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Beauty’s Best-Seller Was Born In Africa

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Lipsticks were first produced in Africa and today they are the indispensable beauty item for women around the world. In fact, lipstick is the best-selling beauty product of all time. Face to Face Africa says the first record of black lipstick use was 4000BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Lipstick was first used to protect lips from the elements—and men and women applied it. In those days, women mixed scented oils with flowers to add color.

“Sometimes, women scrubbed their lips with mud and crushed stones to make them soft and smooth and applied honey to sweeten the lips. This made them sexually appealing,” according to Face to Face Africa.

Egyptians and Sumerians, as well as Mesopotamians, had strong social, historical, trade and commercial links so they picked up on each other’s social norms and behaviors. Egyptians exhibited great interest and love for lipstick, turning production into an art form and improving it with time. In Egypt, both men and women wore lipstick and it was considered a status symbol and it was worn by the royalty and rich merchants alike. The first lipstick formulas contained red dye derived from seaweed, iodine and bromine mannite. The mixture, although beautiful, were poisonous and led to the term, “Kiss of Death.”

Still, Egypt became the lipstick manufacturing center of the ancient world. Red, purple, black and blue-black were very popular shades, but the No. 1 color was carmine, which was (and is) extracted from the cochineal insect. Egyptians made their lipstick shimmer by mixing it with ground gemstones. To achieve purple shades, they mixed purple extracts from seaweeds or crushed beetles with scented oils and waxes. They crushed bugs to create the crimson color adding crushed gemstones and white lead for a shimmering effect. It is said that Cleopatra made her own lipstick, using flowers, red ocher, fish scale, crushed ants and carmine in a beeswax base. Her signature shade, like for so many women, was red. In time, lipstick went out of fashion. The Catholic church banned lipstick, which it associated with prostitutes. Efforts to prevent the beauty product from becoming mainstream have obviously failed because today lipstick is the best-selling beauty accessory and is found in nearly every woman’s handbag.


With more than 3,000 tribes, Africa is rich in cultures, traditions, languages and perceptions of beauty. What constitutes beauty and indeed, beauty trends and ideals, varies. Blogger Najla Kaddour notes tribal makeup is a key facet of the culture. Makeup, usually in the form of face paint, is used for very different ceremonies that have very different social significance such as hunting, religious and traditional or military rituals. Face paints also function as social markers, to distinguish boys from men, men from older men, men from women and tribal members from outsiders. Face painting also signifies status.

Well-known tribes across Africa include the Zulus of South Africa, Lesotho and Zimbabwe; the Maasai, from Kenya and Tanzania; the Khoi San of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa; and the Yoruba of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo. Other tribes include the Xhosa of South Africa; the Hausa from Niger, Gabon, Burkina Faso and Cameroon; the Himba of Angola and Namibia; the Borana Oromo from Ethiopia and Kenya; the Kalenjin of Kenya; the Chaga of Tanzania; and the Fulani of Nigeria, Guinea, Sudan and Senegal. Color plays a very significant role, not only in facial paints, but in their lives in general. The Ndebeles of South Africa are well known for their colorful beans and house paintings and designs. The Maasai are renowned for their colorful dress and designs and with red featuring very strongly in the dress code and the facial paints.

Clays of different colors, together with some dried plants and flowers, are the more popular ingredients used to make face paint. The colors all carry special meaning. Black is usually associated with power, evil, death and mystery, while gray usually infers security, authority, maturity and stability. Purple normally stands for royalty, luxury, wisdom and passion, while yellow represents joy, energy and warmth. Red stands for danger, daring, urgency and energy while blue denotes peace, calmness, confidence and affection. Green symbolizes life, growth, freshness and healing, and white means hope, purity and light.

Tribal symbols are the visual keys that have meaning to people and communities that share a common heritage around a given symbol. In Africa, many tribal families use symbols to tell stories, provide information and impart lessons. These symbols are sacred and are very often used in ceremonial and religious occasions.

Symbols are incorporated into and featured strongly in face painting, fabrics, pottery, and interior and exterior wall designs. The Ashanti of Ghana have a special fabric called Kente cloth which has yellow and gold designs in reference to its old nickname, Gold Coast. Tribal art differs and depends on the person’s rank in society. A person of a higher rank may have a more elaborate and more complicated face makeup. A person may start with basic tribal face paint (or tattoos) and as they rise through the ranks, more symbols are added to match achievements and rank.


The Fulani women, who belong to one of the nomadic cow-herding tribes of West Africa, have black paint tattooed around their mouths, almost in the form of a permanent black lipstick. The tattoos are a symbol of beauty and courage for Fulani women. During the “Tchoodi” ceremony, women perform rituals as a cultural rite of passage and a sign that a girl has reached puberty. The distinctive black lip tattoos make the young woman or girl more attractive to Fula men.

Blogger Lilia Leung describes the week-long Guérewol ceremony of the nomadic Tuareg and the Wodaabe tribes. This week-long courting ritual takes place at West African gathering points in September, the end of the rainy season. The Fulani are traditionally cattle-herders and traders in the Sahel region where they move from pasture to pasture as the seasons change. Today, much of the population is in Niger, though Fulani also live in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic. Usually, Wodaabe clans and families live in the desert in isolation, but for a week in September, Woodabe clans gather for the Guérewol festivities at a location that is only disclosed a few days before the event.

The Woodabe are polygamous. Both men and women have sexual freedom and are free to pursue new partners. It’s very common for both men and women to have multiple marriages, and a person’s first marriage is arranged by their parents. Guérewol is an opportunity for the individual to seek a second marriage partner based on love. The main event of the Guérewol is a beauty pageant where the men are the participants. Physical beauty is regarded very highly by Woodabe people and they have strict criteria for what they consider to be beautiful, including height, white teeth and eyes, a well-defined nose, and good posture. In preparation for the pageant, the young men take their time, in a painstaking effort, sometimes up to six hours, to apply makeup and accessories that accentuate their physical features and beauty. They paint their faces in bright red, yellow and white clays, and add black eyeliner and black lipstick to highlight and outline their eyes and lips. Traditional dress show off the physique.

As the pageant begins, young Woodabe men perform the Yaake, a customary song and dance as a group, to impress the young women. Winners are selected by three female judges, but the men know that every single young woman in the audience is also a judge. The victors are hailed among the Woodabe clans and may choose a partner. With the pageant complete, the remainder of the week is spent in clan meetings, marriage negotiations and other social events.

From antiquity to today, color will always play a key role in African culture. For more on color, see “The Psychology of Color” on Happi.com.


Raymond Chimhandamba
Handas Consulting

Raymond Chimhandamba is founder and director of Handas Consulting (Pty) Ltd. He has 20 years’ experience in the FMCG sector in Africa region and experience in launching and building FMCG cosmetic and personal care brands in Africa. Chimhandamba is an internationally published FMCG expert and a thought leader in the hygiene sector in Africa, an international speaker and a mobile tech enthusiast. He is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Contact him at ray@raychimhandamba.com



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The Second Act Of Beauty Mogul Bobbi Brown | NBC News Now

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NBC News’ Stephanie Ruhle sat down with beauty mogul Bobbi Brown to discuss why she chose to leave the company that bears her name to start an entirely new brand.
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‘My Fair Lady’ in Syracuse offers power and beauty, star says

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Laird Mackintosh regards the part of Professor Henry Higgins in the classic Lerner & Lowe musical “My Fair Lady” as one of “the Mount Everest roles in the repertory of a singing actor.”

And yet most people familiar with the 1964 movie featuring actor Rex Harrison in the part may remember the character sort of talking his way through a big chunk of the songs.

But that’s part of the challenge and the achievement of the role, said Mackintosh, the Canadian actor who steps into Higgins shoes in a new Broadway in Syracuse presentation of “My Fair Lady” at the downtown Landmark Theatre from Dec. 10 to 13. (Details below).

The “speak-singing” role was written for Harrison, who originated it on stage but was best known as a dramatic actor at the time. He uses the technique in such songs as “Why Can’t the English?” and “I’m An Ordinary Man.”

“Because it was written in that speak-sing, it’s written in a narrow range,” Mackintosh said during a break from rehearsal at the Landmark last week. “So it really doesn’t benefit you to sing the entire thing because you can get more range in some of the speaking notes than in the singing notes.

“So I do speak-sing a lot of it and it just comes out better that way.” he said. “It was intended to be done that way. And we found there’s more life in it if it’s performed that way.”

Still, he said, Higgins’ role is not all talk. He illustrates that during an interview with a few lines from the song “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”

“There are some beautiful melodies he (Higgins) gets to sing and I do sing them,” he said.

This production of “My Fair Lady” is part of a national tour from New York City’s Lincoln Center Theater, and presented locally by Famous Artists through its Broadway in Syracuse series. The production started on Broadway in 2018.

Actor Laird Mackintosh plays Professor Henry Higgin in the Broadway in Syracuse production of “My Fair Lady” at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse Dec. 10-13, 2019.

Mackintosh made his Broadway debut playing Mr, Banks in Mary Poppins in 2011, and also performed in Broadway productions of “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Jekyll & Hyde.” The Syracuse performance is his first time in the Henry Higgins role, though he played supporting character Freddy Eynsford-Hill about 20 years ago in Canada.

He said he’s well prepared for a lead role in “My Fair Lady.”

When he was growing up in Calgary, Alberta, his father had just two musical theater recordings — one cast recording of “South Pacific” and another of “My Fair Lady,” with Harrison and Julie Andrews.

“I’ve really had the show memorized from the time I was 12 years old,” he said.

He notes that for much of the show Higgins is a pretty disagreeable character. The plot centers on a London professor who boasts (and bets) he can turn an ordinary flower girl (Eliza Doolittle) into a posh woman — in large part by teaching her to speak better English and behave like a “proper lady.”

It’s a take on the male-female relationship that could seem dated to some modern audiences.

But Mackintosh thinks the strength of the writing takes care of that. “My Fair Lady” was written by Alan Jay Lerner, with music by Frederick Lowe, and based on a 1913 play called “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw. The original Broadway musical version debuted in 1956.

“The character (Higgins) does say some pretty terrible things about Eliza,” Mackintosh said. “But if you remove any of that you take out the power of the argument and the power of the show.”

Mackintosh and the cast and crew have spent more than a week in Syracuse preparing for the show, much of it in the Landmark, which says has a beauty to match that of the show’s costumes, sets and musical score..

“It’s as good as it gets to be able to rehearse in that kind of space, to do shows in a theater like that,” he said. “I’m so grateful it’s here, that the city was able to preserve that theater. It’s a dream to perform here.”

SHOW DETAILS

What: “My Fair Lady,” the national touring production from New York City’s Lincoln Center Theater, presented locally by Famous Artists through its Broadway in Syracuse series.

Where: Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St., Syracuse.

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 11, 12 and 13.

Tickets and info

Don Cazentre writes for NYup.com, syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. Reach him at dcazentre@nyup.com, or follow him at NYup.com, on Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks for visiting Syracuse.com. Quality local journalism has never been more important, and your subscription matters. Not a subscriber yet? Please consider supporting our work.





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Thriftmas Day 6 | Styling Thrifted 2020 Trends & Mixing Them!

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