Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Beauty: 'We Shouldn't Moralize Makeup'

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

In an interview with Racked, Chimamanda Ngoczi Adichie, author and newly-minted brand ambassador for beauty brand No. 7 gave a wide-ranging interview about beauty standards, the election and why it’s okay to still care about makeup in a world where everything is newly terrible.

Racked’s Cheryl Wischover sat down with Adichie to ostensibly discuss her new role as brand ambassador for the skincare and beauty line. Unsurprisingly, the entire interview is full of the intelligence and warmth and candor you’d expect from an author whose words on feminism moved Beyoncé to action.

On her role as brand ambassador and why she accepted it, she emphasized the fact that women are perfectly capable of caring about both lipstick and serious issue – a valid point that sometimes isn’t made often enough:

But I think in the larger sense I wanted to be part of the message that women who like makeup also have important and serious things that they’re doing in their lives. And that those can co-exist, that women are a multiplicity of things. I think it’s time to really stop that ridiculous idea that somehow if you’re a serious woman you can’t and should not care about how you look.


Adiche also acknowledged the double standard associated with intelligent women and their appearance. “I had quickly realized that for a woman to be taken seriously and to be seen as a ‘serious intellectual person’ she couldn’t possibly look as though she cared a lot about her appearance,” she said. “My mother raised us to think of our appearance as a mark of courtesy to other people.”

None of this is news to any of the intelligent women in the world who are capable of speaking about serums and politics in the same breath, but it’s always refreshing to hear this stuff from a public figure. Even more so is Adichie’s take on the “no-makeup” debate that rages quietly in some sectors of the internet, most notably with Alicia Keys, who doesn’t wear makeup, but isn’t against it either.

This is a conversation that I wish we didn’t have to have, but I understand that we have to have it because it’s what’s happening. I just think it’s so weird that women make individual choices and then absolute strangers think they can have all kinds of opinions about them. It’s largely something that happens to women and their appearance.

Makeup and beauty are traditionally feminine concerns and therefore subject to trivialization in the way that more masculine things are not. Being concerned with one’s appearance is frivolous and silly if you’re a woman, but if you’re a man who dares to grow a beard or do something horrible with your hair, we’re less likely to judge negatively – a man’s choice to change his appearance is an adorable fun fact, while a woman’s choice to do so is met with think pieces, vitriol and handwringing.

“Things that are traditionally masculine sort of have this patina of seriousness even when they’re not, in a way that makeup and fashion don’t,” she said. “And I find myself questioning that more and more.”


The entire interview is a delight. Read it here.

Senior Writer, Jezebel

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Mother Of Unicorns

I love makeup. I am horrible at applying it in any fancy way. Some days I wear some, some days I don’t. I don’t care if another woman or man wears it. Though I’ve noticed if a guy is rocking makeup, he always has skills I completely envy.

I like her view on it. We can 100% care about the small things and still give a damn about the world at large. If we only devote ourselves to care about the huge issues I think the weight of the world would crush us. We all need small pleasures in life, it helps us maintain our sanity.