God made women and men. While he made all of them alike – two feet, two eyes, one head – He also gave them the desire to be different, become unique. The concept of decorating their bodies must have been an experience for humans when no clothes existed. There are references that suggest that the humans in medieval era used to stain their lips with berries. For dinner and desires?
Recently, the media, glitterati, the internet…all went gung ho about Mrs. Bachchan’s lips. Opinion polls flooded the market, zoom-ins flashed on prime time and needless to mention, trolls were involved. Some had a good laugh, some thought it was brave and some outrightly upset about the ‘fashion disaster’. Aishwarya Rai Bacchan’s lips had caused a frenzy, like it was supposed to.
There are so many tangents to this happening, or none at all, depending on how you see it. For the normal, bored mortals, it’s just, just, just another thing. So what? Who cares? Or it could be so much. She represents not herself but OUR country. She has absolutely no fashion sense. How could she? Why did she?
For me, it was strange at first. It is no hidden fact that Mrs. Bacchan is an art of God. Some human beings are born beautiful, really beautiful. To see a blotch of purple on a pretty face takes you aback at first. I am no fashion expert but I think a shade of dark pink or a mauve could have certainly made her look perfect. But once you really see her walking down that red carpet, blowing off kisses, you could imagine her telling you in your face – proper is cliche and I am not cliche, at least not today.
Which brings me back to my earlier observation. Us humans have used lip colours for centuries to express ourselves – be it Queen Elizabeth with her white face and red lip stain or George Washington who complemented the lip colour with a powdered wig. Women who wore lip stain in greek empire were assumed to be prostitutes while men and women who wore lip colours in the Roman empire were treated as upper ranks. Queen Elizabeth II commissioned her own lipstick shade to match her coronation robes at the 1952 ceremony. The soft red-blue was dubbed “The Balmoral Lipstick,” named after her Scottish country home. Divas and their lipsticks have often stirred societies. No wonder the purple got us running and wailing all around.
For a global star like ARB, the pressure is immense. Even if her statements say otherwise, of course she is concerned about what people say. But that is exactly why she should do this more often. Her lip colour is not just breaking the internet, but also breaking the standards – the expected – the cliches – the compulsions. May be she does not realise it yet or may be she does. For an average Indian girl, an Aishwarya wearing purple lip colour at Cannes is as good as a Trupti Desai praying at Haji Ali. They’re both breaking norms and making us free – of standards, of acceptability, of being conventional. Decades ago, Sally Ride proved that little girls could be astronauts. Sara Christian became the first Nascar driver. Belle Benchley became the first ‘zoo lady’. Garda Taro became the first woman known to photograph a battle from the front lines and to die covering a war. And there was also a Lucy Stone who was the first woman to keep her last name after marriage. Melba Tolliver, a WABC-TV correspondent, made national headlines when she wore an afro while covering the wedding of Tricia Nixon Cox, daughter of President Richard Nixon. All these women, and many, many more, have made contributions to our empowerment in one way or the other. And we’re not even talking of the Florence Nightingales and Maire Curies of the World. We’re talking of women who have brought changes – embraced the ‘firsts’.
All these women have given the women of today something or the other. The fact that I can work and have no compulsion/ache to get married is a gift given to me by mother. She broke barriers in her own little town and became a role model for me. “Be successful, marriages keep happening”, were her last words to me. Aishwarya has, willingly or not, allowed girls like me to wear bizarre lip colours. Now you may call it a fashion blunder, but I think of it as breaking a stereotype – the more they’re broken, the better it is. All these rules that we live by, they were all made by people (certainly cruel ones) before us. It is important that we take a step ahead, think about why we do what we do. Why is a red lipstick norm and a purple one a disaster? Maybe, just maybe, if Cleopatra and Marilyn Monroe had adorned the lilac instead of crimson. Would we feel the same?
The kind of pressure celebrities deal with, I feel ARB had two choices – stick to the basics, look like an angel out of the sky, smile a here and a there OR create a ruckus. Feel empowered of her own beauty – enjoy being different and disobedient. Whatever it was, I am only hoping that Aishwarya’s purple lipstick at Cannes gave slight happiness to all the rebellious hearts around the world – like it did to mine.