I don't know much about Sugarpill Cosmetics, but I spotted this lip gloss with positively adorable packaging and knew I had to feature it. Unfortunately I wasn't fast enough to get my hands on it and it's my understanding there will be no more sold with this particular design (the lip product itself will still be available in regular packaging.)
It's pretty obvious what lured me in. MERMAID!!!
And not just any mermaid; one created by kawaii (cute) artist Bei Badgirl. Her website provides the following description: "BEI BADGIRL is an artist, designer and body positive advocate from Heaven. An expert in Cute (Kawaii かわいい), she draws inspiration from the Superflat movement, pop culture, and her own life experiences and obsessions. Her work reflects her playful attitude through 2.5D drawings and paintings of cute, sexy women, their pets, makeup, junk food and everything else they thrive on...Her hobbies include texting her besties, travelling, no chill memes, hoarding swimwear, and spending approximately zero time swimming. She currently resides between Tokyo and Sydney, and believes girls can do anything." Given that profile I was very eager to see her work. Her motto of "Just be cute and don't worry!" also piqued my curiosity.
Naturally I had to take a look at some of Bei's other work in search of more mermaids. And she did not disappoint! So many sexy cute mermaids, many of which are painted on wood that Bei carves herself: "I notice a lot of people aren’t aware most of my art is painted, huge, and cut out of wood by me. Even some of my friends don’t realise I do all the woodwork myself, but I happily invite those bitches over to witness it for themselves hahaha. Girls can do anything, duh."
Looks like this one was an early adopter of the unicorn horn trend.
Not only does this "merbitch" have a delicious cup of coffee, she's also applying lipstick with a seashell compact. Love it.
More on Bei's style, in her own words: "I’m really fascinated by the concepts of indulgence and excess, sex and desire. I guess that’s why there’s a lot of oral fixation, sparkly things and food going on in my pieces. I also like that so much of what I’m essentially obsessed with isn’t real or tangible- the idea of falling in love with imaginary things." This is especially evident in paintings like the one below.
I think this one is my favorite - an utterly charming and girly but also foul-mouthed mermaid, which is sort of how I like to see myself. ;)
And of course there are the assorted mer-critters. I wish there were plushies of these, I think they would get along well with Museum staff.
He might just be a mer-kitten, but he's already got a little tattoo on his paw!
(images from beibadgirl.com)
The curvy voluptuousness of Bei's women shows that she is indeed a body-positive advocate, although it's somewhat a happy accident. She explains in an interview, "My work totally is body positive, but kind of effortlessly. I still get caught off guard sometimes when people point out how my work is body positive because the girls are all pretty thick and have tummies. I never really thought twice about it - I was just drawing what made sense to me and what looked pretty...this is obvious, but I strongly believe in the fact that people are meant to be different. If we were all meant to look the same, we would be. It's nothing new, but it needs to be repeated as much as possible. 'Perfect' doesn't have a face, it doesn't look one way." She also tells one young woman who wrote to her asking for advice, "I got tired of hating myself and wasting so much energy on feeling bad. It’s boring. I decided to trust myself. What I’ve found the most interesting about this is that when I decided to love myself and feel confident that’s really when other people began responding differently (positively) to me as well. Do you find feeling insecure about the way you look to be counter-productive? When I began to put my energy into other things like my art etc that’s when my career really took off and so many amazing opportunities and people entered my life! It’s so much more rewarding than hating yourself and I feel so much happier just with all the things I have going on in my life, I don’t really have any energy left for negativity. I feel very grateful for my body - I see it as something separate to my soul and myself - and it’s the only body I’ll ever have so I should be kind to it and love it. It’s seen me through my teens and all the bullshit I went through, all my highs and lows, every experience, and will be there for me until I die. I always like to mention that we all have bad days, but just recognise them for what they are and be kind to yourself." It sounds trite, but Bei really does put her money where her mouth is: not only does she embrace fuller-figured women in her work, she also regularly posts pictures of herself in swimsuits and short skirts, proudly displaying, in her words, a "juicy" physique. Yasss!!
The body positivity and feminist aspects of her aesthetic is also desperately needed in kawaii culture. A student majoring in Japanese Studies at Oxford, specializing in contemporary art by Japanese women, offered this thoughtful analysis in a message to Bei: "I just wanted to say that is so inspiring that your work represents the best of kawaii culture, i.e subversive and empowering femininity, and absolutely none of the worst...your work is so significant in transforming the otherwise infantilising nature of ‘kawaii,’ on an international scale...[it] seems to represent to me a reclaiming of cuteness by and for women, with strong messages of sex & body positivity that seem to have had a significant influence on other 'kawaii’ artists, which is such a refreshing change from dominant images of cuteness in Japan." Since I am nowhere near an expert in contemporary Japanese art or kawaii, I'll take her word for it. But just looking at Bei's women, despite their skimpy attire and exaggerated femininity, I imagine they have more of a feminist edge than other kawaii images. I feel as though there's a distinct "don't mess with me" attitude about them, especially around the eyes. While some other kawaii girls sport heavy black eye makeup, the lids on Bei's figures are strangely pointed (not round) with an odd spike shape shooting out on either side and rimmed with equally spiky lashes. It's as though their makeup is weaponized, giving them a slightly dangerous look as opposed to the wide-eyed, child-like, nearly helpless vibe of some other kawaii girls. The fact that Bei also sometimes refers to her mermaids as "merbitch" and "merhoe" can arguably be cast as a feminist appropriation of these traditionally degrading terms for women.
What do you think? Have you tried anything from Sugarpill? I so wish I could have gotten my hands on this lip gloss!