Cult Status is our series that highlights an iconic item from brands both established and buzz-worthy. In these features, you'll discover the fascinating history of how one extra-special piece exceeded expectations and became a forever product. This time, the focus is on The Lip Bar’s Bawse Lady Lipstick.
One look at the striking creatives and empowering messaging behind , The Lip Bar, an indie Black-owned beauty brand, is enough to recognize they are different — and in the best way possible. For starters, there's their standout Matte Liquid Lipstick in Bawse Lady which is proof that not all reds are created equal. Then there's the heartwarming brand story which started in the kitchen as a personal experiment back in 2012, then entered into the Shark Tank in 2015 met by the harsh criticisms of Mr. Wonderful. And while for some aspiring entrepreneurs, being told you're bound for failure by a business-savvy Shark could be the kiss of death, Melissa Butler, The Lip Bar's founder, let that notion fuel her drive for success. From the bestselling Bawse Lady to an entire beauty collection inclusive of eye, lip, and face products, The Lip Bar emerged in 2015 as an ambitious empire creating — and celebrating — a new standard of beauty.
Butler's vision was to create a line of natural lip colors that swapped traditional chemical ingredients with vegan, cruelty-free alternatives and included a shade range that spanned beyond the once traditional (and limited) shade selections of the past. The result was The Lip Bar, a brand rooted in diversity and inclusivity, with unapologetically real branding representative of every color, shape, and size, and a selection of vibrant, saturated hues that similarly covered the complete spectrum.
As one of the first brands to spotlight the real-world representation of beauty in all forms, The Lip Bar has gained cult following since inception and subsequently caught the attention of mega retailer, Target, marking a huge milestone for any brand — let alone an indie, Black-owned one. And while the striking lineup of electric blues, playful yellows, and bright purple lip pigments definitely catches the eye, it’s their classic all-flattering deep red that has maintained its best-selling status from day one. Here’s why The Lip Bar Matte Liquid Lipstick in Bawse Lady is such a standout.
First, let’s talk numbers. Bawse Lady first launched in 2015 and has since maintained its spot as the brand’s number one bestseller five years in a row. The shade has racked up over 100,000 units sold to date, according to the brand — a hefty feat for any single shade. It flew off the shelves at launch, with one of its first restocks selling out in one day, the brand shares with TZR. "It's the fanfare of it being difficult to get which made it more coveted," Butler tells me. With over 75 Bawse Lady lipsticks sold daily per the brand's projections, the love for this deep red remains, even when standing alongside a sea of statement red lipstick options. To help give perspective of just how expansive that sea is, a quick Amazon search will surface over 2,000 matte red liquid lipstick options. Furthermore, recent press and social media attention spotlighting and celebrating indie black-owned businesses has resulted in The Lip Bar experiencing a 20 percent increase in sales, the brand shares.
Next, let’s talk color. The striking bold red pigment looks unbelievably stunning on everyone who swipes it on. “When I thought about how this color made me feel, I didn’t lean towards the typical nodes to feeling sexy, although it does that as well," Butler shares. "Instead, I used it as an opportunity for women to own their power and be OK with being the bawse." The deep red pigment has blue undertones that beautifully compliment the fairest and darkest of them all, and every possible skin tone in between. The color is rich enough to make a statement lip against any skin tone, but tempered enough to keep it from appearing too dark or too bright.
So what makes this deep red lipstick such a stand out? The answer lies in the meticulous pigmentation and formulation. “Bawse Lady is a deep blue-based red that goes on like a gloss and dries down matte for a long-lasting velvet like finish,” Butler says. The impressive formula is no mistake; it's a result of extensive wear testing and focus groups the brand shares with TZR. "On average, we do 10 focus groups with at least six to 10 people in each. We have them try on the colors to ensure our shades look good on at least four of our six complexion categories." However, Bawse Lady was the exception, she reveals: it truly worked on everyone (you can see the Lip Bar complexion groupings from Ebony to Ivory, here).
It’s a universal red that strikes that hard to find goldilocks ideal, looking “just right” no matter who swipes it on. “It’s the perfect shade of red and always seems to work no matter the season,” media host Kela Walker shares with TZR. It’s the kind of standout red that gets noticed — especially on celebrity fans like Chaka Khan, Keri Hilson and Jordin Sparks, who are all Bawse Lady devotees. “It never fails. Every time I wear it I get a compliment or inquiry about it,” Walker shares.
And unlike other matte liquid lip colors, I can personally attest that Bawse Lady won't dry out your lips. After swiping on the super-saturated rouge shade, my lips looked as glamorous as ever with an even layer of deep red color and a chic matte finish. And they felt surprisingly soft and conditioned — which is no easy feat for someone constantly battling chronically dry, chapped lips. The texture was so impressively pampering I skipped my hourly balm application all together. The color also maintained its even coat without the usual pilling and creasing that typically results from other matte liquid lipsticks after a few hours of wear. “It has great staying power, so I don’t have to reapply all the time,” Walker says.
But the beauty and success of this bestselling lip color is rooted in more than just an impeccable formula and pigment. It stems from a feeling of confidence and empowerment that Butler intended in its creation. “I’ve always thought of red as a power color. And frankly, I feel like a stroke of lip color can give you enough confidence to take on the day, to own the room, to live in your truth,” Butler shares. Take it from a kick-ass female entrepreneur who took a very public "I'm out" and turned it into a globally celebrated beauty empire that is very much "in": that with (or without) a striking Bawse Lady smile, you too can make your dreams a reality.