Pink Femme, Red Femme: Notes on Insecurity

In the last 15 years of makeup purchases, I have never bought red lipstick. (I may have bought red nail polish once as a tween, back when you could get a bottle for a dollar if you looked hard enough after Christmas, but I probably painted no more than 2 nails before I said “yowsers that’s bright” and quickly wiped it off.) Because you see, for most of my life, I have been a pink femme. 

Pink femmes are the women who were the girls who used the crayon to color a border within the border first, so when they went back to fill in the rest of the space, they’d stay within the lines. Pink femmes neatly colored the grass green, the sky blue, and did what they could to ensure that their picture would be the one that Teacher hung up at the front of the room. Pink femmes seek approval. Pink femmes do “what’s right.”

Red femmes are alphas. Everybody else either sing their praises and admire them for being gutsy, or we denigrate them because we’re secretly jealous that they get to achieve what we’ve always wanted to acheive. Red femmes are bold, striking; they’re risk takers. They’re confidence personified. 

I want to be a red femme. I want to put on a brilliant red lipstick, walk out my front door, and not get all sheepish wondering if maybe people think I look like a clown.

For quite some time now, I’ve been vowing to buy red. And while that should be a relatively simple task, I literally physically could not get myself to do it. I don’t even have an explanation why not. I would walk into the drugstore, browse the rows and columns of lip colors prepping myself for buying a red, and then leave the store with a color that’s yet another pink, or nude, or plum, or even a toffee brown. I’ve purchased lipsticks in every hue but red. (Somebody should psychoanalyze this.)

Thus I was on a mission. Soon enough it wasn’t about the red lipstick anymore. It was about my life, and the way I choose to live my life. Yeah, I’m melodramatic like that. 

Today I did it. My first tube of red lipstick. I cannot believe it took me so long to do this. In fact, it’s kind of pathetic, the kind of pathetic that shouldn’t be posted on the world wide web for everyone to read. Anyway. 

I made a beeline for the makeup section. Ooh…I saw a pretty pearlescent nude. No! Red, red, red, I kept telling myself. Don’t leave here without a red. Revlon was on sale that day, buy one get one free, and that factor significantly informed by choice. I could get my pretty pearlescent nude and the red!


And there it is. My first tube of red liptick.

When I bought this brand and color, I knew nothing about it. Most people look up ratings and reviews before they buy. For some reason I look them up after.

I got home and tried to pull up as much as I could from search engines on the precise brand and color lipstick I just bought.

That was when I found this, to my great delight:


Gasp! Elaine Turner likes Revlon “Wine With Everything” too! A handbags and accessories designer I look up to and whose designs I’m always impressed with– she uses the same shade lipcolor!

(This, by the way, is exactly why corporations will spend millions on celebrity endorsements. No matter how educated we become or how free-thinking we regard ourselves to be, in a moment of insecurity and weakness, we fall prey to the “well if it’s good enough for Superstar Jane Doe, it’s good enough for me” mentality.)

Still, I took it as a sign from above, especially since the whole pink femme red femme thing stemmed from feelings of insecurity I was having about Taryn Zhang. I was letting other people’s doubts get to me. 

See, lately people whose opinions matter to me called Taryn Zhang my “pet project.” It’s not a “pet project.” It’s my aspiration. People whose support I desperately need told me that I’m dreaming too big. This time, I’m in way over my head. I need to “consider the opportunity cost” here. They reminded me, because, you know, I wasn’t fully aware of it before, thank you very much, that I’m not professionally trained to do this; I’m neither schooled to be a designer nor schooled to be a businesswoman; heck, I’ve never even been all that well-dressed or fashionable. What makes me think I can be a fashion designer? Plus, I have no pulse for marketing or PR. I don’t have the business acumen to turn a profit. I have never been good at sales. Ever. Not even in elementary school Christmas wrapping paper and candy fundraisers. I probably couldn’t sell heat to eskimos if I tried. And above all, I’m not extraordinary. How will I ever stand out in such a diluted industry without being extraordinary?

Rest assured that I have thoughtfully considered all these points before anybody had to express them to me. What kept me going before? Some amazing cocktail of hope, zeal, excess energy, and naivete. When all four began to wane a bit from encountering difficulty after difficulty, instead of cheering me on, instead of yelling at me to dig deeper, I received, “hmm, maybe you should just quit while you’re ahead.”

That’s why I needed to get the red lipstick. Some irrational silly superstitious part of me thought that maybe it could be like a talisman. I could have the confidence and audacity of dragon ladies if I wore the same color lipstick as dragon ladies… okay, I suppose when I type out that sentence I do come to terms with how fallacious the argument is. Eh, well. We can’t all be fully sane.

The phone camera doesn't do the lipstick any justice. It's actually very red.

So yeah. Red lipstick. To compel myself to be fearless. To stop putting other people’s happiness before my own. And to go for it, full speed ahead. It’s just icing on the cake that Elaine Turner, a phenomenal and well-established handbags and accessores designer, whose success I’d love to emulate, also wears this same color red.

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