Slice of Life: Red lipstick was the key

At school, I liked using pink for writing and stuff. 

But I also liked wearing blue. It was kind of confusing. Discovering these things about myself and accepting myself for them was very important for me.

I was about 13 years old when I would wear nail polish to school. Other kids were, like, “what the fuck — what is this?” They bounced me for a bit, saying  “you need to see a shrink” and stuff like that.

It was a struggle and a very exhausting process. 

At some point I thought,  “maybe I do need to go to a shrink”. Later I thought, “no, this is the way I am”. But it took me years.

The first time I wore lipstick was at a Gay Pride in Johannesburg. On my way to that Pride — my first ever — I bought this gorgeous red lipstick. I tried it on in the shop and immediately it was like there was some kind of click inside me. I was, like, “yes!” I kept that red lipstick until I got back here to Maputo.

One night, there was some party here and I told my friends I’m going to wear my lipstick. That was 2010 and Mozambique was really not queer-friendly then, so they were, like, “no, you can’t”. But I did it. I put on that red lipstick, looked at myself in the mirror and said:  “Fuck this shit; this is me.”

And you know, I felt so empowered. People were looking at me, like, “oh my God, he is wearing lipstick”. But I thought, “no, I want this”.

I did it because I listened to my heart. That was the moment I really, truly came to accept myself. — Frank Lileza, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Carl Collison
Carl Collison
Carl Collison is a freelance journalist who focuses primarily on covering queer-related issues across Africa

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Seventeen people found dead in East London nightclub

At least 17 young people were found dead at a nightclub in a township in the southern city of East London on Sunday, police said

Gauteng ANC produces solid financials, feather in treasurer Parks Tau’s...

The provincial administration has, however, struggled to pay staff salaries

Rwanda refugees fear extradition from Mozambique

Mozambique and Rwanda’s new deal comes after 19 people ‘agreed’ to return home

Zandile Tshabalala exhibits for the first time in SA with...

Pandering to the art world is no longer a prerequisite for success. Zandile Tshabalala has proved this in the last two years by exhibiting abroad before coming home

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…