Brown lip glacing has been a practise among black women, Latina women, and our Bollywood actresses for many years.
“The aesthetic of ladies of colour wearing brown lip gloss and brown lip liner has existed since the beginning of time.”
It may be argued that all it is is a brown lip liner and gloss. What exactly is so novel about wearing it on your lips? Well, quite a bit. Hailey Beiber recently gained notoriety for her purportedly inventive usage of brown lip liner and gloss, referring to the video as having “brownie glazed lips.” We think this is a clever twist on the expression. But how original? A fundamental understanding of pop culture from the 1980s and 1990s as well as our own Bollywood history is required to answer that question.
history of brown lips
To begin with, brown ladies have been doing it ever since the beginning of time. Furthermore, Beiber typically wears pink lips, so this is a significant shift. If it weren’t for the criticism that black and brown women at the time faced for tinting their lips brown, Hailey’s video definitely wouldn’t have drawn the attention it did. Nearly every model and singer in R&B videos from the 1990s can be seen embracing their “glossy chocolate lips” and refusing to always be seduced by the pink, hyper red appearances of their white counterparts. They simply weren’t responding to white pop musicians; this wasn’t a political statement.
Veteran makeup artist Same Fine is credited with making brown lip gloss and a bold liner fashionable in the 1990s thanks to Naomi Campbell. This was nothing out of the norm for Fine because he had grown up seeing black women rock it both inside and outside his home. This is likely a result of the fact that many black women just could not afford the pricy lip gloss at Fashion Fairs held around New York. For instance, practically all black women back then carried around Maybelline’s iconic Expert Wear Twin Brow & Eye Pencil, which is still available today, out of necessity but over time came to identify with it as their own.
While the causes were similar for Latina women, the circumstances that gave rise to them were more difficult. The dark, glossy liner style was a distinguishing feature of the Chola subculture in the Mexican neighbourhoods of Los Angeles—a subculture of Mexican-Americans who were born into gang life. The images of Latina women in white tank tops, baggy jeans, and dark, glossy lips marked the streets and the ladies themselves.
The Bollywood connection
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bollywood gradually incorporated this overpowering fusion of black and Latina cultural elements. Karishma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon complemented their brick-hued brown lips with bar eyeliner. What draws people in? This combination did more than just highlight their features; it also made up for the absence of powerful lighting on sets at the time.
Sonali Bendre in Duplicate and Sushmita Sen in Biwi No. 1 took it a step further; they maintained their eyes cool-toned with mauve-colored hues, but their lips were glossy, brown, with a thoughtful pout to impress. There were no drab tones. For many brown women in the 1990s, who could create this look with their pencils, everyday glosses, and even eyeliners, this ashy, joyous ownership of all things brown became the norm. India was yet to experience the benefits of liberalisation, which was more than enough.
When matching chocolate brown lips with kohl-rimmed eyes, Aishwarya Rai in Taal and Sushmita Sen in Fiza advanced the trend. They kept things desi and never once challenged the criteria of beauty set by the white gaze. And yet Rekha used the brown lip gloss more frequently than any other actor. Rekha maintained the dark colour in Parineeta, when she played a cabaret queen, despite the lip liner’s crimson undertones.
All of this gets us back to the story’s initial question: How ground-breaking and inventive were Hailey Beiber’s brownie-glazed lips? We’ll let you make that determination.