How Gloria Steinem Became The Unlikely Face Of A Lipstick Brand

Photo: Kate Powers for The Lipstick Lobby.
Gloria Steinem's Instagram feed looks exactly like what you'd expect Gloria Steinem's Instagram feed to look like: references to her many feminist and civil rights causes, weekly callouts featuring female political candidates you should know about, throwbacks from her second-wave '70s heyday, the occasional cat photo. In the iconic activist's world, even leopard-print Cole Haan boots come imbued with a social justice statement.
In one Instagram post back in May of 2017, Steinem shared her support for a new beauty brand, The Lipstick Lobby, and its new lipstick, Kiss My Pink. Publicly championing a lipstick might have seemed incongruous for a woman whose rich life has been lived largely without makeup as a personal choice, but this one made sense: Launched in defence of women's reproductive rights in the wake of the Trump election, 100% of net profits from the sale of the hot-pink shade went directly to Planned Parenthood.
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When Davida Hall, the non-profit company's founder, caught wind that Steinem was a fan, a lightbulb went off — Hall describes it as a "watershed moment" for the small, female-powered brand. "Following our previous campaign [focusing on gun control law reform], we knew we wanted our next shade to focus on women, specifically those who really needed the visibility and resources," she tells Refinery29. "Gloria and I met in New York, and we talked about how great it would be to collaborate together."
This week, that partnership comes to life with In The Clear, a vitamin E-packed lip balm that will raise money and awareness for the unPrison Project, a female-led non-profit that works to empower incarcerated women by teaching them marketable skills, forming plans for life after prison, and helping them stay connected to their children. "We must address the problems as we see it — incarcerated women have the odds stacked up against them and do not have the resources to provide for themselves and their families or to get the help they need," Steinem says in a press release.

We all have a right to feel 'in the clear,' regardless of our past.

Gloria Steinem
It was the feminist hero who led Hall and The Lipstick Lobby, which has also worked with the ACLU and The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, to the unPrison Project and its founder, Deborah Jiang-Stein. "We were blown away by Deborah, and all the work she was doing singlehandedly inside these massive corrective facilities to help empower the women inside," Hall says. "We felt that this was the perfect opportunity for The Lipstick Lobby to bring more awareness to this often misrepresented and ignored population of women."
The Lipstick Lobby's previous launches have all involved bold, unapologetic colours; the kind of lipsticks that make a statement without saying a word. Hall says that, though Steinem's idea to create a clear balm was a departure at first, it ended up being the right decision — and a fitting one at that. "It really made total sense for our core values and mission: embracing that anyone and everyone could wear this shade," Hall says. "Inclusivity is so key to who we are." And anyway, as Hall told us during an interview earlier this year, "We don't really consider ourselves a 'beauty brand'; we're a social justice brand, and yes, we make lipstick, but it's all about the proceeds, and where that money goes."
The transparent treatment, which retails for $19, also lent itself perfectly to the apropos name, for which Hall gives full credit to Steinem. "The name In The Clear has several meanings," she explains. "It represents that symbolically, all women, including women who have served time in prison, deserve to have a clear and bright future. It speaks to our desire to be free of judgement and stigma — something that we can all relate to. And ultimately a clear shade symbolises the thousands of women who are invisible." Steinem says, "We all have a right to feel 'in the clear,' regardless of our past."
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