“Bardot was the creature of the fifties. She prepared the way for the sixties and made the sixties alluring rather than just ugly. Her lips made Mick Jagger’s lips possible.”
These words were written by Diana Vreeland, the legendarily eccentric fashion eminence, in her book Allure. As with all Vreeland utterances—she also declared that “pink is the Navy-blue of India”—this gem is simultaneously totally batty and wildly accurate. Without Bardot we might well have looked at Mr. Jagger, back in the early ’60s, and said, “Too soon, young man. Go away. We are not yet ready for you and your big smackers.”
If B.B. made M.J.’s lips possible (and I think it’s now settled that she did), then who made Jackie Stallone’s lips possible? Was it Angelina Jolie?
A lady bearing a more than passing resemblance to Ma Stallone recently showed up at the premiere of Sly’s movie The Expendables 2 looking spry and glamorous … and staggeringly, shockingly be-lipped beyond belief. The press leapt all over it: What has she done to her lips, now? was the general gist.
Here’s where things get a little confusing. Bear with me, and I will attempt to clarify the situation.
Turns out, the lady in the red-carpet pics was misidentified. She’s not Jackie Stallone, and is actually named Ivone Weldon. (Her son worked on the movie.) In other words, there is more than one person on Earth who looks like that. And this surreal game of cherchez la bouche got me thinking: How did we get to the point where such ferociously plumped trout-pouts have become a common sight?
Let’s take a trip down lip-memory lane and see if there is a through-line. The story of the 20th century is one of increasing comfort (and fascination) with large lips.
Nina Simone had lovely lips and had them since 1933. Since Bardot was born in 1934, then I think we have to give it up to Nina. So, the beautiful lip baton was passed from Nina to Brigitte, and then from Brigitte to Mick. If Brigitte made Mick’s lips possible, than whose lips did Mick enable? The answer is quite obvious: The lips of his wife, Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias.
In the early 1970s, the luscious-lipped Mrs. Jagger was frequently and justifiably referred to as the most beautiful woman in the world. (She is now an activist and rabid supporter of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks impresario.) Bianca’s was the face that launched a thousand lips in the days of Studio 54. I can’t help feeling that David Johansen, the lipsticked glam-rock lead singer of the New York Dolls, also played a role.
The late ’70s brought us the graphic beauty of Grace Jones’ beautiful shrieking maw. But then the baton was briefly dropped and things went a bit wimpy and thin-lipped: for reference see Cheryl Tiegs and Madonna. We had to go back to Bardot’s homeland to rediscover the beauty of larger lips. In 1986 Béatrice Dalle’s levres engulfed the screen in Betty Blue and the larger lip was totally back, paving the way for Julia Roberts and Steven Tyler … and more.
Which brings us to the era of the supermodel. Enter Naomi Campbell, the owner of the most naturally beautiful lips of all time. In the history of the lip, we had reached the apex of perfection.
And then came Angelina … and all hell broke loose.
Angelina Jolie’s shockingly sensual mouth eclipsed the Béatrices and Biancas and raised the bouche-bar to a new and irresistible level, However, by the time La Jolie became the woman every gal wanted to look like, cosmetic lip-enhancement was readily available. The natural beauty of the Jolie lips—I’m assuming they are God-given since they look the same now as they did in Gia—gradually got lost in a mire of copy-catting, confusion and collagen. Cosmetic fakery, combined with a rabid desire to look like Angelina, pitched women headlong into the era of the trout-pout. But instead of looking like Angie or Bianca or Béatrice or Naomi women began to resemble Donald Duck.
Last week I watched Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution. Marlene Dietrich’s tiny mouth quickly became a source of fascination and distraction. What would the Real Housewives of today make of Dietrich’s delicate gob? They would probably cover their eyes and shriek, “SHE was a movie star? But where are her lips?” When Witness came out in 1957, it was all about eyes and pointy boobs, and that tight Dior New Look silhouette. The only person in that movie sporting squishy pillow lips is Quasimodo himself, the fabulous Charles Laughton.
Back to Vreeland. D.V. is the subject of a spanking new documentary called The Eye Has to Travel, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland. Do not miss it. Full disclosure: I have a teensy on-screen moment, looking a bit thin-lipped myself. I worked for Vreeland in the mid ’80s and remain a rabid devotee. Her attitude on the matter of “good taste” has made me a lifelong convert. “Vulgarity,” she declared in her autobiography, “is a very important ingredient in life. A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could all use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”
Vreeland, who died in 1989, was also very pro-plastic surgery. When she was the editor of Vogue she once asked Elliott Erwitt to shoot images of an eye-lift in progress. When she triumphantly unfurled the resulting shots, her colleagues instantly became queasy: “One left immediately to throw up, others were gagging and carrying on …”
What would she have made of Jackie Stallone’s lips and the trout-poutery of today? When it came to the follies and grotesqueries of life, she always encouraged us to adopt a nonjudgmental, amused posture: “What catches my eye when I pass a window is the hideous stuff—the junk. Plastic ducks!!!”
Where will the lip trend end? Maybe we should ask Jackie Stallone. She, as you may well be aware, is an astrologer of long standing, and currently makes her living telling people’s fortunes by looking at their asses, an art she calls rumpology.
I am assuming, now that lips are getting so much larger, that lipology is not far off.
TODAY IN SLATE
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John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?
Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.