At some point in the mid 2000s, flipping through aspirational glossy teen magazines when teenagers and girls who wanted to be teenagers still read them, an anecdote about Brittany Murphy’s beauty routine became permanently lodged in my brain: she wore Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker lip balm.
As a preteen, I was young enough to think this was cool. A 1990s beauty staple, Lip Smackers was barely a lip balm to begin with; to this day it feels less like a moisturizing product than a tube of confectioners sugar. Something about it being Dr. Pepper flavored (not strawberry or bubblegum, which would hit too close to home) made it feel like a successfully effortless beauty tip despite the ways in which all celebrities strive, in varying insufferable degrees, to appear effortless in a life dominated by full-time stylists, make-up artists, waxers, and more.
So I bought a tube. Actually, I bought several over the course of my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood, most of which melted in the heat of a tote bag or disappeared into the void that is a suburban New Jersey bat mitzvah dance floor. The other flavors were dead to me; I wanted only for Murphy’s Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker. It wasn’t as if (as if!) I was even a Murphy super-fan, though at that age she was less iconic to me as Tai in Clueless than Molly in Uptown Girls. But reading it in a magazine, the name of which I’ve forgotten, felt like a small secret, like a transaction was happening between me and the magazine alone. I had no sense of its popularity, no re-tweets or favs to go off of.
The thing is, Murphy mentioned wearing Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker a lot. It appeared in magazines as one of her staples, right next to Dolce & Gabbana bikinis and cactus juice. “Bonne Bell Lip Smacker in Dr. Pepper,” Murphy said in a 2002 issue of InStyle on what’s in her makeup bag. “I have, like, 800 of those.” “She used Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker,” makeup artist Tricia Sawyer told CNN in 2003 about her beauty routine for the movie Just Married. “It’s a great color and she loves it.” “I’m addicted to... Bonne Bell, Dr Pepper chapstick - it moisturises, smells good and gives a tint to your lips,” she told The Evening Standard in 2005.
She talked about it so much that I sometimes hear women have picked up a tube specifically after reading or hearing Murphy talk about it publicly in their youth. “I’ve used it for more than a decade and it reminds me of Brittany Murphy because she used to use it too (via an episode of MTV’s Diary,”) former Jezebel writer Marie Lodi wrote on her blog. After seeing a photo of a Seventeen magazine spread on the teen mag nostalgia account @thankyouatoosa in which Murphy lists it as her drug store favorite, I reposted it to my Instagram stories. “There’s a whole generation of women who bought Dr. Pepper lip balm after seeing Brittany Murphy recommend it in a magazine,” I wrote. “ME TOO,” my friend Jianna responded. “I know at least 3 other gals this is true for.”
Did Murphy’s love of Dr. Pepper Bonne Bell make you pick up a tube? Or were just a handful of us Inception’d into forever associating her with it?