Monday, November 12, 2007

you're either a red lipstick person or you're not...

that was the first headline i ever wrote for a beauty ad, it was the first ad for a makeup artist called bobbi brown who was launching her line. and what i really liked about it was that it made space for both kinds of people.

so you could be that person with the gleaming candy apple red lips who got all the attention at the party.

or you could be so much more intellectual than that person with lipstick on her teeth and never wear lipstick except cherry chapstick in the winter.

and since i've always loved the idea of lipstick but i've never really been able to wear it since i used to feel like a little kid trying to dress up like her mum and now because it makes me just feel old, i liked the idea that you could choose.

i also spent ages talking to bobbie and figuring out what her makeup line was all about. and, in her case, it was all about making you look pretty. making you look pretty without looking "painted."

which i thought was a brilliant premise, especially since it was the very beginning of the 90s and we were all coming off of those intense 80s "Addicted to Love" red lips and black lined eyes and heavy eyebrows that made us look like drawings...

(which of course was a reaction to the total lack of makeup from the 70s - we are really ping-ponging through history)

and so, since i was then a single, struggling mum with a first novel, a young kid and long work hours and a very tiny and depressing apartment filled with cockroaches i respected the no-lipstick-no fakery ideal, partly since i had no time for it. i was working at a fashion house (calvin klein) and imagining myself an intellectual (so ABOVE these silly "i LIVE for kate moss" type people)

and, of course, my early fashion training came from my immersion in calvin klein, which was all about puritannical simplicity (juxtaposed against totally exposed but clean sexuality) - i totally responded to the anti-red-lipstick brigade.

and making space for people who didn't wear loud lipstick seemed really empowering.


be naturally beautiful!

so here's the question - is makeup empowerment or tyranny?

are you too smart to wear lipstick? or too dumb to wear it?

because there have been times in my life where i felt like all the glamour and excitement of the world was contained in the intoxicating scent and glistening case of my blue-red chanel lipstick that my dad bought for me at the airport duty-free in paris when i was 17.

even just carrying it in my bag was magic.

i remember going out at night, when i first moved to new york city in my early twenties, with just a lipstick. and i would give my lipstick to my male escort to hold for the evening.

(another question - why do women's clothes have no pockets?)

if i been forbidden to wear lipstick, or forbidden to go out and carouse, like a lot of young indian muslim women (i am one, just not young anymore) - wouldn't that have been the tyranny?

and - i should add to this rambling post because someone asked me - when i talk about lipstick, i really mean the WHOLE kit-and-kaboodle, i mean the tyranny of primer, foundation, concealer, eyeliner, lipliner, eyeshadow, mascara, lipstick, lipgloss, lipglass...

if you give up these "artificial methods of beautification" as they would have said in the victorian times, are you free or forsaken?

more recently, i worked on loreal's advertising.

and loreal really positions itself as glamorizing women. it is lipstick or hairdye that makes you larger than life. you are big, bold, beautiful and ready to rule the world.

carol hamilton who is the north american president of loreal is one of those powerful women- tiny, pretty, dainty and so much more than the sum of her parts. and i read this quote from her in the new yorker (it was an article about the semiotics of haircolor by malcolm gladwell) where she said that she could always tell a loreal woman from a clairol woman because the loreal woman was "more put together."

soignee, or, as they say in italy, someone who cares about "la bella figura."

in the loreal world, a woman who doesn't bother with the trappings of beauty is either a child or a forgotten, wilted wallflower in the dance of life.

and of course, while working on loreal, the conversation turned to dove.

amongst team loreal, the dove point of view is completely ridiculous and pathetic.

be happy being gray-haired and unkempt? fat, freckled and naked?

in a meeting, talking about competitive advertising, someone said, oh those dove ads, they are so ugly! and those awful pictures! i could have taken them myself!

this seemed to belie the fact that i had been emailed the link to the "evolution" spot about a hundred times from friends from all beauty persuasions. though, apparently, women do not want to BUY the dove products. you might believe in dove but not want to be part of team dove.


so what do we want? products that raise us to an ideal (that perhaps we never achieve). or products that celebrate being happy just the way we are?

and just what do camille paglia and naomi wolf think about all this?

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