#NoBareLips30: How a Hashtag is Helping Black Women Be Bold in their Beauty

Much of the way Black women encounter beauty revolves around what we should not do. There are few safe havens from the intrusive expectations of appropriate adornment. But in online communities, Black women seize the opportunity to socialize around a love for makeup in ways reject damaging ideals.

With the hashtag #NoBareLips30, Shauntelle Stevenson created a way for Black beauty lovers to find each other and encourage experimentation with lip color. It may seem like a small thing, but for women who've long been told that red lips are for clowns or "prostitutes," the freedom to to choose a look you desire because it's pleasing to you is transformative.
Usually hashtags created to celebrate Black women are overrun by trolls, but #NoBareLips30 is refreshingly free of detractors. For now it remains an authentically safe space. We caught up with Shauntelle to learn more about what she's doing and where she plans to go.

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What is #NoBareLips30?

#NoBareLips30 (NBL) is a lipcolor challenge for women of color currently in its 4th season. It serves as a way to connect women of color and celebrate ourselves. Women who might never connect with one another have done so via this medium. Each season, I develop a calendar that encourages participants to share photos and details of lip products that they love and also to try some new products or concepts that they may have been afraid of trying.

How did you come up with the idea?
The reason behind NBL was simply pushing past fear. It was an attempt to wear makeup I'd purchased but was subconsciously afraid to wear. Afraid that I'd be thought of as obnoxious or crass or loose. Afraid that colors I liked on beige skin would be ugly on me. With that first season of NBL, I wanted to wear bright red lipcolor and dark browns and try new things that Black girls are told we shouldn't wear. I made a post on Instagram about dong a 30-day lipcolor challenge and invited other women of color to join me and they did!

What type of feedback have you received?
In the first season of NBL, there were just under 950 posts on Instagram. I was genuinely excited about that because people actually participated with me. We began the fourth season on December 11, 2015 with 5,155 posts and as of December 16, there were 6,169 posts on Instagram! I have received positive and meaningful feedback. Most of the feedback I get is to tell me that this challenge is important and necessary. Many women have expressed their own fear and trepidation in wearing lipcolor before beginning this challenge but have learned what shades of various colors work for them.
Why do you think Black women have jumped on board? 
I wasn't trying to start some great movement. I wasn't trying to be a voice of Black women. I wasn't trying to advocate for Black beauty. I couldn't have ever planned any of this and I think that's part of why it works so well. It is an organic thing that doesn't feel forced. I think because of the organic feel, women have joined. I think because of the community built and safe space cultivated, women stay. There are several women who have participated from the first day of Season One. With each passing season, more and more women return.

What do you hope to achieve?
Seeing how #NoBareLips30 started, I would have never imagined that this much would be achieved. Pushing past my own fear was my only goal and to see this community that has come of it is sometimes overwhelming. Over the course of this journey, I've learned of new people who share my passion for lip color. But I've also learned a lot about myself. #NoBareLips30 has allowed me to see how much I enjoy being a connector. I want to continue to see the #NoBareLips30 community grow and continue to be a safe space for relationships to be built. With each affirmation that is shared, with every bond formed, my heart swells. I want women of color of every age to embrace their beauty however they choose to express it. I want #NoBareLips30 to be a prominent change agent to that end.

What's next for #NoBareLips30?
I look forward to launching the NBL website as a place where women can regularly check in to find inspiration and tips on their journeys to exploring their beauty. I also want to highlight professionals of color in the beauty industry and Black-owned cosmetics companies. As the NBL community grows, I look to travel and set up meet and greet brunches. In the future, I look to schedule seminars and pop up shops to continue a role as connector. There will definitely be more giveaways, new apparel, and a fresh new season of #NoBareLips30 in 2016.

Photo Courtesy: Shauntelle Stevenson
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