Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Case for the Basics: Red Lipstick, Part II

Okay, so the jacket is fug-worthy, but I just had to post this picture of Shohreh Agdashloo - whom Spirit Fingers dubs "The Iranian Catherine Zeta-Jones (without the grandpa-husband)" - to illustrate how red lipstick works for those of us with dark hair and dusky skin. From this picture you can see that the red is a bit on the brownish side - not too dark to wash her out, not too blue so as to clash with the skin tone, and not too orangey so as to age her.

In real life, however, it is difficult to find a very complimentary red lipstick without having to try so many others that, well, aren't. Take it from someone who used to wear her makeup like Robert Smith: You don't want to look like the living dead with red lips of any kind. Nor would you want to look like a cartoon character, a porn star, or a frequent shopper at Hot Topic. (No offense to any cartoon characters, porn stars, and/or Hot Topic shoppers in the audience.)

I stumbled upon the secret to wearing red lipstick not too long after I got my first tube: You have to start with a neutral lip pencil, to outline the natural shape and then fill in the lips completely as a base. Once you do that, it doesn't matter if you put it on with your finger, a brush, or straight from the tube, as long as you use a light touch. Make sure to stay inside the pencil lines and blot after every coat with a tissue, to make the color stick. You don't even have to powder on top of it, unless you want your lips to pucker and hurt after a few minutes.

So, on to the recs:

High end: Seriously, if you want a very good red lipstick, you might as well spend good money for it - which is why I am very (almost insanely) partial to MAC. My current red, in fact, isn't even a real "red" - it's MAC Underworld, which is more of a dark brownish burgundy. Another great high-end option that I've tried is Fresh's Rouge Catalan, which I wore in my last few years of college. And though I've yet to own any lipstick from this brand, I think Nars has a great selection; in fact, I believe that Nars Congo Red and Shanghai Express are the most beautiful red lipsticks, ever, and the matte formulations are the least bit drying. High-end brands are also a good place to look for long-lasting formulations, and Smashbox makes a really nice one in lovely shades of red.

Discount: Of course, if you can't spring for the pricey stuff, your next best bet would be the Sephora Collection - the formulations are just as nice as the others, for less cash. But if your shopping preferences and budget lean more towards the drugstore side of things, you might as well shop judiciously - and stick to the traditional lipsticks rather than the long-wear ones, which tend to be more drying and atrocious in texture. (And, no, I have yet to try out the newer formulations - I'll have to tell you those horror stories later.) For this reason, I love, love, love Maybelline Moisture Extreme - the range of red shades alone is not only impressive, but wildly flattering to any skin tone and mood. (Hello, Toasted Almond and Red Dawn!) The newest versions of Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick are also beautiful - not for nothing does Julianne Moore sport their red shades in the ads, because it does stay creamy and lush for hours. Finally, if you must: The NYC line (in your better drugstores) has a few but fabulous red shades that last as long and stays as nice as the other brands.

Go-withs: Attitude, of course- no use wearing it if you're going to scowl for hours. Also, unless you want to look like a particularly scary office lady, skip the pale matte powder and the harsh black liquid liner all around your eyes. The lips look best with fresh skin - a dewy liquid or mineral foundation would work - and a slightly shimmery blush or bronzer that matches your natural flush. I've also found that neutral but shimmery shadows in the bronze/taupe/champagne range will balance out the lips to avoid the Goth-girl effect. Lashes must also be full but natural; wear falsies if you must, but you'd just be as good to go with a non-fiber-formulated curling/volumizing mascara.

The Case for the Basics: Red Lipstick

So here it is: the long-awaited 100th post. After this, I will post a few lipstick recommendations that have worked for me. Enjoy!

If you want me to explain why I consider red lipstick as a “Basic” - on par with mascara and a good bra - consider the fact that I've been wearing the stuff for more than 15 years now. Consider the fact that, before I discovered that I could wear red lipstick, all I had to practice on were the namby-pamby pinks, mauves, and corals that my Mom used to tote around - which, with my dark hair and tan skin, only made me look more washed-out.

I don't know what started my affair with red, but all I know was that I got my first tube - a “neutral,” true red from Cover Girl that was neither too yellow nor too blue - back when I was in eighth grade, during what I considered to be one of the most confusing moments in my life. Red lipstick with a powdered face and not much eye makeup was as much as I could get away with under my parents' watch - and for good reason, since the red went so well with my complexion and hair color at that time. By ninth grade I had given up my retainers in favor of red lipstick and dangling earrings, which I thought were as good as it got.

Then there was my senior yearbook photo: By this time the lipstick was a brown-based red from Max Factor, worn with pasty foundation and badly-blended neutral eye makeup. I look at that photo and cringe now - man, what I would have given to let Kevyn Aucoin do my makeup - and yet everyone who has seen it can swear that the red lipstick made me look more like a movie star.

For me - then and now - red lips are more than just the usual cliched symbol of sex and power. I don't wear them the way I used to when I was younger, all bright and matte with the winged eyeliner and pale face, but when I do, it's always a reflection of who I am at the moment and how confident and defiant I can be. When I started wearing it I could have been emulating any other lipsticked icon of the day - Bettie Page, Madonna, Robert Smith - and still getting away with being cool. Now, as I get older (and a little closer to 30), the red lipstick makes more of an individual statement on me, even when I don't have to say much of anything.

Case in point: There was a moment last year when I didn't wear any red lipstick because I had people at my church making comments about my makeup and giving unsolicited advice on practically everything I do. (Friends, this is what happens when you are an unmarried Christian woman in your 20s and you find yourself accountable to the wrong parties.) I am glad to let you know, however, that I do not listen to these people any more, thanks to a recent video slide-show presentation which included several shots of me wearing - what else - a lovely dark red lipstick with a bit of shimmer, which made my friends gasp at how good I looked on the jumbo screen.

(Come to think of it, I also tend to go for creamier brownish or berry reds instead of straight-up matte red, or even the glossy pin-up red that I used to wear back in the day.)

The red lipstick isn't just for the first date, but for the rough day at work, the all-day conference, and any occasion that warrants running into people you can't stand for good reason. The red lipstick stands for confidence and competence, for finding yourself and standing your ground. The red lipstick says, “Back off, I'm a grown-up now, and I will not stand for your petty foolishness.”

Edited 3/31: Hello to the folks reading this post from the link on BeautyAddict - and thank you Kristen for the shout-out! Also edited because my math skills have failed me by miscalculating MY OWN AGE to make me look OLDER. For the record, there's no way I could have been in "eighth grade" when I was nine years old!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Domesticity Wednesday: Random Notes

It's the 99th entry, y'all. I'm planning a special entry for the 100th post, which I won't be posting until much, much later (prospective posting date: two weeks from now, once I'm finished with my final projects for this term). Until then, feast yourselves on these bonbons:

- By request: a website for all you Criminal Minds fans. I'm warming up to the show myself (again, Matthew Gray Gubler) and I think it's paired quite nicely with CSI: New York. I'm still technically not watching TV for Lent, though, so please don't ask me for any episode summaries, plot points, or fanwanking.

- Speaking of giving up TV for Lent, it looks as if I've chosen the right time to do so, seeing as some of my favorite and non-favorite shows have been going down the tubes lately. (Oprah, how could you?!?) I'm too chicken to break my fasting for Lost or even this week's American Idol because otherwise that would mean more shoes to throw at my TV, and I don't want to be caught doing the same for the ones that I do like (again, Criminal Minds and CSI:NY) if anything does happen. The only upside I can see is that at least I have more time to get a head start for my class projects, so there you go.

- On the beauty front, I'm currently on the market for a good shampoo. I already have something to take care of my, ahem, dry scalp problems in the meantime, but I'm also looking for a nice shampoo for fine, straight, non-color-treated hair that I can use every day. Recs are appreciated.

- I'm also toying around with the thought of posting excerpts from my novel, either in this blog or a separate Blogger account. It's a risky proposition - what with the copyrighting issues and such - but since I'm getting a little more confident with the way I'm writing I'd be happy to share what I've written so far. Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Case for the Healthy Lunch

Two words: Salade Nicoise.

I didn't use the recipe because I was able to discern some of the basic ingredients on my own. The trick is to use good vegetables - I was able to get potatoes and green beans at the Farmer's Market today for dirt cheap, which promptly went into the making of the salad.

In the meantime, here are the basic steps:

1) Cut the red potatoes into quarters. Snap green string beans in half and remove strings.
2) Add potatoes to salted water and boil for 5-10 minutes. When water starts boiling and/or potatoes begin to cook, dump beans and turn off heat; let cook for another 3-5 minutes. Once beans turn into a deeper shade of green, dump into a colander and rinse with cold water.
3) While potatoes and beans are cooling off, make dressing with red wine vinegar, olive oil, spicy mustard, and black pepper.
4) Transfer veggies in a bowl and mix with dressing.
5) Once veggies are coated with dressing, add 1 (6 oz., drained) can of tuna and toss until tuna is well distributed with dressing.

If you want a more authentic Salade Nicoise, feel free to add a chopped hard boiled egg and some Nicoise olives into the salad, topped with some anchovies. Skip the lettuce if you don't have any or don't want to for any reason.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Case for Averting Your Eyes

With apologies to BeautyAddict, who originally posted about Kimora Lee Simmons' new makeup line: What in the name of all that's good and holy is happening here?

Let's not even start with the cosmetics themselves, the packaging of which already looks heckuva tacky and seems destined for the same clearance bin where Jessica Simpson's Dessert Beauty products now reside. Instead, let us focus our attention to the styling of Kimora herself in this photo, which terrifies me to no end. Not only am I afraid that she will eat me and my first born children, but her eye makeup makes me fearful that I, too, will turn into stone as soon as she fixes her gaze on me.

Come to think of it, Kimora is not the only celebrity in the last month or so who has been styled to resemble a Gorgon:

Also see: Sheryl Crow on the cover of last month's Allure.

Somewhere in the world, there's a makeup artist living on a steady diet of old Hercules movies and Cliffs Notes who actually believes in styling celebrities to look like the cursed monsters that they (probably, allegedly) are. If that's the case, then I should start mailing out copies of Gilgamesh, Ramayana, and Ring of the Nibelung to both Rachel Zoe and Tom Ford. Lord knows those two could use more inspiration right now....

EDITED, March 16: BeautyAddict posted another picture of Kimora on her blog - AIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Which led me to this apropos description of the word "Gorgon" from Ambrose Bierce:

The Gorgon was a maiden bold
Who turned to stone the Greeks of old
That looked upon her awful brow.
We dig them out of ruins now,
And swear that workmanship so bad
Proves all the ancient sculptors mad.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Case Against... Oh, Who am I Kidding?

So I've started watching American Idol again- after two years of recovering from the Hawaii auditions - and I caught the guys' elimination show. Yes, it goes against my TV fast - which means that typing this entry has caused me to skip Criminal Minds (which reminds me: Matthew Gray Gubler!) - but in return I noticed a few things that I considered blogworthy.

- First up: Dang, Chris Daughtry. When I read that this was the guy performing Fuel, I just gave a little shrug - surely he can't be serious, right? But damned if this wasn't the first time I've ever gotten chicken skin from this show since Clay Aiken's first audition. The guy did more than just sell “Hemorrhage,” people - he actually made me realize how good this song really is, and I never liked it the first time it came out. Well played.

- On the other end of the spectrum: David Radford nearly mangled “The Way You Look Tonight” for me. No, really. He's reminding me too much of John Stevens - the voice is there, but the attitude isn't. Also: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is not a song that you sing so you can “have fun”; it's a vicious, gut-wrenching F. U. of a composition, which is why I think Kevin Covais - who I'd think would be a sweetie otherwise - did the opposite of a Chris Daughtry on this one. Gah.

- A confession: I was prepared to hate Sway Penala. Something about him bugged me - I've always felt that if you're a Pinoy on American Idol you probably got there singing a lot of "soulful" ballads, which means it will be hard for you to take a risk on anything else. That was the case with Jasmine Trias, which is why fans in the Philippines love her. But after watching Sway sing “Overjoyed,” I threw that theory out of the window for him. Song choice aside -and I wasn't too happy about that either - it's pretty evident that the guy has a great voice that would be better served if he would try something other than R&B for a change. In fact, I think he would be able to carry off something edgier without losing the sweetness. If he stays, I recommend that he could follow the example of another Pinoy who placed on a talent show - MiG Ayesa from Rock Star: INXS - by singing “Baby I Love Your Way.”

- Speaking of Rock Star: Bucky Covington should've auditioned for that one. Another guy I wanted to hate, except he was more of a meh for doing "The Thunder Rolls." Next week's song, if he stays: “Janie's Got a Gun.” (It would've been “Dream On,” but I could see Chris pulling that one off so much better.)

- Another confession: I like Taylor Hicks. A little too much whooping, but I think he's got this super-cool Joe Cocker vibe that the other boys (save for Chris) could only wish they have. I'm not expecting him to win it, but if he ends up headlining his own show on the Las Vegas Strip, I will be way too glad to pay for the tickets. Next week's song: “With A Little Help from My Friends,” of course. Failing that, “Let's Stay Together” - or, heck, “My Way.”

- Dear Ace Young: The song is called “If You're Not The One.” And unlike “Hemorrhage,” the song is just as cheese-tastic now as it was when I first heard it. Also, if you'd ended the song in falsetto, you would've had more girls text-messaging their hearts out for you. Just saying, Mei. Next week's song: “Cry Me a River.”

- Okay, Elliott Yamin, where did that soulful voice come from? And can you sing a standard next time out, just to show David Radford how it's done? In fact, here's my rec for next week: “Night and Day.”

- Two words for Will Makar: Jersey Boys. Cute, and talented, but needs a less polarizing song. My pick: Unless Frankie Valli becomes a celebrity judge - thus justifying a performance of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You” - I'm suggesting “Kiss From a Rose.”

- And Gedeon McKenney? You're young, you've got your entire career ahead of you - please don't get all Mario on us, 'kay? Next week: “Try a Little Tenderness," to be safe... then "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy," to be risky.

UPDATE, 3/3/2006: So I did miss Sway getting eliminated, but at least David was put out of his misery. Other than that, I'm probably going to stick to these song recommendations. Well, except that I'd then give "Baby I Love Your Way" to Chris, who - like the aforementioned Mr. Ayesa - should be man enough to handle it, and break a few more hearts. This also means I really, really want Kevin to get voted out next week, so no song recs for him. Sorry.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Case for Ash Wednesday

As you can tell from my last entry, I'm about twenty years overdue on giving up TV - or at least TV shows I hate - for Lent. Because, seriously, life really is too short to watch bad television - especially badly written, badly edited, and badly acted television. (Oh, don't look at me like I shouldn't count you, Ms. Gennaula. You too, Mr. & Mrs. Sprinkle.)

And it's about time I went on a TV fast, too, because I've also become exposed to some of the most atrocious offerings that national network and cable television has to offer in the last few months. Consider:

- General Hospital. Oh, why, oh why, did I get myself sucked into this sad dreck? And for that matter, how in the world did I ever find Tyler Christopher attractive? (I can never look at that face ever again knowing that his sad ass used to be married to Eva Longoria. I call it the Scott Foley syndrome.) I used to just keep it on so I can do my homework before Ellen; now I actively go out of my way lest I tempt myself into coming up with various gruesome means to kill off every character. Pathetic.

- The Flavor of Love. I have no reason to watch this at all, until I was at the student center in school the other day and caught the episode where somebody tried to cook a chicken in the microwave. And did they really have to show Flavor Flav treating all these women in this Bachelor rip-off like bargain-basement hoes, up to and including letting them all jump into the Jacuzzi with him? Will there ever be enough brain bleach in this world to help me un-see all of this?

- For that matter, anything else on VH1. Okay, I Love the '80s and I Love the '70s were awesome. The list shows, on the other hand, are not only easily outdated, but are way too tedious to watch. And as for the "Celebreality"... man, between Flavor of Love and My Fair Brady, I really should sue for damages.

- The Ghost Whisperer. This show could have been so much better if it had been Aisha Tyler in the lead. Then again, even Flavor Flav in drag would've made a better lead character than Jennifer Boob Half-wit.

- Jessica Simpson's Pizza Hut commercial. There is nothing to be said about this that Manolo hasn't said better. Except for this: Not seeing this commercial during Dancing with the Stars has only made me enjoy Drew Lachey's victory so much more.