on the lipstick. I instantly felt cooler, more badass. Come at me, bro, I thought as I looked in the mirror. And when I walked outside, things felt different.
Photographed by Tory Rust.
I noticed immediately that even though the lipstick caught people's eyes, the minute I glanced in their direction, they looked away. No one talked to me, stared at me, or, most importantly, harassed me. Yes, my friends asked me if everything was okay, commenting on this departure from my norm — but I loved it. With the black lipstick on, I started comporting myself differently. I felt I could shut someone down with little more than a look. One of my friends told me that I look more annoyed when I wear it, which is fair — though I feel like I get over things much faster behind the "bitch lips." This attitude, this front I could put up, was a huge difference from the way I was feeling before, as if I was constantly apologising for living.
I'm not saying black lipstick is a foolproof method to deterring street harassment — I have only been wearing it for a few months, and my experience is just one person's story. But it did change the way I take on the world. It brought out the badass in me. Sometimes, it just takes that one extra touch to make yourself feel what you deserve to feel — and for me, it's a swipe of deep black on my lips. Additional reporting by Jessica Chou.

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