Last fall, I walked out of my uptown New York City apartment headed for a downtown fashion event. I knew the crowd would be brimming with the full gamut of current trends, so I chose to rock a simple get-up with eye-turning accessories: my sassy vintage shoulder bag, comfy-yet-cute booties, and the pièce de resistance, a spicy red lipstick I'd been dying to debut.
Down my stoop I trotted, excited to get on my way, when my neighbor saluted me from down the block. As I neared her, she sprinkled a few compliments on my outfit, which were abruptly interrupted by a mid-sentence pause and scrunched face. "You look great, but that lip color is all wrong!" she gasped. My neighbor, a fellow brown girl, then proceeded to deliver a brief sermon on how colors like that weren't made for "us." Talk about a buzz-kill.
Luckily, I loved my lip shade more than I cared about neighborly flattery. So, I continued to my event pondering the notion that brown skin doesn't support bold color—definitely a "brown girl beauty myth" if I'd ever heard one!
Now my myth-busting journey continues with this topic on the agenda. Celebrity makeup artist Sam Fine (the new creative makeup director at Fashion Fair!) joins me again as co-pilot on this mission to get to the bottom of some sistas' aversion to experimenting cosmetically with color.
But, what's the deal? With droves of famous brown beauties giving life to color on their lips and lids—from Beyonce's sexy scarlet pout to Nicki Minaj's brilliant baby pink—why would any sista question the appropriateness of color for our radiant skin tones?
Sam shed some light on what he suspects the nexus of this myth might be. "Drawing too much attention is a fear! I believe many women of color shy away from drawing attention to themselves because society has so often overlooked their beauty," he proclaims.
Many of us younger beauties may find it hard to recall a time when there wasn't an iconic brown face promoted as beautiful in the mainstream (Iman! Naomi Campbell! Halle Berry!). But past generations were not so fortunate—which, to Sam's point, could explain the root of beauty myths that force brown girls to stay in neutral when it comes to cosmetic exploration.
However, on another note, could fear of taking the colorful route simply be from a general human resistance to poor execution? We've all seen the nearly "Halloween-esque" eye shadow catastrophes capable of shocking anyone into staying in their proverbial color "lane." So hesitation could be easily understood. "[Some] women are resistant to use vibrant colors because they think they'll look like clowns," Sam adds. 'Tis true! Beauties everywhere back away from cosmetic counters when the thought of recreating what the skilled makeup artist achieved with a bold blush or bright shadow crosses their minds.
What's a brown girl to do? In the words of my trusted "beauty whisperer" Sam, "You really have to step out on beauty." Color is here for us to embrace. "Wearing color brings attention to your beauty. It says that you're not afraid to have someone look at your full lips or the deep color of your richly-hued skin. Color cosmetics flaunt each feature! Wearing color beckons the world to look at you," he declares.
Amen to that!
You're not in Kansas anymore, my pretties! Shake off that sepia, step into your own technicolor wonderland, and prepare to turn heads! Try experimenting at home with a new bold palette, then showcase your handiwork once you've nailed your signature spin on color.
Myths beware! More to come as Sam Fine and I continue our brown girl beauty expedition.
Perfect for pros and novices, this liquid eye primer and shadow in one adds edge to this brown girl-friendly earth tone.
Driven to infuse each encounter with joy-inducing laughter, Dre Brown seeks to offer those she reaches both something for the eye and for the soul. Based out of New York City, Dre splits her time between makeup artistry, hair styling, strategic marketing, writing and entrepreneurship. Follow her exploits on her blog: a Dre in The Life and her Beautylish series "Confessions of a Nouveau Natural Woman"