Lipstick it to the Man: 10 Questions with Davida of The Lipstick Lobby
The revolution will be glamorized.
The Politicalization of beauty has been a hot topic in the past year. It's been suggested that, for women, makeup and skincare are means of self care and control in a politcal climate that threathens their rights and existance. And it makes sense– in a time filled with so much anxiety and uncertainty, sometimes you've got to make peace where you are (read: the bathroom). Because if it feels like your voice isn't heard, at least your face can feel smooth and your makeup can be flawless, right? RIGHT?! Luckily for us, and our collective anxieties, there's a company out there letting us have our lipstick and our justice, too.
Davida Hall is the Founder of The Lipstick Lobby. Their products are cruelty-free, vegan and support social justice organizations such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. And with supporters such as Gloria Steinem and actress Bridget Moynahan, The Lipstick Lobby has some serious girl power behind it. We chatted with Davida one Friday afternoon to learn more about her mission and the amazing group of women who make it what it is.
XCC: How long has The Lipstick Lobby been around?
Davida: We’re a newer brand, we’ve been out there almost a year, but it feels like a much longer time. We've had a lot of great press recognition everywhere from Women's Wear to Vogue and Elle as well Refinery 29 and even had a few awesome celebrities step forward and endorse us. But that said, we're really small and focused on still trying to get out there– trying to increase sales, because that's obviously where we can be effective. If we’re not selling, we’re not donating to that organization that we're partnered with. It's kind of always-on struggle [that drives us ] because we keep everything pro-bono. When we work with talent, we don't pay people so it's always a challenge to get the right people on board that see the mission and feel excited about Lipstick Lobby. But then, on the other side of the coin, when we do find those people who are really passionate and want to step up, it’s always worked out great.
XCC: I read on your website that The Lipstick Lobby was started in the aftermath of the Trump election. What else compels your work? Was there a defining moment?
Davida: We work in a Millennial-space, fashion and beauty is something we work around all the time. Makeup is something we all love, so the idea of a lipstick was a very intuitive choice for us. When Trump was going around and grabbing women by their pussy, it was just a very clear, tangible moment of action for us. [We thought,] this guy is not just someone whose policies and leadership we disagree with, but he's actively sexually harassing women. That realization eventually inspired the lipstick shade called Kiss My Pink. It’s reference to his whole pussy-grabbing moment and taking that back and spinning it on it’s head. Because of the name, we decided the proceeds should benefit accessible women’s healthcare and Planned Parenthood was a natural fit [as a charitable partner].
XCC: How do you choose which charity to support? What’s the process like?
Davida: It’s very topical. We ask ourselves, does the cause still continue to support women? When we first started, health care and Planned Parenthood clinics were really under fire. Then the ACLU, still keeping women in mind, was fighting for immigration, particularly that of children and families. The fun of every season with every shade is thinking about where we can go next. We get to ask what does our community want? What have people responded to? What's still relevant and what do we still need to to fight for?
With every cause, we focus on keeping women at the forefront. We also look for causes that are topical that we can shine a light on. We always want to have a message of hope, we don’t want to make it such a dark issue that people feel they can't actually make a difference or they can't actually get involved. There has to be a way where you can see how a purchase makes a difference and that you know what you’re buying is going back to.
Currently, we are at another crossroads with our summer shade; we get to be really picky and careful about where we go next. The idea is for Lipstick Lobby to become a kaleidoscope; We want people to look back on each collection and see a kaleidoscope of social human rights issues. Every lipstick represents a moment in time and a moment in history that is not only an important cause that we all believe in, but also they are all issues that are important to and voted on by women.
XCC: When you say “we”, who is who is your team? Who do you have around you making this happen with you?
Davida: We don't really like to disclose names. We’re a core group of women who have stepped forward to work on this as a passion project. It’s sort of a mix, internally within our company we have a lot of awesome people to bring The Lipstick Lobby to life. Outside of the company, we’ve had some really awesome women donate their time. For example, our photographer is named Kate Powers. She's a noted beauty and fashion photographer out of New York who makes all these gorgeous images for our website and gives our campaigns a really premium look. With The Lipstick Lobby, we want to make sure it doesn’t feel like it's just a cosmetic, it needs to be a product people want. It's a brand customers want to be a part of, it’s modern but also really beautiful.
Kate is at the helm of all the photography; she donates her time and her energy to these huge shoots once a season. Along with her is a woman named Kelly Hill who's a stylist and a Creative Director. We also have a woman named Jill Raynor- Holdcroft who is a Senior Photo Producer who produces the photo shoots and casting. Between those heavy hitters and a handful of really helpful women here internally at the company we've got this really cool core group of women who just love what we're doing and propel the mission forward.
XCC: What was the reason behind the choice to remain anonymous?
Davida: It wasn't really intentional, we’re just a group of women who are really excited about the brand. l[Lipstick Lobby] is not about any one person–-it's certainly not about me. I couldn’t have done it without every single person, every talent that has waved their talent fees, every photo that Kate has taken. Everyone here made a little piece of this castle so it's really a group effort for sure.
XCC: The brand voice of Lipstick Lobby has a little bit of attitude and it's very unfiltered. The shades are given these strong names like Kiss My Pink and Outrage. It's so feminine, yet it allows itself to be angry and upset. I feel like a lot of times, women don't let themselves be angry or show anger because it comes off as bossy or bitchy. What have been there reactions to such an outspoken voice?
Davida: People will say, “ Oh, you’re just an angry feminist” and accuse us of jumping on the charity bandwagon to leverage this political moment. And my response is if I’m just a copycat of this greater movement, if I’m just jumping on the bandwagon where humans are motivated to speak—no problem. That's the best criticism. A tube of lipstick is a simple thing for someone to purchase; it doesn't require them to spend hours figuring out what organization to support. For people who otherwise wouldn’t give a shit, it’s making that purchase easier for them.
XCC: I love your mantra, “Don't be a garbage person”. What are your general guidelines you say for not being a garbage human?
Davida: God that's a good question. I don't have a code of conduct for human morality! My feeling is people should do what they can do to contribute to the greater good. If you have extra money, give to charity. If you're really creative, use your brain to help an organization. Use your skills in a way that makes sense. Do what’s within in you, do what comes naturally and that’s where you’ll get your best work and still be contributing to change.
XCC: With a little over one year into Trump’s administration, how has Lipstick Lobby evolved and where do you see it going in 2018?
Davida: You know we're trying to figure out our own bounds of how political we are. Are we political just for politics’ sake, or are attacking conversations and causes that are important? For example, the issue of global poverty With every issue, we ask ourselves: Do we take this head on? Is it relevant to us in this time? It’s about trying to find a balance between becoming a human rights brand and also doing stuff that feels like everyone can embrace. I'm trying to also keep women at the forefront, to make sure it’s either something that's important to us as women or benefits us as women.
You know, Trump won’t be here forever, but we want this brand to fight for women forever. I think if we started off on a really political foot, but we’ll continue to support the causes that feel most relevant to us. If we have to keep fighting for women's rights through the lens of our elected officials, we will. And if it has to do more with supporting women but doesn’t necessarily involve a policy issue, we’ll explore that as well.
We are officially making Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence our next partner –sign up now on our website to be first in line for the lipstick. It’s critical that we all help support common sense gun reform and take action now!
XCC: Why do you think beauty and activism go so well together?
Davida: Beauty is so visible and so on the nose. In terms of color cosmetics, a punch of color can make a statement in a way that’s clean and so simple. A lipstick says so much about you and your mood; how much you're speaking out or how much you're blending in. A bold lipstick says a woman is confident and isn’t afraid to make her voice heard. We say things all the time at our office like, “Pucker up and Protest!” You do have to say it. it's symbolic. It's visible. And it's fun. At the end of the day, we want to feel good about our part in the beauty resistance and a lipstick is a perfect way to make a statement.
XCC: Lastly, your recent Label Yourself campaign felt extra relevant. Do you think the importance of labels, both in terms of labeling ourselves as well as other people labeling us has changed with the political climate and social media?
Davida: At the end of the day, I think social media has helped people to come into their labels and enjoy them. Now, we're taking labels that used to be oppressive and saying, “Screw it, I’m going to own this. This is who I am. And I'm going to fully come into it.”