Lipstick Changes Everything

March 31, 2020
Fashion Illustration

Growing up in my house, you wore lipstick. Maybe not as a kid but by college, it was a requirement. I was raised by southern women. We drink Dr. Pepper and we wear lipstick, that’s just how things were done. It’s interesting as I grow older to understand how lipstick has effected my life. Specifically watching my grandmother age and her need to always have it on. Up until her last day this past December, she would light up when one of the nurses, family members or caretakers would put a fresh coat of berry on her lips. It was her armor. It gave her confidence and personality but most of all it gave her dignity.

In the opening chapter of Rob Bell’s book Sex God, he tells the story of a German concentration camp from the words of Lieutenant Colonel Mercin Willet Gonin DSO who wrote:

“It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, so it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This is not it all what we wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked of lipstick. I wish so much that I can discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing could do more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wondering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the postmortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last, someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last, they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.”

It proves that self-care and loving ourselves is the secret weapon we need to take on this world.

While some may say that lipstick is one more rung on the ladder of the patriarchy, I look at is as the mask of a superhero. It’s the secret to building confidence, to creating the feeling that you can take on the world. It helps you to feel beautiful, to stand out.  Just as the power of lipstick gave back the humanity to women trapped in a concentration camp or the way it normalized the world for my aging grandmother. Lipstick is the weapon I use to overcome self-doubt.

Even at my grandmother’s funeral, her Chaplin recalled all the amazing things about my grandmother. The conversations they had, their thoughts on God and why she was still here but the thing that rang true for all of us, the comment that will always be with me, was how she couldn’t go out in public without her lipstick. Everyone knew it about her and it’s something that I love being her legacy. Not because she was a vain person, she was anything but. I love this legacy of hers because it shows the power of what feeling confident can do. It proves that self-care and loving ourselves is the secret weapon we need to take on this world. And if lipstick is what will get you to face your darkest days, to go into the world with confidence, then my dear, I think it’s time to go paint your lips… now, we just have to choose which shade.