Feminist writer Chimamanda Adichie is now the face of a drugstore makeup brand

The power of lipstick.
The power of lipstick.
Image: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye
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Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie has taken what may seem like an unusual gig for one of the world’s most popular contemporary feminist voices: representing a drugstore makeup brand.

Adichie has been named the new face of the beauty line, Boots No7, sold in the ubiquitous British drug store chain Boots. In a television ad that will be rolled out Oct 21, Adichie, wears a simple gold dress and walks slowly in a field of tall grass. In a voice over, she explains how she once abstained from makeup and high heels in order to be taken more seriously.

“Then I woke up, and I saw in full color, full confidence again,” she says, as she gazes up at a tree whose leaves have turned bright autumnal colors. “Because the truth is makeup doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s simply makeup. It’s about how I feel when I get it right, what makes me happy when I look in the mirror.”

Adichie, who has said that feminism does not have to be separated from femininity, has distanced herself from public figures like Beyonce whose brand of feminism, according to Adichie, seems to focus too much on men. She said earlier this month, “I don’t think that women should relate everything they do to men. ‘Did he hurt me? Do I forgive him? Did he put a ring on my finger?'”

Yet Adichie’s love of cosmetics also began with a man. In a commencement speech last year at Wellesley College, Adichie described how in her early 20s she began wearing make up to appear older, after a man at a dinner party dismissed her by saying, “You don’t know what you are talking about, you’re a small girl.” Adichie began wearing lipstick and eyeliner, and soon discovered makeup’s “wonderful possibilities for temporary transformation.”

In that same speech, Adichie warned against contorting oneself for the world’s approval. “All over the world, girls are raised to be make themselves likable, to twist themselves into shapes that suit other people. Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it,” she said.

Adichie’s support of the campaign may have less to do with her feelings about lipstick than her opinions on contemporary beauty advertising. In an interview with Vogue UK, she said of the campaign, “Real women are already inspired by other real women, so perhaps beauty advertising needs to get on board.”