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Red & Lipstick

Red & Lipstick


Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people.”_Dita Von Teese, New York Times, 2012.

She wore Revlon’s Cherries In The Snow lipstick on her very full lips—her red lip was in sync with the beauty trends of the day. One 1950s survey showed that 98 percent of women used lipstick whereas only 96 percent brushed their teeth.”_Elizabeth Winder re: Sylvia Plath in Pain, Parties, Work. Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953.

In Pain, Parties, Work. Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder, she writes that red lipstick quote, then follows it with a little chart box titled RED LIPSTICK and makes a list:

Cherries In The Snow by Revlon (dark pinky red)
Riding Hood Red by Max Factor (clinically proven to “bring the wolves out”)
Bravo by Revlon
Clearly Red by Max Factor
See Red by Max Factor
Jazz by Helena Rubinstein

I’m gonna keep going. There’s also:
Hellbent, Archangel and Underage Red by Kat Von D
Annabella by Nars
Rouge Can Can by Givenchy
Striking by Revlon (matte lip balm, one of my v. favorites)
Fire by Dolce and Gabbana
Five Alarm, Damn Glamorous, Lady Danger by MAC
aaand a billion-billion more, thank God.

Say you love me in my red lipstick…red lipstick works like magic.”_Ke$ha


Jeremy Okai Davis is one of my favorite artists, and because he and Michael Dwayne Smith from Mojave River Press are the best, Jeremy painted my mouth for the cover of my short story collection. Jeremy painted my mouth four different times for the cover, each one with a progressively smeary red-lipsticked mouth.

I looked up songs called “Red Lipstick” on Spotify and saw so many, it made me sleepy. The names for the red lipstick colors are sexy, risky, scary. A woman wearing red lipstick is dangerous. Watch out.

A COUPLE OF RED LIPSTICK CELEBRITY HEROES: Janelle Monae, Este Haim, Taylor Swift, Marilyn Monroe, Sylvia Plath, Gwen Stefani, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones. Andy Warhol’s paintings of women with super-bright red mouths. Also, so many other women. So many of us, red-mouthed and howling at the moon.

There are all sorts of articles and tutorials called HOW TO WEAR RED LIPSTICK when the answer is actually quite simple: IF YOU WANT TO WEAR IT, PUT IT ON. There are articles “exposing” how different celebrity women look when they aren’t wearing their signature red lips/red lipstick. I think all women look beautiful in red lipstick. Beautiful, without. Whatever they want. But I love wearing it because even when I’m lazy and getting nothing done and don’t even leave the house, I have on red lipstick so I’m taking care of bidness. TCemeffingB.

I enjoy being a girl. I’m not here to debate what makes a girl, a girl or girlishness or OBVIOUSLY how a woman is still a woman and feminine whether or not she wears red lipstick or any lipstick or even if no other makeup ever touches her face. Everyone can make their own choices re: that. But me? I love being a girly-girl. I put on lipstick to work in the garden, to go to carpool, to make dinner, to watch basketball. I graduated from the University of Louisville. Red and white, a red cardinal. I went to high school across the street and our colors were red and white too. I went to another high school before that one and those colors were red and white too. At the baseball game, we sit in red seats and watch the boys in red and white try to hit a white ball with red stitching.


I saw an article that said Here’s What Guys Think About Red Lipstick and another that said Do Men Like It When A Woman Wears Red Lipstick? and I was like Nope and rolled my eyes so hard God was like CUT IT OUT OR THEY’LL GET STUCK THAT WAY. I always put on red lipstick before I go to baseball games. I also wear red lipstick when no one will see me. I like super-glossy reds and I love matte reds, too. I have red lipsticks in my purse and on the kitchen counter and on the bathroom counter and in my makeup bag. I give my mom and my niece red lipsticks for Christmas. I like knowing the difference between mine and my husband’s coffee cup by looking for the red lipstick stain.

“She loved the cold beer and the way her lipstick left bloomy marks on the cans.” _Elizabeth Winder re: Sylvia Plath in Pain, Parties, Work. Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953.


“Tonight I lost my red bandeau with all the redness in my little heart.”_Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath.


I wore my red peacoat in my first author photos, taken by the wonderfully gorgeous and talented, Mickie Winters. RED. Angela Chase dyeing her hair red and Jordan Catalano singing “Red” about his car, not Angela. “Lady In Red” by Chris DeBurgh. (This song is so cozy to me, as is all Yacht Rock.) “Red Lipstick” by Rihanna. “Flaming Red” by Patty Griffin. Me and my red shoes, nothing can please us.

I wear a lot of black. I always have, but it got locked in hardcore once I had babies. Babies are very messy. Black helps. My default color choice is almost always black. The next, is red. Red is my favorite accent color. I have a red peacoat, a red hat, red sneakers. A red dutch oven, a red pepper grinder. A red watch, a red bracelet, a red rose ring. Red glasses. Red lipstick. A bloody, beating red heart. A red mouth. My cheeks get pink-red when I blush, when I’m cold, when I’m hot.

You’ve got that James Dean daydream look in your eye and I’ve got that red lip classic thing that you like.”_Taylor Swift


Red Red Wine. Lipstick stains on a wine glass. Strawberries, cherries, roses, sirens, blood. Orangey-reds, pink-reds, brown-reds, purple-reds, red-reds. Red dresses, red peppers, screamy-screeching-alarm-reds. I am here for them. I love reading about makeup and colors and I love things that are “riotously feminine.” Winder writes that in the book—the phrase “riotously feminine.” I kinda wanna tattoo it on the inside of my wrist. I love how having red lips makes me feel. I’m almost ready if I don’t have my red lipstick on. Once I put my red lipstick on, I’m ready. I was Little Red Riding Hood in my high school senior theatre workshop. Growing up, we always had at least one red car and whenever we got a new one, that one was red too.

“Out of the ash I rise with my red hair and I eat men like air.”_Sylvia Plath, Ariel: The Restored Edition.

Our back door is bright red, our couch is too. Our DVDs and bookshelves are assorted by color. Red books, red movies, red plates, slips of red tomatoes in our backyard vegetable garden. There is an aliveness there with red. An aliveness that is both welcoming and warning. I dig it. Ring the alarm. An army of red-lipped women. An army of me. Ring it and bring it.

Leesa Cross-Smith
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About The Author

Leesa Cross-Smith

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and writer from Kentucky. She is the author of Every Kiss a War and Whiskey & Ribbons. She is also the editor of WhiskeyPaper.

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