Ziwe Fumudoh on the Makeup Look Behind Her Viral Live Shows — Interview

I love writing about beauty. I love adding my odd sense of humor to the capitalism that is talking about different lip glosses. Makeup is very important to my weekly show — I have a signature white eyeliner and I use Glossier Cloud Paint in Storm for my cheeks. I’ll use a Bite lipstick in Cognac as a lip liner, and then a gloss. [When I did this shoot] for Allure, I used the Fenty gloss in Hot Chocolit.

My look on the show doesn’t entirely have a concept behind it, but I love Euphoria, and I am deeply influenced by the makeup of Alexa Demie and Barbie Ferreira. I saw Alexa’s character do the white eyeliner, and I was like, “This is a fresh look!” My eyes would kind of shrink, though, so I double-line with black on the bottom for that Disney princess quality. If I look like a doll, that’s my goal.

I find that [makeup, and the consumer culture that accompanies it,] is really laughable. I kind of love approaching beauty that way. I just think that it’s really silly. The idea that I was writing part of my beauty column during a pandemic — I’m like, “Yeah, this mascara makes me feel like I have a camel’s eyelashes.” There’s something about beauty and fashion that doesn’t acknowledge the current climate. I find there’s a commonality between the 1950s American housewife and the 2020s American influencer.

[In my own beauty writing], I try to nod to the fact that beauty is the least of our concerns. Beauty is my escape — it makes me feel better about the world, but it’s so minuscule in greater context. The lip gloss and eyeliner that I wear for my Instagram Lives about hate crimes just add another layer of satire.

But maybe not. I cannot remove beauty from my life. I have to wear makeup because I don’t photograph as well without it. Beauty is part of everything that I do as a woman in entertainment. I use beauty as a character on my show. That’s all I can do. Beauty can be radical, but it can also be really, really shallow. It depends on how you use it.

I like the idea of incorporating beauty into really substantive conversations about blackface and being a white ally. Suddenly, it becomes like a satire of talk shows, where I’m this airheaded host that’s like, “I love makeup! I love fashion!” But I’m having these really in-depth conversations that normally don’t happen on talk shows. Most hosts are like, “What’s your next project? How can we promote it?” as opposed to “How many Black friends do you have? What do you like about Black people qualitatively?” And I’m asking those questions with my intense eyeliner and pigment on my face. I’m trying to contextualize these products that I have and bring them into conversations about race and class and gender. I don’t know if I’m doing it successfully. I’m just saying that nothing exists in a vacuum. I don’t exist in a vacuum, the makeup I wear doesn’t exist in a vacuum, the clothes I wear don’t exist in a vacuum — how can we contextualize this to create a better picture of American culture?

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