Throughout history, the use of cosmetics has carried many meanings for different cultures. In some situations, it represents social conformity; in others, a mark of liberation and self-expression. But beauty tools can also signify slavery. In Cambodia, young women and girls forced into prostitution wear red lipstick.
Somaly Mam was herself a victim in her native Cambodia. She says of the rescued girls, "When they first arrive, they don't feel like children. If they were in a brothel, they had to have a lot of make-up on. When you take all of the make-up off they smile. They become children again." That's why her foundation is working to raise funds with the help of a neighborhood art gallery to fight sex trafficking in countries around the world.
Photographer Michael Angelo's upcoming exhibition, The Lipstick Portraits at 401 Projects, features photographs of 60 different men and women (including the fantastic Amanda Lepore, pictured to the right in the High Line's Gansevoort Woodland) adorning red lipstick as unifying symbol of empowerment. 100% of the profits from The Lipstick Portraits will benefit the Somaly Mam Foundation.
Visit 401 Projects and help support this important cause.
The Lipstick Portraits
401 West Street
May 8 — May 23