Ahhh...push it! Push some new eyeshadows and lip colors our way, that is. Pioneering female hip-hop duo Salt-N-Pepa (and yes, they are a duo, these days) have partnered with “mass-tige” beauty brand Milani on a ‘90s-inspired makeup collection, a new ode to the era that helped make them household names.
“Throughout their career, Salt-N-Pepa have achieved many notable ‘firsts’—first female rap act to gold and platinum status; first female rap act to win a Grammy Award,” said Evelyn Wang, CMO of Milani Cosmetics. “It’s been a collaboration that celebrates breaking barriers and true confidence. It was only fitting to launch during Black History Month and upcoming Women’s History Month.”
On the subject of history, if it feels like ‘90s nostalgia has taken over in the beauty and fashion industries as of late, it’s because it has been. Among other tributes, in recent years, Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss has partnered with ‘90s juggernauts FUBU and Cross Colours, the latter of which is also currently the subject of a museum exhibition at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Likewise, last year, Will Smith revisited his days as the “Fresh Prince.” And as recently as this month, Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter revived the early 40 Acres Filmworks’ vibe for H&M.
So, what prompted Salt-N-Pepa—also known as Cheryl James and Sandra Denton, respectively—to make their entry into the beauty arena 35 years after they first arrived on the music scene?
“When Milani approached us, it just made sense to me—you know, timeless music, timeless makeup,” said James, adding, “Salt-N-Pepa brought fun, fashion, and femininity to hip hop. The idea of the palettes, the colors being reminiscent of the ‘90s and the 8-Ball jackets—the “Push It” jacket, all coming together...you know, the [CD-inspired] packaging, the shadows being named after songs, the Salt and the Pepa, the night and the day, all in one collection, it was something we didn’t even know we needed.”
The four-piece collection’s packaging captures a ‘90s-era Salt-N-Pepa in the aforementioned jackets, captured by legendary photographer Janet Beekman. The highly pigmented collection includes:
- The Hot, Kool and Vicious Eyeshadow & Highlighter Palette ($19.99): Twelve-shade eye shadow (nine matte / three shimmer) “CD” palette with an illuminating champagne highlighter
- The Very Necessary Eyeshadow & Highlighter Palette ($19.99): Multi-use “CD” palette with 12 bold eye shadows (four soft metallics, two mattes, two bold metallics, two shimmers, one pearlized shimmer, one pearl matte) with a shimmering golden highlighter
- The “Push It” Lip Kit ($11.99): Universally flattering red lip liner and lipstick kit
- The “Shoop” Lip Kit ($11.99): Iconic ‘90s nude lip liner and matte lipstick kit
“I think this collection is an expression of our image and artistry because of the colors—because they are vibrant, because of the style,” said Denton. “With this kind of packaging, it’s a keepsake...It just represents the flavor that Salt-N-Pepa has brought to hip hop.”
That flavor—in addition to the duo’s enduring friendship and tireless grind—made Salt-N-Pepa the first female rap group to achieve platinum status, selling more than 12 million albums to date. But in addition to their fierce, fearless, female energy and indelible place in hip-hop royalty, when asked about the inspiration behind their made-to-mix-and-match makeup collab with Milani, James once again pointed to the era as the answer.
“Colors. Colors, colors, colors—that’s what the ‘90s were all about,” she said, referencing the popularity Salt-N-Pepa then shared with labels like Cross Colours. “Music always takes from the streets, and in the ‘90s, there was a burst of this fashion that involved colors, and this collection is colorful—like the ‘90s!”
“The colors are dramatic, and so is Salt-N-Pepa,” Denton added with a laugh. “It just represents who we are...we have these two amazing palettes that show the opposites that attract. We have the daytime and the nighttime; [the nighttime] is a reflection of the dramatic personality that I do have—very dramatic,” she continues. And like Salt-N-Pepa themselves, “it’s just a good blend and a good mix.”
And in the three-plus decades that they’ve endured (thanks in no small part to their still-loyal fanbase), the hip-hop pioneers—now also moms—aren’t done telling their story, which Denton tells us will soon be captured in a biopic.
“It’s who we are; we are successful, driven women,” says James. “We built an amazing, strong brand, and we’re still here, you know? We’re not a tragic music story; we’re a thriving story of women in hip hop who are fabulous and fierce.”
The limited-edition Milani x Salt-N-Pepa collection is currently available at Ulta.com and milanicosmetics.com, launching in-store at Ulta on March 15. It will also be available at Walgreens, CVS, HEB, and Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada.