I’m not much for rules and adore a beauty oddity every now and again (Rihanna’s Doobie made my November). But I surprised myself by how much I approved of—no, not just approved of, LOVED— Joan Smalls’ black lip at last night’s Alvin Ailey Opening Night Gala. But exactly how did she pull it off without looking like a witchy schoolgirl? Close analysis (Read: Lots of zooming in, lip biting, and head tilting) revealed there were a few tricks for making this look work.
1. The finish: This shade is the darkest of the dark so matte would have looked severe and dry. And a high sheen would’ve been very “teenager trying too hard.” This midway-point stain is perfection.
2. The rest of her makeup is simple: Perfected and polished skin and brows. A zippy, graphic swipe of electric blue shadow. And “graphic” is key here. Smudgy, smoky shadow would have taken this look to vampire bride territory.
3. She’s a supermodel: Let’s face it. Joan is otherworldly beautiful, but the rest of us can still make the lip work with a little makeup help (see above). Even skin and bold brows are key.
4. The dress: It’s elegant and chic. No lace. No cut-outs. Just gorgeous satin simplicity…there’s a theme.
5. The hair: It’s pin straight and perfectly coiffed. A prim chignon would’ve also worked but anything else more eye-catching (curls, a messy updo) would compete too much with the lipstick.
Now that you know the basics, here are a few black lipsticks to try, if you’re brave enough.