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

Carl Collison
Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa.

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