“Your lipstick is so pretty. I wish I was brave like you” — the first of many compliments I paid to Irma Sandoval
) during school at Adams State University
. She was a sophomore when we met and had the kind of strong, exuberant personality I envied. With her fair complexion taking on all the most a-muh-zing colors of makeup a girl could dream of, she had the ability to take over the room from the moment she walked in, most often with her red lipstick.
At the time, I was used to the same make-up routine and it was very minimal, so I was immediately drawn to this exuberant woman. I’d been bold with my outfits before — hair accessories, nails, jewelry, etc., too — but there was something about wearing red lipstick that just scared me.
My head would swirl with insecurities thinking It would draw so much attention to my mouth, or that I’d surely get it all over my teeth and it wouldn’t look good with my skin tone. All it took to confirm those insecurities was my friend calling a fellow classmate Bozo the Clown,
and I was off red lipstick for a few years.
Then, one day I was a 24-year-old woman no longer afraid of lip color.
I was standing in the make-up section of Walgreens
, gawking at the endless rows of lipsticks. I thought to myself, "They do this in movies, right?" grabbing three shades of red and drawing lines on the back of my hands, comparing each and trying to picture the bold colors on myself. After standing there for a few minutes I thought, "Screw it. I can handle a little color."
I purchased all three and strutted to my car.
I spent the next hour Googling how to apply the damn lipstick. “Exfoliate your lips; apply up to three layers; blot with a tissue between layers; use lip liner—JK, FORGET the lip liner.” It took some practice, and A LOT of tissues, but as I looked at my first-ever scarlet pout in the mirror, I went from doubting myself to embracing it entirely. I proved to myself that I could be bold with my beauty, and had a feeling I would see a huge reaction from others as well. I mean, the former queen of nude lips and tinted Chapstick, strutting into the room wearing a red lip would be a shock, right?
I was astounded by the lack of surprise. I expected shock and awe at the thought of such a daring move. But the great debate over my ability to be bold with my beauty was all in my head. I had finally caught up with everyone else, and couldn’t have been happier. The red lipstick stigma among black and Latina women may always be there, but I encourage all of my fellow women, especially those with fuller lips and darker skin, to be bold and beautiful.
has been a huge inspiration. She is a stunning balance of embracing vivid colors, looking absolutely fantastic, and breaking down a common trope that dark-skinned women cannot wear those colors. Not to mention she won an Oscar, HELLO! Don’t let thoughts of feeling child-like, or looking like a harlot, or Bozo the clown, stand in the way of feeling powerful and confident; they don’t apply.
Wearing a bold color is guaranteed to give you a boost of confidence. Remember the first time you wore heels and actually learned how to walk in them? Or entering a room in your favorite pumps and thinking, “YEP, I’m here. Take a damn good look at this”? Red lips will give you a similar feeling. They draw attention to your mouth — especially from the opposite sex — and as for any judgments or inherent curiosity, you look fabulous and confident so who cares, right?
With seemingly everyone policing the bodies of women so closely and viciously these days, it’s easy to give up on defining our own beauty standards. There’s always an article, a rap lyric, or a debate about how we should look. If we choose to wear a daring color, others expect a reason other than us wanting to look and feel good for ourselves. Screw that! Ladies, it isn’t just about being fashionable, it’s about being confident, loud, and empowering.
So don those red lips!
Brenda Figueroa-Gonzalez returned to Colorado Springs after graduating from Adams State University with her Bachelors in Mass Communications and is usually roaming the Internet, and often found downtown. Follow on twitter @loveliestladyyy, chronicling random thoughts on TV shows or cute animals and her crossing into the deep underbelly of food, fashion and craft beer.