Nasty Woman Cosmetics & Lipstick as a Feminist Symbol

Gina Keller is dismantling the patriarchy, one swipe of lipstick at a time. Inspired by the little known feminist history of red lipstick, she founded Nasty Woman Cosmetics,  a brand that sells impeccably high quality lipsticks and glosses while also supporting progressive women in politics. Not content to sit on the sidelines, Gina has built an empowering, sharp, stylish brand dedicated to advancing women's rights. From Cleopatra to Queen Elizabeth I, women throughout history have used a bold red lip shade to distinguish themselves, and now we all can too with Nasty Woman. 

Where did the idea for Nasty Woman come from?

Like many other women in our country after the last election, I was feeling kind of down, but also inspired to do something to offset all of the things that were going on. I had a political science background, and I thought “How can I use this?” I also really love makeup, so I started doing some research online, and I came across this story that really resonated with me. I read about Elizabeth Arden, and how back in the early 20th century when women were protesting for the suffrage movement for the right to vote, they would march down 5th Avenue. And she would stand outside her store and hand out red lipstick to the women. They all would wear it, so you had this huge gang of women all wearing bright red lipstick marching down 5th Avenue for the right to vote. I loved that whole idea and that image, so I said “I’m going to do lipstick.” I love the whole symbolism. I did even more research and I found out women have been using lipstick for centuries as a feminist statement, so I love the story.  

What kind of response have you gotten to Nasty Woman since launching?

We launched last year, and I have gotten an amazing response. Women love the lipstick, and they love the cause. We donate proceeds of our sale to an organization called Emily’s List--they back progressive pro-choice women running for election. That’s how I tied in that feminist movement and women marching for their right to vote. We still need to march for so many other rights today, so we’re donating money for women who are running and seeking election. Women really respond to that, obviously, because women want to empower each other. I feel like right now the women’s movement has this new invigoration, especially women from all backgrounds, and they’re really realizing we need to all work together. I feel like it’s the right time in history. I’ve been meeting people online through my Instagram account who think we’re great, who love this idea. So I’ve had a lot of support.

Why is it important that your business has a social mission, that you’re not just saying stuff, but actually doing stuff?

I feel like it’s so important to put your money where your mouth is right now. There are so many brands out there, and we want to stand out because we’re actually for women, helping women. I just feel like it’s super important. I’ve always been a socially minded person. All of our lipsticks are also cruelty free and responsibly manufactured, so that just ties into our brand being socially minded. I wanted to do something to give back to my community, and if I wasn’t doing that then there was really no point to it. That was the whole thing that motivated me--making a change. So just simply selling lipstick wouldn’t do that on its own.

You donate a portion of your proceeds to Emily's List to support progressive women in politics. Did you consider a lot of different organizations to donate to? What made you specifically decide to go with Emily’s List?

I truly believe the only way we can make significant changes is to be more represented in our government. And this is the way to do that. Without more women in charge and making policy and legislating, nothing’s going to change.

We were recently excited to co-sponsor Emily’s List’s big pre-Oscar brunch. It’s called the Creative Council--Chelsea Handler was a co-chair, along with Padma Lakshmi, Amber Tamblyn, Barbara Boxer. It was just a room full of really amazing women, all whom choose this as their passion right now. They’re putting their careers aside, except for Barbara Boxer of course, and they’re focusing 2018 on flipping the House and the Senate and getting women in the midterm elections. When we have a vice president who says in our lifetime that we’re going to get rid of abortion and Planned Parenthood, we need to step up. Gun control--we’ve had these 70-year-old men in office for so long, we need women in there for gun control, because these men clearly can’t get anything done.

Do you have a muse in your life? Any woman who has shown you the way, come before you, or someone who you look to for strength, inspiration, or as a role model?

That’s a tough one. I have a lot of strong women in my family. My mother and my grandmother were both very strong and empowered women. I look up to Elizabeth Warren and people like Barbara Boxer. You know, there’s so many.

Anything you want to add?

All of our products are cruelty free and vegan. We’re certified by PETA, and we have a partnership with them as well. That was important to me. I’m a huge animal lover--I have rescue dogs--so when I did this journey I said, you know, my cosmetics need to be cruelty free. We were only doing lipsticks at first, but we just came out with a line of gloss. I actually named one of the colors after Rosie the Riveter, who just passed away at the end of January at the age of 96. So our “Raging Rose” lip gloss is named in her honor. We have lip gloss now, we have a makeup bag, and a mug. And we donate from each sale from all the items.

We’re looking forward to an awesome 2018!

Get your Nasty Woman lipstick and learn more about the feminist history behind it here