By Elizabeth Logan. Photos: Courtesy of Elizabeth Logan and Focus Features.
If you've seen Fifty Shades Darker—and I don't blame you if you haven't—you might have noticed it has a lot going on, lipstick-wise. Dakota Johnson, as Anastasia Steele, sports a number of fetching hues, and a red lipstick even becomes a de facto marker when she uses it to draw on Christian's (Jamie Dornan) chest. And everyone, it seems, is talking about it.
Hunter Harris at Vulture rightly pointed out that the lipstick on Christian's chest stays on too well and washes off too easily; Mara Reinstein at Us Weekly used her review to comment that "there are moments in Fifty Shades Darker when you might care more about Anastasia Steele’s lipstick shade than her tortured romance with cold billionaire Christian Grey," and that "Johnson’s bright red lipstick at Christian’s birthday party really is a scene-stealer." When my co-worker's not-cosmetically-inclined mother saw the movie, she commented without prompting on the "pretty lipstick" of the lead actress. While making notes in the theater for my review, I literally wrote down that I wanted to try a plum lip like Steele's (and I also wanted to try Ben Wa balls but that is another story for another time).
Since this was clearly a matter of public interest, I tracked down Evelyne Noraz, Dakota Johnson's makeup artist on this and on next year's Fifty Shades Freed, to find out what products she used. I was not the only person to make this request, apparently, and Noraz posted the information (more on that below) on Instagram (fair enough). Soon, a dozen publications had articles on the Fifty Shades Darker lipstick. I would round them up for you, but Laura June at The Outline already did (fair enough). Reps for MAC Cosmetics told me they've even seen a recent uptick in sales of the specific lip pencil color Anastasia uses.
In perusing the myriad takes on this highly important matter, two things struck me:
1. An alarming lack of "shades" jokes. 2. An even more alarming lack of road testing. Did these products really live up to action Anastasia put them through?
I was legitimately left wondering if they actually looked good, felt good, or stayed on as well as it seemed in the film. Since I have roughly the same coloring as Dakota Johnson and, well, some time on my hands, I decided to put them to the test myself. You. Are. Welcome.
Here's what goes into pulling off Anastasia Steele's Fifty Shades Darker lip look:
- MAC Lip Pencil in Burgundy
- Glossier Generation G Lipstick in Jam
- Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Heathers
The lip liner went on pretty well; lip liner is fun and we should all use it all the time. I can see why people are buying more of it since the movie dropped. This was my first experience with a Glossier lip color. To be honest, I didn't quite get the hype before this, but "Jam" is an admittedly great color with hip, minimalist packaging and branding. I like that it's made in the US, and I like that the company was founded by a woman. Expectations so far: exceeded.
But to truly get in the mindset of the character, I had to put these products to the Anastasia Steele test. First, I made a list of all the non—Christian Grey things Anastasia does:
- Eat quinoa salad
- Eat beet salad
- Read manuscripts
- Book flights
- See her friend
Boring, with shades of basic bitch, but I did them all, and the liner and lipstick stayed on throughout. (Technically I stopped just short of paying for a flight because I'm not going anywhere anytime soon, but overall I found that using a computer does not do much damage to one's makeup.) It was the rare combination that clung to my lips yet somehow also ended up on my fork, my hand, and my keyboard.
Noraz said in an email that she used the liquid lipstick "for the moments through the ball scene when I knew Jamie and Dakota were going to kiss" because it had "staying power," so when I reapplied at the end of the day, I added the liquid lipstick. Then I made a list of all the Christian Grey-related things Anastasia does:
- Have sex
- Get spanked
- Go on a boat
Without going into too much detail, yes, this lipstick will stay on through all of the above. I was, unfortunately, unable to borrow a boat, though.
In the scene I was imitating, the scene where Ana is wearing the products, she and Christian walked into a masked ball and Ana remarks that everyone is staring at them. Christian says something along the lines of, "No, they're staring at you." Mediocre dialogue, but it conveys the point: how a woman is dressed can substantially affect how much attention she gets. Wearing the plum-y shade, I did get attention. Semi-strangers complimented me throughout the day, but every time, I blurted, "it's for a story!" like I couldn't cop to the great extravagance of lipstick.
Wearing a dramatic shade in the company cafeteria felt not wrong, exactly, but inappropriate for the setting. It was like wearing an evening gown to a baseball game, or having a lot of cleavage out at jury duty (then again, my parents met at jury duty, so maybe go for it). I like makeup, but I don't usually go for anything too avant-garde, so there were a few moments that made me insecure, thinking, "do people think I'm asking for attention? Is this weird and desperate?" (As far as romance, let me just say that the lips on your face are not the ones straight men are primarily interested in, or so I'd guess.)
And that, of course, is the true road test. Could I handle being a person wearing a dramatic lip color (a shade darker than my usual), knowing full well I was copying one of the cheesiest movies of the year, perhaps of the decade, and still go about my day? Eventually, yes I could (Nobel Prize, please!). I smiled, said thank you to the compliments, and reminded myself that unlike Anastasia, I don't have to explain myself to my possessive boyfriend; I can do whatever I want. (Also, I am a real person.)
If there's a lesson in the Fifty Shades saga (and...there might not be), it's about owning up to your shit, good and bad. So, should you buy this lipstick because it was in this movie? If you want to. My thoughts here are the same I had at the end of my review: whatever gets you off, girl.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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