Black Lipstick Underlines Every Word I Say

Do you know how hard it is to rock up to a meeting 25 minutes late with eyebrows this carefully crafted? "Yeah, erm, the train was delayed guys, total nightmare. [Awkward smile.]" And don’t even ask about what happens when it rains; I once lost an eyebrow to a power shower.
I love makeup. Everything about it. From buying it, to applying it, to how it makes me feel. I find it therapeutic. And I don’t feel like I’m covering up or masquerading as someone more exciting or badass, but like I’m celebrating exactly who I am on the inside. Like clothes, makeup is an immediate platform to show the world your creativity. And while many people use it to enhance their features and skin, I use it to be bold — to peacock!
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Photo by Ekua King. Design by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
The painter Lucian Freud reportedly hated cosmetics; he said nothing was as "attractive as an interesting mind." And I couldn't agree more — except I also believe that makeup can be used as a tool to depict the mind. Granted, from time to time I get strange looks.
Once, a guy approached me at Pret A Manger and said, "You look like an alien," then walked off. I took great pleasure in this interaction.
Face Value
I’ve worn this beauty look since I was a teenager — a young little emo kid embracing self expression in the ways I knew how. My parents always encouraged me to experiment with style and makeup was easy and fun. Over the years, my look has become a bit more refined, like a grown-up version of the original.
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When I was starting out in advertising as a little junior art buyer, my look became a way to scream loudly in the meeting I had to be silent in. Advertising is such a male, white-dominated, hierarchical industry, even still now sadly… and so I would speak loudly with my clothes and my makeup. I wanted to stand out like a sore thumb — on purpose.
Makeup was my tool to craft and showcase my opinions. And because back then it fueled my confidence, now that I’m a creative director, makeup is still kind of this cloak of strength that I wear. I like remembering where I’ve come from, those emo roots, that scrappy junior, with a slick of black on my lips. I just always feel… well, like myself.
PHOTO BY EKUA KING
Power Brows
The brows started when I was at University. My best friend and I loved strong, severe, graphic brows and throughout school, we would experiment with them using block shapes and different colored pencils. For the first time, we weren’t quietly experimenting with our style; we had the streets of London as our stage, and so we just went for it. I remember feeling like I didn’t care what anyone thought, because we were having fun.
Now, my best friend uses fuchsia liner in her brows and I've settled on black. Using an angled brush and black powder, I begin in the corners and bottoms of the brows and shade up; I find it easier to draw up the face so that I don’t accidentally start a brow too high and realise I'm rocking a one-incher and a permanent frown.
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Get In Line
I always wear a thin, slick little cat eye. Being half-Chinese, I’m really proud of my almond-shaped eyes, and I love exaggerating them with makeup. I think it’s special and different and something about my face that I cherish.
I pretty much always wear them… except on Sundays when I don’t wear anything. I’d say it’s probably the first element I really explored when I started enjoying makeup around 13. I used to play with liner under the eye, but over many years and bad photos tagged on Facebook, I’ve refined what suits me and what I feel comfortable wearing.
I use a fine, pointed liquid eyeliner to draw my eye flicks, starting at the point and working toward the middle of the eye — I don’t stretch my eyelid while I do it so it follows its natural shape.
Loud Mouth
Presenting in front of a room filled with people, which is something I do most days, can be nerve racking, but there’s this strength that I get from having a powerful beauty look. I claim my confidence and hold my head up high because I know exactly who I am and who I’m not, and there’s a real comfort in that.
I love that matte black lipstick, such a bold and arrogant shade, frames every word that leaves my mouth — like it underlines everything I say. Caps lock, full stop, bolded — it pronounces on my behalf.
I start my lips by powdering them so they’re nice and dry — and I use liquid eyeliner to outline the edges and Cupid's bow. I fill in my lips with matte black lipstick. And then I spend the day drinking through a straw, but whatever.
Photo by Ekua King. Design by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Break Tradition
Although I have a staple look that I wear every day, I still like experimenting with graphic shapes and symmetry. Sometimes when I’m going out, I’ll try something new and smudge black in the center of my lips with my finger and powder the edges. Makeup is supposed to be fun and liberating, so if I want to go to a restaurant inspired by a Star Wars princess, then I will.
On days when I fancy mixing it up and not wearing my black lip, I like to do thicker eyeliner, starting thin in the center and thickening it out at the flick. I pile on the mascara and separate my bottom eyelashes with tweezers. These days are the only ones when I am able to eat an apple in its entirety without reapplying my lipstick.
Makeup As You Go
Our relationship with lipstick, and makeup in general, has really evolved. It's no longer about conceding to a beauty stereotype or slapping on a rouge lip to lure in a man. Rather now, makeup is a celebration of oneself.
I like to think I’m subverting and reclaiming the idea of makeup, and that, in fact, lipstick is the ultimate, feminist tool. We paint the woman we want to be every day — a mirror of the inside. Beauty, however we choose to define it, belongs to us.
I don’t think it’s about being beautiful anymore, I’d much rather be interesting.
Photo by Ekua King. Design by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.