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Bieber receiving credit for the brown lip frustrated Black and brown women since the look has been popular since the ’90s.
“White women, quick question: What would you do if you couldn’t co-opt Black women and Latina women?” asked Tajia Reed, 33, a beauty content creator from Missouri.
Watching popular trends get criticized as “ghetto” or “ratchet” when Black and brown women do them and then applauded when white women do them is “a rite of passage for Black and brown women,” Reed told BuzzFeed News.
She spoke about the collective experience of Black and Latina moms, aunties, and grandmothers outlining their lips with black and brown lip liner and then using Vaseline or Carmex as a gloss on top.
“We’re talking about a cultural phenomenon of using this lip liner and lip gloss and what we dealt with, the backlash we got in the ’80s and ’90s,” Reed said.
“They’ve done it their whole lives,” she said.
Reed received a lot of criticism from white people in response to her TikTok video. She said she wanted to emphasize that she has no problem with white people doing the look, but she found it off-putting that people were claiming Bieber “discovered” it.
You couldn’t escape seeing brown lip liner in most ’90s R&B music videos, and pretty much every aesthetic from that era has made a comeback recently, mostly spearheaded by Black women.
One woman, in particular, recently made a Fenty lip gloss so popular that it sold out in the UK and other stores around the world. A presenter and creator who goes by Kimberley Possible posted a TikTok video of herself applying the sheer “chocolate” lip gloss from the Fenty Heat range back in August, and the video went viral a month later.
Some response videos stitched with her original TikTok — with people also applying the gloss — have millions of views on their own. Personally, I was influenced too, but I was only able to find the chocolate color from the regular Gloss Bomb range. I reached out to her to discuss the brown lips “trend” and the attention Bieber got.
“The aesthetic of girls of color wearing brown lip gloss and brown lip liner has been around from the dawn of time,” Kimberley Possible told me. “But obviously, we know that when trends happen sometimes, you know the truth gets lost in the trend.”
The comeback of the ‘90s brown lip has been happening for a minute. At the start of this year, one TikToker’s popular video about finding the perfect lip shade became a trend.
“I have a little tip for the girlies. … Your perfect lip shade will be your eyebrow liner, your eyebrow pencil, lining your lip,” creator @yokenzieb says in the TikTok. “Then whatever you use for blush on the middle of your lip and then a gloss.”
Thousands of people of all races created TikTok videos with her audio, showing themselves using mainly black or brown pencils to line their lips and loving the result.
Is it possible that Bieber is just another TikTok-obsessed local who saw someone else apply brown liner on their lips on her For You page and decided to make it her fall look?
Bieber usually sports a natural pink lip look. The brown liner that she has been doing quite often since August is a new look that she seems to be associating with the change of seasons, as she captioned it “the lip combo vibe I’m feeling for fall.” That video now has 15 million views.
I have followed Bieber for years, and I have seen the influence she can have on people. Her recently launched skincare line Rhode sold out right away. A few weeks later, Bieber’s nail artist gave her shiny white nails that were immediately dubbed the “Hailey Bieber glazed nails.” Nail techs everywhere were rubbing shiny powder on their clients’ nails to re-create that look.
By captioning her video with the phrase “brownie glazed lips,” Bieber could’ve wanted to re-create the viral impact the nails trend had, even if she didn’t specifically claim to have invented the trend.
Junibeth, a Latina woman, posted a TikTok that shows screenshots of white women crediting Bieber for the look and uses audio that says, “It made me appreciate white people because only they think of stupid shit like this.”
“A lot of things that not just WOC, but POC, get judged and discriminated for years later become a trend when a white person does it,” Junibeth told BuzzFeed News.
Bieber is part Brazilian on her mother’s side and identifies as a white woman.
“There’s been a lot of people in my comments that disagree about it not being a ‘big deal,’ but it’s not just about the lips,” said Junibeth, who added she’d been called “ghetto” by white people at school for lining her lips this way.
“What makes me upset is when a white-passing Latina, or just in general white person, does something, it becomes a trend,” she said. “Or it gets re-created and renamed.”
Junibeth said that Bieber could’ve simply said that she was re-creating a lip combo made famous by Black and Latina women.
And she’s right. Not only would giving credit have been the right thing to do, but it would probably have prevented all of this backlash from happening in response to an almost one-month-old video.
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