The Origin Story Behind Taylor Swift’s Now Iconic Red Lipstick

We spoke to the makeup artist who first painted one on her.
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There’s probably few celebrities that are known for their lipstick choice as widely as Taylor Swift.

However, she hasn’t always worn a red lip. Hardcore fans will remember her ‘Debut’ era, when she released the self-titled album Taylor Swift and usually rocked a nude lip, smokey eye and tight platinum blonde curls.

So, where did her evolution into the world of red lipstick begin? Well, that would be with Gucci Westman, founder of the clean beauty brand Westman Atelier.

Taylor during her ‘Debut’ era on the left, and in her ‘Fearless’ era on the right. (Credit: Image: Getty)

Westman is casual in the way she approaches the topic. “Yeah, I’ve worked [with Taylor Swift], many times,” she told ELLE Australia. “I haven’t worked with her in quite a while but I used to work with her, and I remember I was the first one to give her a red lip.”

As Taylor’s fans, known as ‘Swifties’, love to know even the smallest little tidbits about the singer, we couldn’t help but ask how that came to fruitition.

“It was for an Allure cover,” Westman explains, referencing the 2009 cover she did for the magazine in March, just one month before her Fearless tour started in the United States.

“She’d never worn a red lip,” she continued. “When the red lip happened, I had to get permission by her mum [Andrea Swift].”

Westman says that she was told by Taylor’s management that “Taylor doesn’t do red”. “I said, ‘Well, Taylor needs to try red’.”

It’s a moment for the history books, and one that was detailed in the notes from the 2009 shoot itself.

“Makeup artist Gucci Westman wanted to give Swift “an updated Vargas-girl look, with a strong mouth and beautiful skin”, the article explains.

(Credit: Image: Getty)

“First, she blended cream highlighter and concealer over Swift’s entire face. Then she applied mauve blush, brown eye shadow, black mascara, and vivid red lipstick, which Swift loved so much that Westman gave her a tube of her own.”

One look at the photos from the Fearless tour, and you can see that Swift is rocking that signature bright red lipstick, starting a makeup legacy that would continue throughout her career.

While Westman admits that she cannot remember the exact lipstick she used 13 years ago (yes, it is eerie that this revelation arises THAT number of years after the cover), she does have a few shades from her own collection that she’d recommend to match it.

“A combination of Brick and Tomato from Lip Suede in Les Rouges,” Westman recommends.

What Red Lipstick Does Taylor Swift Use?

While Swift has changed red lipstick over the years, rumour has it that she now uses Elson from Pat McGrath. It has a lightweight, creamy finish that is described as ‘oil-infused powder’. This means that the lips are less likely to look dry and cracked due to the added moisture, but you also get the long wearing benefits of the matte formula.

How to apply it? It’s best pressed directly from the bullet, pressed into the lips, blotted, powdered, and then reapplied and blotted again.

Taylor’s shade ‘Elson’ is described as a blue-red lipstick. This means that it has cool undertones of blue, purple and violet. This colour is also great for making the teeth look whiter, as blue and yellow are contrasting colours, so the blue-edge will cancel out the yellow in the teeth.

Image: Pat McGrath

Pat McGrath MatteTrance Lipstick in Elson, $63, Sephora


Westman Atelier Lip Suede, AUD $141 (approximately), MECCA


Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo, $34, MAC Cosmetics

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