Feb 5th, 2017, 11:42 AM

Perfect Pout: Appreciation or Appropriation?

By Moumi Camara
Image credit: Shutterstock
The full and round lip look, once mocked on people of color, is now a trend made famous by Kylie Jenner.

Big fleshy lips aren’t new. Full lips have been mocked and ridiculed on people of color for centuries. Today, the full and round lips look is a trend made famous by celebrities like Kylie Jenner. 

If you don't like it on us, why do you like it on them?

Kylie Jenner, famous (along with her sisters) for the reality TV show "Keeping up with the Kardashians", became hugely popular after her lip enhancement. After few months denying that she had surgery, and claiming her new pout was a result of over-lining her lips, she finally came clean and admitted to lip injections. Since then, full lips are the latest trend. According to data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, lip enhancements are in huge demand.

Jenner also sparked the #KylieJennerChallenge, where teens suck the air out of shot glasses to create the appearance of larger lips. This challenge didn’t sit well for many women of color who naturally have full lips and for years were ridiculed for them. The challenge elicited many comments on social media. Nneoma Okorie (@nnscorner) captioned under an instagram photo "Don’t forget, these are the features they tried to teach you to hate. #KylieJennerChallenge

Kylie Jenner, before and after. Image credit: Instagram. 

New York Fashion Week, February 2016: Mac Cosmetics posted an image of Ugandan model Aamito Lagum and her naturally full lips wearing their new shade “Royal Romance”, a deep shade of blue. All hell broke loose. Some 30,000 abusive and racial comments were posted within four weeks. "This is but one, albeit classic, example of how black beauty and features, unless ‘exotified’ are only viewed as beautiful on white people," wrote Sherida Kuffour wrote in an article, "Black Culture Appropriation is not a Fad".

Ugandan model Aamito Lagum wearing "Royal Romance" blue lipstick. Image credit: Mac Cosmetics.

The Kardashians and Jenners are currently the modern-day examples of acceptable blackness. In Wallace Thurman’s book The Blacker the Berry, he argues that blackness is primitive and uncivilized which makes whiteness the default. "Living in a totally white world…what the white man does is right, and what the black man does is wrong, unless it is precedent by something white man has done.”

During the 18th and 19th centuries, white Europeans and white Americans looked at people of African descent as “culturally and physically unevolved, and ape-like in appearance”. These are the same ‘ape’-like features that, today, many women (not entirely excluding women of color) are trying to emulate.

Kylie Jenner. Image credit: Instagram.

Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Kylie Jenner attract praise and credit for their full lips. On white women, plump lips are regarded as ‘beautiful’. There is an undeniable double standard. While they get praised for their unnatural features, women of color who have these features naturally are deemed as ‘less’ than beautiful. No one is attacking white women for their recent appreciation of plump lips, it's merely the fact that white people are credited for physical features that were for a long time negatively attributed to black people.

All women want is to be feel just as appreciated and beautiful as the next woman, regardless of color.