The first time I wore red lipstick I was in the 9th grade. I remember initially feeling nervous that my classmates would think it too brazen or uppity, but those feelings were quickly assuaged as I noticed the looks I received were more of wonder and awe. And just like that, at the early age of 14, I had uncovered the power of the famous red lipstick— a historically tiny weapon that for many has been a symbol of rebellion. And what better age to rebel?

I received a few shy compliments, a true feat as we were all pre-teens bursting with uncontrollable hormones constantly bemoaning how misunderstood we were, while simultaneously trying to play it cool. And other “compliments” were a bit off-center such as: You look like Pocahontas (I would also get this when I braided my hair… thanks?) or an exotic Latina. The feeling, nonetheless, of courage was extremely uplifting. And as far as I am concerned, I was the first person in my grade to wear red lipstick. A bold statement to claim because my graduating class had over 300 students.

I’m not sure what made me want to purchase the brightest shade of Revlon from CVS. Perhaps it was the Seventeen magazines stashed away in my closet or the plenty of other women’s lifestyle “guides” I grazed at Barnes & Noble. Either way, as I navigated through the many shades, I realized all the pigments available made me look opaque. Where was that shade that made the white models look bright and sophisticated? It would be many years before I realized that most shades are not made for everyone. But rather, just for one.

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