Friday Hoyden: Poppy King

If I write about a present-day hoyden she is most likely to be a raving lefty like Camila Vallejo. To balance the scales somewhat, I thought it would be novel to feature a capitalist hoyden this week.

Digging around in my makeup bag the other day I found a ‘Poppy’ lipstick. I only ever owned one, picked out of a markdowns bin; I was not in a bracket to buy label cosmetics back then. It’s not a colour I ever wear, but I have never thrown it out because it feels like a part of a certain time in a certain place. Back when I was a girl, Poppy King was a real presence. I loved her name, I loved her hair (what’s with the platinum blonde thing now?), I loved the beautiful packaging her lipsticks came in. I loved the sheer eccentricity of her story.

Making the most of the ‘lipstick bump’ (the phenomenon where people will buy small luxury goods in hard times, to console themselves about putting off major purchases), in the most literal sense possible, after the 1987 economic crash, a teenage King persuaded a chemist to make up lipsticks in the film noir-inspired, retro screen-siren colours she desired, but couldn’t find. Her product connected with a market, and her company flourished. She was made Young Australian of the Year in 1995, when people wanted to believe, after the disasters of the 80s, that not all entrepreneurs are evil.

I couldn’t care less about her business skills, though. Coming from a high school of rigor mortisian (yes it’s a word. I just decided.) conformity to passing fads (whatever fads made it as far as Outer Hicksville, NSW), moving on to a University where no one seemed especially interested in self-expression through appearance, King may have been my first model for someone who chose to make themselves their art.

After her company burned out in a blaze of schadenfreudey publicity, King moved to the USA, where a failed business was seen as evidence only of an excess of youthful enthusiasm. Six years ago she began again from a New York base, under the brand name ‘Lipstick Queen’. A more complete version of her story can be found in this article in the Age, from 2008, when King was about to publish her book, Lessons of a Lipstick Queen.

Let’s play at being decadent for a little, and act like femininity is an unproblematic concept. Have a look at the pretty pretty pictures of THINGS on her Lipstick Queen website. I especially recommend you go to the ‘Medieval’ page in the Products section, because I love what she has done with the image there, which invites us to investigate some middle-ages iconography. It contains just the right amount of whimsy to get us through Friday.

Poppy King in purple top and black skirt, surrounded by giant poppies.

Poppy King. Image credit: Justin Bernhaut


Categories: Culture, fun & hobbies

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6 replies

  1. I have never seen her with red hair!
    I adored Poppy lipsticks. They were awesome colours and they were MATTE!!!
    Talk about a trip down memory lane…

  2. Re. red vs blonde: is that a weird memory glitch on my part? Can anyone else confirm either way?

  3. All the images I can find she is blonde, maybe it was her trademark bright red lipstick that you are remembering?

  4. Poppy!

    Yes, I only remember her with blonde hair, too.

  5. My best guess at the moment is that once upon a time I had the thought “with a name like that, she should have red hair”, and that thought somehow stuck. This is what happens when you whip up a post about someone you haven’t thought about for fifteen years. I do hope there are people out there somewhere erroneously remembering me as a redhead.

  6. I can only recall her with blond hair, though whether platinum or not I couldn’t say. I didn’t wear her lipsticks either – I don’t wear any pricey lipsticks, Satin is about my budget – but yay for matte at any time! Gloss ones always make me think of drool or someone trying to look aroused, neither of which appeals. 😀

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