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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

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

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