The color of my lipstick does not concern you

I love makeup. Growing up, I frequently broke into my mom’s makeup drawer in her bathroom, and experimented with all of her products. In the third grade, my teachers were in an uproar because I wore purple eye shadow to school — which was deemed inappropriate for my age. It probably didn’t help that it was paired with a shirt that was bejeweled with the word “rebel” on the front.

I have always been captivated by the artistic qualities of makeup, the magic of instantly expelled insecurity, the ability of a physical alteration to incite an internal transformation.

Makeup is limitless, and I am bound to it.


As a kid, makeup was the symbol of adulthood. As a teenager, it was a way for an insecure high schooler to cover up acne and subsequent acne scars.

As an adult, it has become a form of expression.

It is now a way to empower the idea of beauty; it gives the person who is holding the brush a sense of control in a world where we feel powerless. We do not get to choose the standard. There is no open discussion about what is beautiful and what is not, and there is no world meeting that helps us to reach a consensus. Of course there are ideas of beauty — but makeup allows it to take any shape we want.

I can express every little detail of who I am through my makeup. I can do that, too, through my deliberate decision not to wear it.

And this is why my lipstick color doesn’t concern you.


Our society’s norms have shamed people into thinking that there are beauty parameters that they cannot challenge. On many occasions, I’ve had someone comment on my choice to wear blue, purple, or black lipstick. An observer will say, Whoa! That looks good on you, but I could never wear that color. If I am received this way, I always reply that anyone can wear any lipstick color that they feel confident in. It really saddens me that someone can be genuinely interested in my unconventional makeup — but, for some reason, feel like they can’t participate.

I didn’t wake up one day thinking that painting my lips dark purple brought out my cheekbones — I just decided that I liked the shade, and I wore it. No one gave me permission.

If you enjoy the idea of wearing fun colored lipsticks that don’t fall into the red or pink color spectrum, then you should consider yourself someone who is allowed to do it.

There are no rules — though people have certainly attempted to create limitations. Take, for example, the countless men who have considered it their civic duty to tell me which lipstick shade looks better on me. If I am not being thoroughly questioned about why my lips are blue — even before they have asked my name — then I am being told that I’d be prettier in pink. I think they expect me to be so gosh darn flattered by their gracious “compliments” and advice on how to look better for other men that I’ll begin only using the approved shades hand-selected by them.

My lipstick color doesn’t concern you, because I am always beautiful.

I will still be beautiful if my lipstick is red or black, if I have a full face of makeup or if I’ve rolled out of bed in the morning with my hair matted to the top of my head, wrinkled sheets imprinted across my face.

If I am beautiful, it won’t be your decision anyway. I am beautiful because I feel beautiful, and I feel that way in every lipstick shade.

I will always be the third grader with the heavy-handed purple eye shadow and the glittering “rebel” shirt, rummaging through my mother’s makeup drawer. Only now, I am wearing Kat Von D liquid lipstick in Echo (a dark blue that is borderline black), not caring about whether you think it makes me look less beautiful. I’m wearing it for me.

And tomorrow, maybe I’ll wear pink and maybe I won’t.

Ariel Sullivan is a screenwriter, poet, and cat lover from Denver who is highly influenced by television. At least once in every conversation she will bring up the fact she is a twin, her only claim to fame. Read her blog and follow her on Twitter.

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