During my senior year of high school, I made a purchase that would change my image forever. I bought a Sephora Collection Rouge Cream lipstick in a bright, hot red.
I could never wear it to school, of course. I went to a Catholic, all-girls school. The extent of makeup anyone dared to wear was pink lip gloss, a brush of mascara and light eyeliner.
At the time, I was in my eleventh year of my school and the only thought that got me through the year was knowing that I would not see any of these girls (purposefully) again. It unnerved me to know that many of the girls assumed that they knew who I really was just because of the duration of time we had known each other. I had been there since the second grade and, in some of my classmates’ eyes, I hadn’t changed a bit. I felt like a shell of my true self, whoever that was. As a result, I chose to hide, preferring to write extensive features for the school newspaper than be in it. I wasn’t in any high school plays or on student government or a standout athlete. I was just like Cory Matthews on “Boy Meets World” when he sarcastically smiled at the camera and said, “Hey! You’re average!”
I watched as the artsy girls were reprimanded for dying their hair fire-engine red or adding purple strands into their braids. The next day, they would walk through the front doors of school still confident, but with a little less sparkle in their eyes. My biggest risk was wearing hoop earrings that my father instantly deemed, “too ghetto.” (I still wore them.) When I bought my red lipstick I didn’t care about what anyone thought. I vowed that, in college, it would be a look that would be completely mine.
It was a classic, simple look that I wanted to try for years. Nude lipstick was always difficult for me to find because of my complexion. Purple lipstick was too much. Pink was not enough. As a girl that was regularly bullied for everything from being “too white” to “inexperienced” to a “crybaby” to “pretty but (insert insult here),” when I looked at myself in the mirror wearing red lipstick, you couldn’t say anything to me. I knew I could work it. It was my signature look and four years later, it still is. In college, I wore red lipstick so much that when I didn’t my peers and professors would not recognize me.
Similar to the scene in “Clueless” when Travis asks Tai if she thought his skateboard was too cluttered with stickers, I chose to focus on making “one, main decorative statement.” What Marvin the Martian was to Travis is what red lipstick is to me.
When I was younger, there was no one whose style I admired more than Aaliyah. (And no, not in a overly-obsessed Drake way.) She was a mystery to me, as I’m sure she was to the rest of the world. Hidden behind her signature side-part, the late R&B songstress captivated me in ways beyond her stunning beauty. She had a modest confidence: never too much, never too little. She was flirtatious and sexy, yet demure and entrancing. She had that simple style that I wanted. With the exception of her music videos in the latter part of her career, Aaliyah’s makeup was defined enough to emphasize her natural beauty. And, she had a signature that she worked in every video! Whenever I watched her perform or strike a pose on the red carpet, you could bet I looked out for that side-part.
While I do not think it is absolutely necessary to have a signature, I like it for me because it boosts my confidence. I know I’m not wearing it for anyone else but me. I don’t think I would be anything less without red lipstick. In fact, I didn’t even wear it today. However, on days that I do, I guarantee everyone around me can see a sparkle in my eye.
Lovelies, what do you think of having a signature? If you have one, I’d like to know what it is and the story behind it!