Without meaning to sound shallow, or like I’m dragging women back to the 1940s, there’s a lot to be said for how a slither of red can make you feel.
While the depiction of women in many classic films from the 1940s (as submissive housewives or seductive vamps) is nothing to celebrate, there is something about the screen sirens of that era that really resonates with me. I don't mean their fate of being depicted as "fallen women" or seducing their way to questionable ends, but the way they seemed so strong, exciting and unrepentant.
They weren’t afraid to go against the conventional expectations for women in that era and face society’s judgement. Jean Harlow, Veronica Lake and Mae West all played the role of siren to perfection, and the liberal use of mouth-popping lipstick was very much their calling card. Set against sultry cinematography, it made them stand out – over and above the rest of the cast.
Beyond their striking demeanour, there is something about their spirit that has stayed with me and I like to apply to my working day. Other than being self-possessed and spirited, all these women shared an undeniable fearlessness and ability to stay true to their sense of purpose under extreme pressure, uncertainty and criticism. They were a powerful presence in any situation and had no reservations in speaking up and speaking out. Driven toward achieving their goals (wicked or otherwise), they rejected traditional structures when they didn’t serve them, and did so with style. Their lipstick was their way of signalling to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with, and for these same reasons it is my secret work weapon.
For me, applying an unapologetically bright lipstick is a finishing touch. It helps me compose myself and feel ready for anything. I apply it before all of my meetings because – as the sirens of the past well knew – it draws people’s attention to you, especially your mouth, and more importantly, the words that come out of it.
Rania Robinson is the managing director of Quiet Storm