LIPSTICK SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS: An interview with Davida Hall by Casey Navarro
One of my first jobs in LA was personal assisting the neighbor of a friend.I had no idea at the time when I started organizing this client’s home office that I would find a lipstick and begin to learn about this client’s warrior daughter, Davida Hall, founder of The Lipstick Lobby. As cool as it was to find notes from celebrities like Oprah and Regis Philbin thanking Dan for their designer eyewear courtesy of Optical Outlook nothing could match my adoration and excitement for my discovery of this company and movement. The Lipstick Lobby not only calls for action but they also deliver and to the causes that matter most right now in Trump’s America. If you’re supposed to put your money where your mouth is than we should all buy one of each of these revved up shades.
100% of net profits from these passionate pouts are donated to the following:
FIRED UP = The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
OUTRAGE = ACLU
KISS MY PINK = Planned Parenthood
IN THE CLEAR = ???
A new shade?! What is it?!
Let’s just ask Davida.
Casey: My first question here before we learn more about The Lipstick Lobby, I would love to hear a little bit about how you got here. I mean it looks like you've been successful in multiple industries but why The Lipstick Lobby? Why combine Beauty and hardcore Activism?
Davida: Yeah good question. I think just given my background professionally and creatively I’m a person in the lifestyle arena where I’m always absorbing information about style and fashion and cosmetics and brands, it’s the world that I've always loved and in the wake of the Trump Administration I felt prompted to think about what can I do? How can I do something using my own skills and background to contribute to what's going on and speak out. And so it sort of was an overnight epiphany, I thought oh people do t-shirts or bumper stickers all that stuff and that's cool. We do some of that too. But the idea of really using your mouth and your lips in a literal way to speak out and speak up, creating this mouthpiece of activism for young Millennials and first time voters-this idea just gelled really naturally. This was also happening around the time of the debate over Planned Parenthood which obviously still ensues today. Affordable Health Care being a hot button issue and Trump’s in office and what can we do? Ok, how about a Pink lipstick since pink tends to be the color associated with women's issues whether that's good or bad but let’s do something simple and tangible to allow young women to speak out for their health care rights. And this idea for The Lipstick Lobby was born in an instant. The idea to create something easy, simple, tangible and powerful right? And visible. That all came together and we put together a lipstick that spoke for our values and proceeds would go back to organizations that are on the ground making the changes we wanted to make. So yeah, that's kind of how it happened. Inspired by Trump, inspired by my own background in the creative production industry, thinking we should meld this consumer brand for good and to do good.
Casey: Yeah! Where were you when the news of Trump winning the election happened? How did you react to that news?
Davida: I feel like I'm more scarred by that one TV viewing than any other event in my life. It was surreal. I was at home with my husband watching the news and watching all the votes coming in and I was exhausted so at one point I said I’m gonna go to bed and by the time I wake up this nightmare will be over. I thought there’s no way (coming from a place like the West Coast in California.) We can't fathom these kind of atrocities. So to wake up the next morning and see the final results-especially after taking my two little kids to the polls and we were voting for Hillary and this was gonna be this watershed moment to experience, for my younger daughter especially and then to have to tell her the next day that our dream didn't come true. It was shocking and upsetting and for sure one of those historic moments we will remember forever.
Casey: Yeah I was in Chicago at the time which was the bluest city in the US so I was also in my little bubble thinking this was gonna be great! And then you went to the march. You went to the first and the second right?
Davida: The women’s march yeah. Yeah the first one just for a short time but the second one we actually had a small presence at the Standard Hotel with our lipstick so that was sort of a nice moment of we've been doing this for a while and we are here with our people. It was so fantastic, we were so embraced. People understood the brand and shared our values. They wanted to buy every lipstick that they can get their hands on. We also had the physical presence of the banner that we took out for the actual march. That was was its own moment of really just joining the ranks of passionate humans that all share your same viewpoints.
Casey: Yes! So like you said earlier, you are a mother of two and you have a little daughter. This summer I taught Science Camp working with kids ages 5-9 years old and I taught one little girl who was being bullied by a little boy that the only way to beat boys like him was to run for office. What are some things that you do with your own daughter to facilitate equality and strength?
Davida: My daughter knew from an early age that we always do things that make sense for us as people not as girls or boys. That works with both kids, if my little boy wants to play with nail polish then sure! There's not a no because of a gender thing or a social thing, if that’s what you want to do that makes sense and I’m going to embrace that and it works on both teams.
Even from how my daughter gets dressed in the morning to sighting simple lessons like Hillary-that was a great moment for them to see, pointing out this strong woman and saying you can be just like her. We definitely read a lot about RBG. My daughter is really into Ruth so we buy a lot of books that reinforce these values and then I also try to live them. You know, mommy’s out at work and doing good things and shaking the world up. When I say goodbye to her in the morning and she goes off to her day and I go to mine, I think she sees that I’m going off to do things that I'm passionate about and I'm going to a place where I'm respected and I work with others where my opinion matters and those are all the fundamentals-women feeling equitable and feeling like they have a place.
Casey: Totally. So you guys have the three shades right now, are there more coming? More partnerships?
Davida: Yeah! So you actually contacted me at a great time where we're just about to start talking to people about our fourth shade.
Davida: Yeah we will have four shades, KISS MY PINK for Planned Parenthood, our deep red OUTRAGE for the ACLU, Our FIRED UP which is this beautiful red orange for the Brady Center to prevent gun violence, speaking out against gun violence and asking for gun reform in our country. And the newest addition called IN THE CLEAR will be our clear vitamin E lip balm. Now we're doing in partnership with Gloria Steinem to support women in the mass incarceration system.
Casey: Oh my gosh! Stooopp. That’s the coolest!
Davida: Oh thank you! I think so too! As a Berkeley girl I feel like I’m living my highest dream at this moment. Yeah so the organization we’re supported is called the UnPrisonProject founded by a dear friend of Gloria’s named Deborah Jiangstein, author of the book called Prison Baby and she goes into these massive prisons to speak to the woman and inspire them and teach them about life outside of the prison walls. Assists them with literacy and mentoring skills and helps them build a meaningful life and helps their children that are left behind when these women go to prison, helping them to build their own lives and their own resources so it's an incredible organization, it’s not hugely widely known but we're hoping that with this work we're putting towards it and Gloria shining a light on it with us that this lip balm can become a symbol of this group of women who were formally really invisible. And what I always tell people you know around feminism there’s this association of a certain type or that feminist’s fight for a certain thing like the abortion issue or some other hot button issues but there so many other ways that women are just in general ignored from society and women behind bars especially are invisible to other women and it is our right to lift up all types of women when they’re struggling with health issues, women struggling in poverty, women struggling from sex trafficking, and women who are in the mass incarceration system are definitely women that we as women need to look after as well.
Casey: Yeah how do you define feminism? Or did you always consider yourself a feminist?
Davida: I never really get too caught up on the term. But I think I've always had a strong sense of what women could do where women belong which was everywhere men were and more. I don't even really love that term, I feel like maybe I'm more of an activist because to me it's women's issues but really these are human decency issues . And I look at my husband and he is a feminist, there couldn’t be a stronger more supportive male and he’s a feminist so it comes in all shapes and forms and for me it’s about living what’s authentic for you and this and what I’m doing right now couldn't feel better and couldn’t feel more right. So whether that’s a feminist title or an activist title or boss lady or whatever I think it’s all good and it’s all lottering up to this idea that women are ready to be heard and seen and I’m for that.
Casey: What are some words you live by? My mantra right now is keep moving forward.
Davida: Oh that’s a good one! Well it’s funny I was listening to the radio this morning, I think
NPR and I'm listening-this is a total digression but I’m gonna tell you anyways. I was listening to this ex cop talking about how his mantra to his team used to be don’t kill anybody today so that they knew as cops their jobs was to save lives not take them which we know there is a lot of bad press on the street for cops right now and I thought wow that’s depressing that we have to remind ourselves don’t kill people or don’t do badly when it should be an inherent place that you're not only thinking don't do the bad thing but you know what? I can do one better, I can actually go and do the good thing. So with that totally unrelated jumping off point, something that’s been sticking in my head is a quote my partner in crime Jill Raynor-Holdcroft told me. She is our Senior Creative Producer and she told me “Activism is my rent for living on this planet” which is a quote by Alice Walker meaning it's the least we could do to be a part of this world or it's the least we can do to help children who are being separated at the border. It’s the least we can do to help reunite families or fight for women who need health services. It's the least we could do. It’s the rent we pay for living on this beautiful earth. So thanks to Jill and Alice Walker that's kind of my mantra right now. And it’s so easy right now because there are so many great groups and organizations and people and companies and brands that are out there. Food companies, consumer packaged goods companies, t-shirts, fashion-everybody is saying we welcome you and your opinion. Beauty brands like the Dove campaign that was so hot a few years ago to a cool company called Wild Fang-everybody is out there doing great work. So it should be relatively easy to join forces with another woman and then find a way to do good it in a way that’s personal and feels good to you.
Casey: And how long as The Lipstick Lobby been around?
Davida: Yeah well we just celebrated our first year so it’s been a little over a year and we created four shades in that time and to think when we really started we started in a very kind of immediate way where we just felt like we had to get out there and speak up in the time of Trump and in the time of the women’s healthcare crisis. And to be honest I wasn’t looking at it so much as where will be in five years? I was really shooting from a place of kind of immediacy and passion and heart and the fact that we have been around for a year where people are saying they like what we're doing-you know we’ve had a couple of celebrity endorsements from Gloria Steinem to Elizabeth Moss to Robin Wright or America Ferrera. And to have a few people out in the world say we like what you're doing keep going. It's been incredibly fulfilling and to have a team around me, it’s certainly not all me but this group of women who every day are challenging me. You know we're coming up with copy for our campaign. Coming up with who’s going to be the face. What issues we should amplify and all these decisions are exciting and exhilarating and I'm really grateful to the team of women around me to help me look good and help this brand grow and thrive.
Casey: Yeah and it looks like with your branding and campaigns diversity is important. Why is that?
Davida: So glad you asked that question- it’s so inherent to the brand that I always forget to speak about it. It’s just it's part and parcel with everything we speak for. When we first got started with KISS MY PINK, I knew immediately that I wanted us to visually be about women, women of color, women of Diversity all speaking together so we did multiple rounds of our lipstick packaging with a really talented artist named Winston Tseng out of New York, he’s a graphic designer and I did a thousand versions of the color of skin if you see the packaging I mean can't obviously depict it all on one package right? But we made sure you could see the diverse color. We made sure you could see that their were mouths that were wide open in a way of speaking out and speaking for justice. With all of our casting and the models and the influencers we worked with it is always critical that we have a wide range of representation which is also important to us internally so when we’re testing a new shade a color that looks good on my skin might not look good on darker skin or whatever it may be so we try our lipstick on a thousand shades of skin tones. And obviously we can't please everyone because people have their own tates of what colors they like to wear but it’s fundamental to us that our colors are flattering and would appeal to a wide range of skin types. And it’s important that our packaging and our brand and our casting feels that it can speak be anyone and everyone. It’s absolutely critical so thank you for bringing that point up!
Casey: Thank you so much for talking with me.
Davida: I appreciate you taking the time! It’s so funny that you work for my dad!
Casey: Well I’ll keep helping him stay organized if you keep doing what you’re doing.