Why Racing In A Full Face Of Makeup Empowers Me

Track star Queen Harrison is shattering records and stereotypes with her bold race-day uniform.

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For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it's a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we'll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our latest subject is Olympic sprinter Queen Harrison. This story was told to Jessica Cruel and edited for length and clarity.
I started running in middle school when we first moved to Virginia from upstate New York. I would put cute cheerleading ribbons in my hair, or wear high socks, just to stand out. Around my sophomore year of college is when I started wearing more makeup. At first, it was a little mascara and filling my brows in, then it was pink lipstick, and when I went pro, I was like, I’m wearing lipstick and winged liner when I race — and I got quite a bit of flack about it.
Other than FloJo back in the ‘80s, there were no women who were wearing makeup because it was looked at like, "You’re not taking this seriously. You shouldn’t care what you look like. It should just be about the performance." To me, I adopted, You look good, you feel good, you perform good. My goal is not to see how much makeup I can pound on my face to be noticed; it’s really about what makes me feel beautiful and fierce when I look in the mirror.
Photographed by Angie Smith
Photographed by Angie Smith
Leading The Pack
My pre-race ritual involves a lot of music, because music really gets me in my zone. I just take my time and experiment as I’m getting ready; it takes my mind off of the race so I’m not getting antsy or overanalyzing what I need to do on the track. Some people may think it’s a distraction when, in reality, focusing only on the race can start to make you nervous.
When I get to these track meets, I've done all the work and all I need to do is focus on executing and looking good while I’m doing it. I don't wear makeup every day. Sometimes, just putting my natural face forward is my power face, but you won’t ever catch me at a meet without makeup. It’s part of my uniform now, and it’s a performance. You’d never see Beyoncé at a performance with no makeup on.
I actually felt like it made [other girls on the line] underestimate me. It made them think, "Oh, she is just so worried about looking cute." Then I would win, and I’d still look cute. Then, next thing you know, you start seeing a couple girls wearing lipstick. It’s funny how it’s evolved now.
Photographed by Angie Smith
Photographed by Angie Smith
The Long Run
My goal right now, as a track and field athlete, is to break into the beauty realm where a lot of female athletes aren’t represented; we’re always left out of that conversation. That actually led to me having my own hair extensions line, Queenly Textures. There are so many hair companies now, but I’ve decided Queenly Textures will be marketed to the active woman. Women are multifaceted. We can still care about our hair and our appearance and still get 'ish done. I’ve always said I wanted to own a beauty salon and spa down the line, so I said, "Why don’t we get it started now and start moving in that direction."
Infiltrating the beauty world as an athlete is really important to me. If it means my looks on the track are going to have to keep going viral, then that is what we’ll do. I’ll keep running fast and. hopefully, I will bring track and field into pop culture, which is really the ultimate goal.
Photographed by Angie Smith
Photographed by Angie Smith
Inside Track
Lebron [James] said it really well when he said, "I am more than an athlete." I’ve always embraced that being elite in track and field is part of me, but it's not everything I am. I was doing a lot of things before I became an Olympian, and I’m going to be doing a lot of things after.
For women in sports, there is a lot of trying to control what is right for a female athlete to do. Are you going to complain about the size of our uniforms? If I don’t want to wear the uniform, are you going to say I’m a prude? If I have makeup on, are you going to say she’s not focused on track? If I don’t wear makeup, are you going to say she is not one of the sexy athletes? It’s always a policing of what a female athlete is supposed to be and look like.
A lot of times, women athletes are leery of showing their other sides out of fear of someone saying, "Just shut up and run track." I got to the point where I was comfortable enough to say, "If you want to get to know the track Queen, you are going to learn about Queen period. You’re going to see an eyeliner picture and an outfit picture the same as you’re going to see a racing picture."
I always try to show people it’s ok to be everything you want to be. There are no limits. If you want to be a track athlete, you can also be beauty obsessed. If you are an athlete and you want to do music, you can. If you are a dentist and want to wear lipstick to work, even though you are wearing that mask over your mouth, you can do what you want. I just plan on being the best version of myself. It’s not about what anyone else decides is the best — it’s what I decide.

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