The beauty industry has been plagued by cultural appropriation for as long as it has existed. But one of the latest buzzy examples to catch headlines and make waves on social media is Hailey Bieber’s so-called “brownie glazed lip” look, which the model and Rhode founder promoted via TikTok several weeks ago. It involves lining lips with brown and then topping them with clear gloss — simple, easy and undeniably pretty. The internet ate up Bieber’s video, giving her credit for the idea and heralding it as the next big fall makeup “trend.” (No doubt people were particularly eager to do so in the wake of the success of her previous viral “glazed donut” manicure.)
But there’s a big problem with all of this: Bieber didn’t invent this look. Far from it.
The dark-liner-and-clear-gloss combo is a beauty staple that plenty of Black, Latinx and other people of color have been wearing for decades. The issue, as is generally the case with instances of cultural appropriation, is in the lack of context and the erasure of the long history of this “trend.”
“It’s not about Hailey,” makeup artist Sir John (whose most famous celebrity client is Beyoncé) told Diet Prada. “All you had was a lip liner and a clear gloss back in the day… We had to be creative and try things in an unorthodox way because of the lack of products for Black and brown people.”
The popularity of the look stemmed partly from the fact that lip products on the market didn’t cater effectively to dark skin tones. During a time when makeup companies didn’t offer inclusive options for melanin-rich skin, it was considered a makeup hack to trace and accentuate lips with Fashion Fair’s lip liner, eyeliner or eyebrow pencils, as Thalía Henao wrote recently in Allure.
“When it was on my sisters or my mom, and in Black and Latino communities, it was seen as ghetto,” Sir John explained to Diet Prada. “Now that it’s on white bodies, it’s seen as ‘fashionable.'”
The brown-lined lip look has been common both on and off the red carpet, and a range of celebrities — think Missy Elliot, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Selena Quintanilla — have worn it for decades.
Beauty trends like the new resurgence of the brown-lined lip highlight the stark differences in how mainstream culture appreciates beauty aesthetics on women based on their race, skin tone and hair type. This echoes to the issue of blackfishing (something for which the Kardashians in particular have been routinely called out); in one article on the topic for Time, Cady Lang wrote: “It’s a vicious culture that valorizes curves on wealthy, racially ambiguous white women, but stigmatizes these traits on Black women; one that plays into a longtime fascination with the aesthetics of Blackness and an unwillingness to engage with the ugliness of anti-Black racism at the same time.”
There’s potential for this to be a moment of inflection, though. “Aesthetics of Excess” author and professor Jillian Hernandez says that while the “brownie glazed lip trend” is one of the latest examples of cultural extraction in beauty, we’re in a time where there are more examples of trendsetters.
“We’re in a moment where working class, feminine of color aesthetics are getting a kind of respect and visibility that’s a relatively new phenomenon,” she says, nodding to artists like Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo and the City Girls. “These are Black women who have entered the popular culture space and A-list status without compromising their working classness.”
One thing that we know is that a useful counter-measure to rampant cultural appropriation is education. See just how prolific, iconic and impactful the brown lip liner/clear lip gloss combination has been as a makeup look — from the ’90s, 2000s and today — in the gallery below.
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