On wearing red lipstick, or why we need you to shine

Layla 19.jpg

When I was in my 20s I tried as much as possible to avoid wearing bright or bold lipsticks.

I grew up in a time where being black or having African features was not seen as reflecting society's ideas of what beauty looked like.

Unlike today where black features are coveted and fetishized, I grew up feeling ashamed of my full lips, my round hips and my big butt. I would try as much as I could to minimise these features.

I did not see myself as beautiful. I grew up in the UK. I saw my white friends as beautiful. They were the norm. I was not. Whenever I tried on red lipsticks I felt like I was taking up too much space or drawing too much attention to myself.

Weren't my lips already big enough?

Wasn't painting them bright red like saying, 'Look at me! Look at me!' Besides, who wanted to look at me anyways?

It was only 2 years ago that I started giving myself permission to wear bold lipsticks. To have the audacity to stand out, to be seen and to actually love myself exactly the way I am. I did that in spite of what I and so many POC have been taught is beautiful. I do it to affirm to myself that I am a sovereign queen, and that nobody can make me feel ugly or unworthy without my consent.

Something as simple as a bright red lip can be a personal stand to say: I'm here. I exist. I'm willing to take up space. I'm willing to affirm my own beauty.

As I watch what is happening now in the US, and I see the racist and sexist violations that are springing up, I believe it's so important for so-called 'minorities' not to shrink down and minimise the beauty of who they really are.

Muslim women shouldn't have to feel afraid of wearing the hijab.

People of colour shouldn't have to be shamed by white racists telling them to 'go back to their country.'

Non-gender conforming people shouldn't have to fear being harassed for how they choose to live in their skin.

LGBTQ people shouldn't have to be scared of loving who they love.

What does this have to do with red lipstick?

Red lipstick (among other things) has been a simple but important way for me to reclaim my own power from the historical and still present forces of white supremacy and white privilege that say I am less beautiful and less worthy because of the colour of my skin.

Red lipstick has been both a symbol and a reminder for me to not shrink down and not act like I am less worthy, even when the very existence of white privilege says that's the case. It sounds frivolous, I know. But it helps.

To the people who are facing discrimination, abuse and hate because they don't fit into the privileged boxes of being white/male/straight/cis/able-bodied I want you to shine your inner and outer beauty as freaking bright as you can.

Take up as much space as you desire. 
Offend them with the amount self-love you have for yourself. 
Challenge them with your brand of beautiful.

Let them know you aren't going ANYWHERE and you will not be shamed by their ideas of what they deem as worthy of love and respect.

And if they don't like it, they can kiss your 💋

Layla xo

Layla Saad