I Tried a Bold Red Lip in the Show Ring. Here’s What Happened.

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Published on June 18, 2018

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et me preface this little editorial number by stating - I am not a ‘red person’. It’s just not my color. As much as I may have wanted it to be - I wore a red sequined dress to my senior prom. That was a mistake, in fact, that whole prom experience was a mistake (I have the obligatory senior prom photos chronicling my unfortunate style decisions to prove it - and haunt me forever). I spent most of my 20’s attempting to channel my grandmother, who was the red equivalent of your quintessential purple lady. And now, here I sit at the ripe old age of 33 (I know, I know), confidently admitting that the classic crimson hue is simply not for me. I’ve given up. I’ve accepted defeat.


Photo by Tyler Riberio

However, through my years of failed attempts, I have come to understand the raw power of red in clothing, in design, in art, and in beauty. If you want to be noticed, if you want to stand out, if you want to make a statement - you go red. And you don’t need much, a little red goes a long way.

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One of my all-time favorite photographers, the master of high society imagery - Mr. Slim Aarons - also understood the purpose of the color red as means to create interest, intrigue, and sass. A quick google search through his massive body of work will reveal a splash of red in just about every single photograph. Take his work titled ‘Pink Accessory’ featuring film star Joan Collins in a pink bedroom, accessorized by a pink poodle no less. The first thing your eye is drawn to in this photograph is not the pastel pink walls, the rose-tinted headboard, the bubblegum pink telephone, or the cotton candy velvet pillows. Heck, you don’t even notice the pink poodle upon first glance. Instead, your eye is drawn to the only microscopic dash of the bold, strong, look-at-me-now color...a bright red lip. All I can say is, hot damn, he was good.

"If you want to be noticed, if you want to stand out, if you want to make a statement - you go red"

So, again. I am not personally a red person, however much I may appreciate the hue. You will not find me in a head-to-toe monochromatic red ensemble anytime soon. But a quick scan through my house, my makeup drawer, and my closet may reveal a select few crimson pieces. Everything in moderation is key when it comes to this iconic color. A floral arrangement, a vintage American flag, a killer saloon-style ball gown skirt thing, plenty of red nail polishes and some tried and true red lipsticks. I feel like I’ve tried them all, but I know that’s not the case. In my makeup drawer, I have a nice assortment of YSL, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Dior and others all stowed away in my never-ending quest to unearth that perfect red that just might make me a ‘red person’ after all.

Years ago, I came across an image of this beautiful woman wearing a bright red bold lip in the jumper ring. I was immediately inspired. It was one of those typical ‘look at her, if she can, maybe I can’ beauty moments where, in the heat of it all, you gain an unwavering sense of confidence that ‘yes girl, you can totally pull that off.’  


Photo by Tyler Riberio

When I self-assigned this unconventional topic and subsequently gained approval from our editor, I dug through the aforementioned ever-expanding drawer of makeup items commonly purchased but not commonly used. It’s the type of drawer that houses my bronzers (no, I cannot recall the last time I used the bronzer), my kohl eyeliner (bought on a whim for a party), my glitter shadow (see prior explanation), Sephora rewards samples, and a wide assortment of red lip colors. I preselected which unexpecting horse show would be subjected to my little experiment, warning my barn mates in advance of what I would be trying out, so as to mitigate the questions and obligatory teasing. An effort that went somewhat wasted, as the one-liners still poured in. Long story short, barn mates can be brutal. 

For the day of, I brought with me a lip liner, a lipstick, and two glosses. along with some makeup remover and a q-tip, just in case things took a turn for the worse. The key to successfully achieving a red lip is in the application (or so they say).

So, I channeled that beautiful jumper girl I found on Pinterest years ago and tried a bold red lip in the show ring. And here’s what happened: yes, I worried about it during warm up and spent a bit too much time focusing on NOT licking my lips, while I should have been focusing on prepping the damn horse. But that aside, the red lip worked wonders as an intimidation tool. Wait, back up. Perhaps no none was actually intimidated by my red lipstick, so let’s call it a distraction tool instead. I definitely distracted some horse show citizens: my barn mates, the juniors warming up, the guy at the in-gate (insert eye roll). He even softly muttered under his breath to my trainer ‘did you see she’s wearing red lipstick?’ For which she turned and looked at him with a ‘no shit, Sherlock, I just spent the last 15 minutes warming her up’ glare.

"...it can be a playful, empowering choice in the jumper ring - if you’re feeling brave."

When it comes to cons, I typically make some interesting faces while riding. Those interesting faces are further highlighted when your lips are a blaring shade of red. I’m typically photographed talking to the horse (it’s either whoa or go, the guy is void of any consistency in pace), kissing at him, or my favorite - the expression of concentration where I fold my lips in, closely mimicking a frog. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly elated over many of the photos in the photography trailer that evening. But when I wasn’t speaking to my mount, or performing any of the non-flattering expressions mentioned above - when the horse and jump were tolerable and the heavens were parting and the stars aligning - then holy smokes! Those professional show photos were epic, emphasized by the bold splash of color. And I looked très chic, like someone fit for a magazine. I gave the red lip in the ring another run during day 2 of the show. When Day 3 rolled around, everyone asked ‘red lips again today?’ for which I replied with a firm ‘nope.’ But that doesn’t mean I won’t give it another go.

Is it practical? No, probably not - and I wouldn’t advise such a choice in the hunter or equitation ring, lest you encounter the wrath of outraged judges and likely a very irritated trainer. Yet it can be a playful, empowering choice in the jumper ring - if you’re feeling brave. And who knows? Perhaps I am becoming a ‘red person’ after all. As Elizabeth Taylor once famously said, ‘Pour yourself a drink, put on lipstick, and pull yourself together.” I simply recommend adding “hop on that horse and kick some ass” to the end of that statement.

Favorite Reds:

Chanel Rouge Coco Ultra Hydrating Lip Colour in 444 Gabrielle, $37

Estee Lauder by Violette Pure Color Envy Paint-On Liquid Lip in Poppy Sauvage, $28

YSL Vinyl Cream Lip Stain in 416 Psychedelic Chili, $36