Salt-N-Pepa is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and influential hip hop groups of all time. From their bold red lips and asymmetrical haircuts, to their unapologetic embracing of their sexuality and insistence on talking about AIDS when no one else wanted to address it (though it was rampant in our community), they were part of a movement that shaped the ’90s.
Now, indie beauty brand Milani Cosmetics, which has been known for being rooted in inclusivity, is recapturing their essence with a collection celebrating the group’s unforgettable style.
“Makeup has always been a form of self-expression for us,” said Sandra “Pepa” Denton. “I love to experiment and play with different looks and have been a long-time Milani makeup user. My mother and sisters also use the brand so this partnership took things full circle.”
“Milani’s message of diversity and inclusivity really resonated with us,” Cheryl “Salt” James shared. “It was extremely important for us to create products that represent us and are accessible to our fan base.”
The Salt-N-Pepa x Milani collaboration comes at a time when 90s style is on trend in fashion, beauty, TV, and other forms of entertainment. It includes two fun CD-shaped palettes for eyes and face, matte lipsticks, and lipliner named after some of their biggest hits such as “Push It” and “Shoop.” But if you’re not old enough to remember CDs, then you might not realize that the group was at the forefront of a women’s liberation movement of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Fortunately though, you’re benefitting from it.
It was a revolution that moved the needle on sexual freedom, freedom of creativity, and the right to essentially ‘do you’ (their version was simply ‘express yourself’) in a time when women were just getting a seat at many professional tables, including the beauty industry. Black women were still fighting to be seen, heard and considered enough, and most beauty brands still weren’t catering to our needs. It’s how female rappers and public figures like Salt-N-Pepa created the styles that are being mimicked today.
“Companies are taking women of color into consideration now,” said Salt. “We are consumers, and they realize that they have to have a diverse array of options for us because there weren’t that many options for women of color before.”
“When I look at photos from the ’90s I think about how we have glam teams now, and we didn’t back then. It was us doing our own makeup, and coming up with our own hairstyles, coming up with our own fashion statements, and it was so original and authentic. And I think that’s what makes the artists from the ’90s trailblazers. It’s what makes us last and what makes us memorable,” she continued.
“I was wearing red lipstick then, we have the red ‘Push It’ lipstick now. This was our look, our makeup, our style that we created.” added Pepa. “We were just before our time.”
For the ladies, the ’90s isn’t a trend. The era will always be in them. And rightfully so, as it was a time when hip hop began to become more mainstream, influencing culture that expanded beyond music. Creatives in 2020 are still pulling inspiration and references from Salt-N-Pepa’s contribution, ensuring that their legacy live on in generations to come.
“I love the nineties. I love the style. The ’90s is going to always be a part of me and I’m happy that it’s still kind of here ‘cause I’ve still got stuff in my closet,” Pepa joked. “I’m happy that it’s still a reminder of the future for our children, what it represented then, and how everybody gravitates to it now, still pushing the style.”
“Everything comes back better and more up to date,” Salt concluded. “We’re expressing ourselves through this makeup line as Salt-N-Pepa [forever] bringing fun, fashion and femininity to hip hop.”