Local Black woman photographer Leta Harrison makes Austin history by making red lipstick okay for Black girls.


By L. Smith, Photos courtesy of Leta Harrison

Red’s the color of power. Of love. It dotes and dots and dominates February. The month of love, the month of celebrating Black history, the month during which we love on and amplify Black achievement. There’s history and achievement taking place right here in Austin, at the heart of this red-cloaked month. On Feb. 15, photographer Leta Harrison, of LetaKathryn Photography, becomes the first Black woman to exhibit at the Austin Public Library.

Harrison’s “Black Girls Don’t Wear Red Lipstick”—an exhibit whose title itself is a bold statement worth pondering—showcases a (perhaps) subtle, long-standing sensibility with racial undertones that’s always under the surface of beauty for Black women.

The inspiration for her project stemmed from a conversation with another artist, Kam Franklin.

“[Kam] was talking about her bold sense of style and how people would always tell her to be a little bit more modest,” Harrison shares. “It’s kind of like that thing of Black girls being told not to wear red lipstick.”

Harrison is launches her exhibit to address and challenge the beauty norms of red lipstick with her camera lens and skilled photography in the very month wherein red is embraced in culture, fashion and beauty. By featuring Black women boldly in red lipstick, “Black Girls Don’t Wear Red Lipstick” gets to the heart of an issue for Black women. Exposing a part of beauty culture that’s more than skin-deep.  

From Feb. 15 through April 21, Ms. Harrison’s “Black Girls Don’t Wear Red Lipstick” exhibits Black love. Thus spring boarding us into the idea that Black girls do not have to mute themselves for acceptance. Black girls can feel safe and empowered while wearing red lipstick, and can do so without permission or apology.

“This is a rebellion statement,” Harrison says. “For all the women that I interviewed, we share the same sentiments.”  

“You can absolutely wear red lipstick, and you can do pretty much anything you want.”

Leta Harrison’s exhibit is definitely doing something. It’s making history for the Austin art community. View Harrison’s contribution to Austin’s Black history, the groundbreaking “Black Girls Don’t Wear Red Lipstick” exhibit, at Central Library Gallery, 71 W. Cesar Chavez St. Contact LetaKathryn Photography at  letakathrynphotography@gmail.com.


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