Black-Owned Beauty Month, Day 8: Black Girls Have That Certain... Je Ne Sais Quoi

A red statement lip and a cateye? Instant classic.
A red statement lip and a cateye? Instant classic.
Photo: Maiysha Kai

If you didn’t already guess from Thursday’s video diary, I’m a classic movie buff. No, really; I’m the type of avid cinephile who regularly contemplates taking a Turner Classic Movies cruise (and cruises have never been on my bucket list). But chief among my favorite classics are musicals (maybe because I’m also a musician); they never disappoint when it comes to the fantastical mix of song, dance, and mind-blowing glamour.


Don’t believe me? Tell me Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones—or Lena Horne in absolutely every single scene of Stormy Weather—aren’t the epitome of glamour. If you haven’t checked those out, please do so and get back to me, but even the Emerald City scene in the now 40-year-old classic The Wiz is a dynamic display designed to make us all drool over the incomparable glamour of black beauty.

Since the 2019 Academy Awards ceremony is steadily approaching, I’ve recently found myself sucked back into TCM’s annual 31 Days of Oscar. Among the nonstop and cleverly categorized array of film classics broadcast this past week was An American in Paris, one of my all-time favorite musicals (albeit a non-black one—though Gene Kelly’s dancing makes that debatable).

Watching this widely-beloved classic, it once again occurred to me that in both discussions of classic film glamour and “French girl beauty,” black women are almost always excluded from the conversation—an omission that is often deliberate, but just as often assumed. And yet, black women have always been part of both of those realms (and several in both, if you consider American ex-pats Josephine Baker, Nina Simone and Grace Jones.)

With that in mind, on Friday I filmed my own tribute to the timeless chic of French beauty, pairing a classically drawn cat-eye (using Fenty Beauty’s ultra-black, ultra-precise Flyliner; $20) with a pouty, coral-red lip, provided by Pat McGrath Labs’ “Obsessed!” MatteTrance lipstick ($38 for a full tube; $25 as part of her Mini MatteTrance set in Reds). And because no matter how perfectly pouty, every French girl should be capable of joie de vivre, I added a healthy flush with Fenty’s MatchStix Shimmer Stix in Ridiiic ($25). (The beauty mark is mine, lightly emphasized with a blotted dab of Flyliner.)

While some may argue my café au lait complexion makes this classic French look easier to mimic, I’d counter that the long and storied history of blackness abroad means French girl style is ours to claim across the spectrum. Because France is a place—and chic is not a skin color.

On another note, after all the makeup madness of Week One of our Black-Owned Beauty Month challenge (and much more to come), we’re ready to explore some new products that will take us below the surface. On Friday, we received the skin and haircare goodies from Marjani Beauty and Oyin Handmade we ordered at the start of the month—so we’re kicking off Week Two with an emphasis on the fundamentals: cleansing, hydrating, moisturizing and more.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?


Thotline Bling: black girl supremacy

i love this look! you look so old Hollywood glamour. but i wonder if this could just be a daily look for me w/a bit of tinted moisturizer?

you know how i feel about a red lip! i just need to learn to master that wing. i bought one of those “winged liner” stamps from amazon. LOL! my results weren’t that great.

but it seems like the flyliner is designed to help w/the wing? b/c i have no skills but i used it once and still got compliments. i just need to practice and perfect.

Excited to see the cleansing, hydrating, etc. essentials posts you have coming up.