Every major awards show seems to generate an inevitable list of questions: Who won? and Who was snubbed? — but also, What happened on the red carpet? Traditionally, that pre-show ritual is a lineup of inspiration, a place to enjoy the magic that happens when the industry’s best hairstylists and makeup artists create all the beauty moments you see on your feeds. Sometimes, it brings us ideas we can’t wait to copy in our own routines — like inverted eyeliner or a simple updo. Other times, it’s more about the appreciation of a particularly elaborate work of braid or eyeshadow art. Whatever the case, we’ve always had our eyes on the carpet in anticipation of the night’s beauty highlights.
But recently, there were a few more things we had in mind as we watched. Given that the conversation surrounding the 2018 Golden Globes was overwhelmingly (and rightly) about addressing the history of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and other industries, it was understandable that the conversation would in turn affect how we discussed every aspect of the show. And that included the red carpet. When actors of all genders announced that they would wear black to the 2018 ceremony as part of a larger initiative driven by the new Time’s Up coalition, we thought about how the beauty looks might play into this conversation, too.
While the black dresses and pins on the Golden Globes carpet this year were an explicit protest against industry-wide sexual harassment, the beauty looks weren’t planned to be part of that coordinating statement. Because of this, we didn’t view any of the makeup and hair looks as pointed commentary — although some noted that the sea of red lips echoed the symbolic red lipstick worn by suffragettes in 1912. But, when you take a step back and consider the carpet as a highly-viewed public stage, it brings another layer of meaning to how celebrities, artists, and hairstylists select their looks for the night. Just consider Zendaya’s eloquent words about proudly wearing her locs at the 2015 Oscars, after Giuliana Rancic made racist remarks about her hair. “My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “To me, locs are a symbol of strength and beauty.” In a broader sense, beauty has always been an element of identity, whether shared or unspoken. This is evident in the way we can embrace our features or express something about ourselves through rituals of makeup and hair — or, in a more dangerous sense, in the way others might problematically police our appearances.