Wearing Grey Lipstick on the Subway in New York Gave Me a Confidence Boost That Has Lasted for Days

Published in: Guest Post, Just For Fun, Lips

MAC Halsey and Sephora Collection Liquid Eyeliner

Wearing MAC Halsey and Sephora Collection Liquid Eyeliner while sporting my public transit “perpetual gaze…”

I didn’t grow up in a big city, and getting used to riding public transit here was very difficult for me.

Dealing with massive numbers of anxious people in very close quarters is not something I enjoy doing. Sometimes it can be very stressful for me, and it can also make you feel incredibly invisible at times, which is sometimes for the best…depending on how I feel.


But I’ve been wanting to see what would happen if I called more attention to myself.

I regularly take the subway, and I’ll often ride the bus when I’m just going between neighborhoods close to home. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with wearing bolder colors while I’m out, and that includes while I’m riding public transportation.

Calling attention to myself has never been something I’ve been comfortable with. I’m very unlike my astrological sign that way. As a Leo, I’m supposed to be an attention seeker. I’m supposed love being on center stage — dramatic, creative, and outgoing.

In some ways, I think that fits me, but not in terms of me being outgoing. I think I’m a contradiction in the way I present myself — how I dress, choice of clothing, style of hair, choice of makeup.

By choosing bolder colors these past few weeks, I’m trying to be more “present” in my own world. Even if I’m the only person who notices, someone is still noticing and appreciating, right?

From top to bottom MAC Versicolor Lip Stain in Perpetual Holiday, Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid Lipstick in Berry Boost, Manic Panic Lip Locked Lipstick in Mystic Heather and MAC Halsey

A selection of my color choices over the last few weeks, from top to bottom: MAC Versicolor Lip Stain in Perpetual Holiday, Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid Lipstick in Berry Boost, Manic Panic Lip Locked Lipstick in Mystic Heather and MAC Halsey

I’d never worn MAC Perpetual Holiday or Maybelline Berry Boost outside the house before, and both are a little outside my comfort zone, but MAC Halsey has been the furthest one outside my comfort zone lately. It’s my first grey lipstick, and it might be a little too light for my coloring…but um, I kind of love it?

MAC Halsey was a stark contrast to the pinky-purple of the Manic Panic

MAC Halsey sits in stark contrast to pinky purple Manic Panic

People see things on the subway every day that don’t make them blink twice, but as a young woman on public transit, I feel oddly watched at all times, so taking out a lipstick and a mirror makes me feel doubly judged.

Wearing these colors lately, I’ve been worried that someone might stare at me or say something rude, especially while I’ve worn Halsey on my commute home after a long day, looking tired… I’ll be honest, I was afraid I looked like a zombie, or like the color would turn my lips blue.

But, I’ve been oddly comforted by silence so far. Nothing has been said to me, and while I have gotten a few stares and odd looks, I haven’t felt as uncomfortable as I thought I would. It’s been oddly empowering to (at least try) not to care about what other people think of my makeup.

I can’t say how often grey lipstick will make its way into my makeup routine, but I’m glad I did this experiment and that I’m trying something new.

Being a creature of habit, I tend to stick with what I think works for me — natural eyes and red lips — but forcing myself out of my comfort zone has given me a confidence boost that I’m trying to carry over into other aspects of my life (especially when it comes to my body and how I present/hold myself).

Find full reviews of the MAC Versicolour stains here, MAC Halsey here, and Maybelline Vivid Mattes here and here.

Have you ever done an experiment like this to see how the world around you would respond?

Marcella Yakalis

Marcella Yakalis is a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn, New York, with two cats, one snake, and one very patient boyfriend. She writes about family, relationships, and oppressive retail culture. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram.


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  1. Natasha says:

    Honestly I think I have multiple personalities…I can be a social butterfly at some places with particular people. At some other times, though, I’m a very timid person who wouldn’t even dare to look at others’ eyes. I always wear natural makeup. However, when I need to get rid of my timid side (e.g. during meeting or client meet-up), I would apply bold-color lipstick and extra coat of mascara for confidence boost. And, like you’ve experienced, doing so somehow oddly empowers me because once I’ve applied those I’ll instantly turn into a confident woman. The power of makeup, I guess?

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      I’m the same way, socially. Given the right people and setting, I will talk your ear off, but otherwise I’m very quiet.

  2. Lauren says:

    You rock this look! Perfect eyeliner too! Girl, I hear you about public transport…I live in London and omg…you mailed it by saying anxious people! For some reason I can handle NYC subway much more. Probably bc I don’t use it every day. Keep rocking the bold lips!

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      Thank you! 🙂 My eyeliner game still needs a bit of work in my opinion, but I’m glad you liked it.

  3. I had a similar experiment when I started wearing more makeup to work (I used to work in a male-dominated environment), and oddly enough it took ages before I got comments. But I have never worn grey lipstick before.
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … ahuhu Amino Intensive Repair Shampoo – Comfort scents

  4. Jessica says:

    I wear a lot of color, usually on my eyes tho…on the subway, walking, on the bus, wherever. I get a lot of compliments from strangers actually. People like color- a lot- and more people than you think would like to wear it- but they either lack the confidence or they don’t know how to apply it and think it’s too hard for them. (wrong).

    Rock it. It’s NYC; we are used to everything. No one cares.
    Take the E train sometime….now there are some seriously ridiculous….errr…personal style decisions there. Grey lipstick is NOTHING.

    Jessica recently posted … Mad: Whatever

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      I’ve actually never taken the E train, or rather, never had to! After wearing it out I definitely realized it’s not a lot compared to some of the things i have seen on public transportation.

  5. I was stunned when I wore black lipstick for the first time and realized how powerful it made me feel! Like I could take on the world. And yet I am rrrrreally not a dark-lipstick-kinda girl! I’m usually all about the pinks and peaches and corals. But man, that black… 🙂
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Review | MAC Tribe Vibe Studio Sculpt Defining Bronzing Powder in Delphic

  6. kwmechelle says:

    I’ve never done an experiment like this but kudos to you! I actually like being bold & daring with my hair, makeup, attire & that’s one of the things that I loved & miss about city life- I never stood out. I always blended in. Where I live now, kinda like a beach town with suburbs, I stand out a lot whenever I’m being daring. I don’t think I mind so much because it’s part of who I am. But I do occasionally feel like something must be wrong with me, and not everyone else, when I rock my style my way. Personally, I think those who wear unconventional colors are bad a$$. NY seems like just to place to “blend in” because you’re “different!” Bravo!

  7. Cherie says:

    I love your posts. Always very thought provoking and feel very real. I think women in general get judged wherever we go. Being in the legal profession, I feel like I see this way too often and women definitely get judged harder than men. That said, I’ve been experimenting on my own too and using bolder lip colors during meetings. Of course, nothing too out there (I did a bold fuchsia lip with soft eyes and soft cheeks in a navy suit). It was more color than my usual you-but-slightly-enhanced look but I will say it gave me a strange boost of confidence. I had my game face on all day 😉

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      Aaw, thank you so much! I definitely always feel hesitant with working with new things but once they give me that “game face” you’re talking about is when I really begin to enjoy it.

  8. Erin says:

    You should get some of the new Bite Beauty shades! I think you could rock Kale!
    Erin recently posted … Play! By Sephora May 2016

  9. Rachel R. says:

    Good for you for stepping outside your comfort zone. You chose great colors. I’m kind of the opposite: I feel weird wearing minimal makeup looks and nudes. Last summer I went outside my zone with a really minimal bronzy look paired with Nyx Liquid Suede Cream in Stone Fox. I actually really liked how it turned out.

  10. denise S says:

    The lipstick looks good on you brings out the gray in you’re eyes. My daughters a Leo and she’s a total introvert, lol. I went to my son’s graduation at Columbia University last Wednesday. Riding the subway was different for me, people have to sit and stand so close together! Great for getting around but I feel a little weird with strangers arms touching me on those subway seats,lol. Does take sometime to get used to. People are so creative and multifaceted there I think any style or look isn’t frowned upon, kinda the norm, lol. That’s what makes New York so great!

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      Congrats to your son for graduating! Was it undergraduate or a masters program? I did my Masters program at Columbia so I’m super familiar with the campus and surrounding neighborhood! Getting used to the subway and closeness of other people is definitely something to contend with but after a few rides it’s nothing. 🙂

      • denise S says:

        Thank you! He got a accelerated masters degree from the Institute of Human Nutrition at the college of Physicians and Surgeons. He’s applying to medical school. Since lives close to the the University on W. 96th street. We spent most of our time in Manhattan but we did shop and eat in Harlem. We had so much fun! Columbia University is the bomb! The campus is beautiful and everyone was so nice!! So cool that you went there too!

  11. Karen says:

    LOL, kinda! I once got my makeup done at Kryolan in SF and got turned into a cat. No seriously, I looked like an extra from Cats. Afterwards I walked around the city and I even went to grab lunch at a busy local bakery and nobody — NOBODY — said anything about it. It was so weird and funny!

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      I just looked at that post and whoa! I can’t imagine walking around in full cat face! But that’s so awesome that you got to do that for a day.

  12. Colleen says:

    Marcella, it has been so wonderful to discover you through the M&BB. Your honestly, insight , and courage to share these real pieces of yourself are so appreciated . I applaud you!

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