Is there anything quite as nice as a good affirmation? It’s an unsurprising fact that I am the kind of gal who has affirmations written on Post-Its on my wall, repeating them throughout the day into the mirror like a relaxing robotic mantra. I know I’m not alone in doing so, which is why learning about writer, mental health advocate, and historian Blair Imani's Fempower Beauty — and that each lip color comes with an affirmation, a reminder, right there on the package — you know, I was all on board.
Imani is most known for her activism and thought-out educational videos on Instagram and TikTok. She identifies as queer, black, bisexual, and Muslim. Her social-media-first content covers a wide spectrum of topics, all sans judgement, and visually, always through lips rocking a bright, colorful shade. A beauty line that isn’t just about beauty is the perfect endeavor for Imani — lipstick is just as much of a part of her outward identity as all of the important topics she covers. As a lipstick lover until the end of time, I had to try them.
I’ve always been obsessed with the process of lipstick application. Reading Emma Forrest’s Cherries In The Snow in my formative years and reading her prose on how good lipstick should take a minimum of ten minutes to apply, changed my life. It’s the cap, the finish. It’s devastatingly emotional at times, and it can be therapeutic. Imani agrees.
"Applying makeup is such an intimate process, and I hope that everyone does it with the mindset of self-love and affirmation instead of feeling like you’re ‘correcting’ your face or 'hiding' perceived imperfections," Imani tells me. "The beauty industry encourages so many of us to buy products because we have some sort of flaw that only their products can solve, but that’s not what Fempower Beauty is about. We believe that beauty standards are exclusionary, but beauty itself is not, and everyone deserves to receive that message."
I tried Fempower Beauty’s newest product, the Smarter Lip Set: a dual-ended lip set with a mousse-like matte and a glossy shine intended to be buildable and long-wearing. Intentionally designed, each Lip Set duo corresponds to a chapter in Imani’s book, Read This to Get Smarter, which covers identity, relationships, class, disability, race and racism, and sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Each shade correlates to a concept covered in the book: Self; mutual respect through the approach of Ubuntu; cooperative economics through the concept of Ujamaa; Access; the construct of race through Monstrosus, and the celebration of gender expression through Euphoria. The Duos are sold as three-piece sets in nude and bold. Or, you can also purchase all six as a set.
"Education should not be controversial," Imani explains. "But across the country, the right to teach young people about the fact that LGBTQ+ people exist is being attacked. I was honored to collaborate with Fempower to continue their mission to make the ritual of beauty one that is educational."
Trust me, I loooove the idea of a dual-ended lip, because I am a) indecisive, and b) forgetful. With two options, I can either wear each shade on their own, or a bright, glossy lip for when I’m feeling especially wild. For the purposes of this story, I tried out three different shades of the six available: Ubuntu, a blue-toned lavender, matte, pinky-lilac gloss pair that reminds me of MAC's legendary purple, Heroine (remember Heroine?!?!?!); Self, a dusty-mauve, matte, champagne-pink gloss; and Euphoria, watermelon-orange slash peach-orange gloss. The corresponding affirmations? "I am Loved" ; "I am Authentic" ; "I am Valid," respectively, all of which I repeated three times before, during, and after application. Why? Because I wanted to, and I make the rules in these parts!
Describing the matte side of the lipsticks as having a "mousse-like texture" is accurate — if you’re expecting one-swipe, full-pigment, spackle, you won’t get that here. You’ll definitely have to build them to the shade of your choice, and they’ll never dry down completely in the way other matte lipsticks might. But that’s not a bad thing — an application of Euphoria, with both the lipstick and the gloss, survived a subway ride with my mask on, smudge-free. Euphoria was easily my favorite, with Self as a quick second. I will say, I highly recommend using a lip liner with these, just to add a bit of extra depth and dimension to your lips. But that’s only if you want to. The whole point is to feel your best and to make sure you’re always doing what makes you happiest, especially in your beauty routine.
"Whether you express yourself as feminine, neutral, masculine, none of the above, or somewhere in between, you belong in the Fempower community," says Imani. "At Fempower we are committed to replacing beauty standards and practices that harm with ones that heal, uplift, and affirm."
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