Lipstick Portraits by Michael Angelo Show Off Red Lips, Fight Sex Slavery

By Elizabeth Monson

For many, red lipstick is a sign of confidence, sex appeal and adventure, but for some, it signifies a lifetime of suffering through sex slavery. Michael Angelo, owner/founder of Wonderland Beauty Parlor and professional beauty photographer, recognizes both sides to the color as well as the deep schism between the two worlds.

Several years ago, Angelo was inspired by a Glamour magazine article he read by Mariane Pearl that described her experience meeting a girl in front of a brothel doorway who smelled of “filth and sperm and sweat” with a smear of red lipstick across her face. Deeply upset at the use of red lipstick to mark women and children in Cambodia as sex slaves, Angelo resolved to take back the power of the color and “combat this grotesque use of a device designed for self expression” by photographing some of his prominent clients wearing red lipstick. The 60 images on display this month as Lipstick Portraits at 401 Projects in NYC feature the likes of Brooklyn Decker, Dita Von Teese, Simon Doonan, Susan Sarandon, Alan Cumming and Selita Ebanks going rouge.

See more of Michael Angelo’s talent at work!

As Angelo puts it, “I am fortunate enough to have just about the most superficial job in the world! I’d kill myself if all I thought about were eyeliner and highlights…I didn’t have a ton of cash but I had a camera, a team of superb talent at Wonderland and an army of strong, smart friends. This is my call to arms.”

You can join the call to arms too. Proceeds from the sale of limited edition exhibition prints, catalogues and tee shirts will benefit the Somaly Mam Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Somaly Mam, a sex trafficking survivor, and one of the most prolific activists fighting sexual slavery today. Mam’s book, as well as a selection of goods made by survivors will also be available.

The Beauty Bean is also an avid supporter of The Somaly Mam Foundation. See how you can get involved here.

Lipstick Portraits, 401 Projects, 401 West Street, NYC, May 8-23, Tuesday-Sunday 12-6 PM

Watch first-hand as one woman learns to let her body issues go.