Since elementary school, I’ve consistently been one of the few black kids at school. I didn’t exactly have the easiest time, and I became self-conscious about my blackness. There was always something or someone pointing out how other I was, whether it was jokes about my hair or how the “skin color” crayon was obviously not my skin color. But the thing I was made to feel most insecure about were my lips. They were much larger than everyone else’s and were dubbed “monkey lips” by my classmates. Girls who believed they were helping gave me beauty advice, like to avoid lipgloss and colorful lips because they made me look “ghetto.”
When I started experimenting with makeup in eighth grade, I kept the idea of dark girls not looking good in bright colors in my head, which made me hesitant about wearing anything brighter than tinted Chapstick. Eventually, through boredom with the lack of color on my face, I began experimenting with lipstick. As the colors I played with got brighter, I realized how truly beautiful my lips were. My lips and my skin are not flaws that need to be hidden but rather blessings that should be flaunted.
So, as a self-proclaimed lipstick aficionado, here’s how I like to jazz up my lips.
To create this look, I applied Colourpop’s Be-dazzled lipstick to my top lip, being careful to keep my mouth open so the color didn’t transfer. On my bottom lip, I used Colourpop’s Dr. M, and made sure to keep my mouth in an “O” shape for a few seconds, to give the lipstick time to fully dry.
I like to use contrasting colors for this two-tone lip, but using tones in the same color family looks equally as cool. My main piece of advice is to use matte lipsticks, to avoid having the shades mix.
There are a billion ways to create a gradient: You can apply the darkest color to the inner part of your lip, or vice versa. You can apply the darkest shade on one side of your mouth and a lighter shade on the other, RAINBOW!?!?! My heart skips a beat just thinking of all the options!
Here, I started by applying OCC’s Lip Tar in shade “Roller Girl” all over my lips. (This shade has been discontinued, but the Lip Tar shade Belladonna is similar.) I then applied my darker shade of purple—Colourpop’s Be-dazzled—to the inner center of my top and bottom lips, and blended the color outward using my finger. Once that was done, I went back over the outside edge of my lips with the lighter color, to sharpen everything up.
If you’ve applied a color and feel like your lips still aren’t quite there, maybe the missing puzzle piece is lip gloss. Gloss adds dimension and is my secret weapon to transforming an otherwise blah makeup day into an otherworldly, radiant one.
I started by tracing my lips and filling them in with black lip liner—I used Wet ’n’ Wild’s Icon Kohl Liner Pencil. Then, I went over the black with OCC’s Lip Tar in Rx, blending with my finger to create a midnight blue. For the finishing touch, I covered the whole lip with Covergirl’s sparkly Lip Lava in the shade Lava-nder.
Go off into the world my pretty, pouted friends! Don’t waste a worry on whether you can “pull these off.” No matter your skin color, you get to decide what looks good on you. And if you get questioning looks from anyone, blow them a brightly colored kiss and sassy-walk away. ♦
Ogechi Egonu is a 16-year-old carefree black girl. She can be found at Sephora, sampling makeup she knows she can’t afford, and on Instagram.
How We Live is a series centering on the lived experience and thought of black teenagers.