In partnership with Clarins
Nyaluak Leth imagines words as keys on a piano and each syllable carries its own vibration. A notion this romantic could only come from the mind of a poet, and in case you still held any doubt, yes, Leth is one such person. Where some poetry is bound to the page, Nyaluak Leth animates verse using the spoken form; her cadence measured, her tone spellbinding. For Leth, a queer, Black woman, poetry is an essential means for self-expression, one she's honed over the course of a decade.
Although there are many, it's at this junction that Leth and Clarins best align. Both are devoted to self-expression, be it in the swipe of a bold lip or the written word, but most crucially, Leth and Clarins believe self-expression is an act that can and should improve the world around you. How else can you explain Clarins' pledge to the environment? A commitment that sees refillable Joli Rouge lipsticks emerge as an option. Here, beauty becomes more than just a wish for oneself, but an intention for the world more broadly.
Wearing the new Joli Rouge collection from Clarins, a range of lipsticks crafted from a nourishing formula of organic camellia oil and shea butter and reintroduced in considered new packaging, Nyaluak Leth spoke to RUSSH. In our conversation below, Leth talks her recent poem for Clarins Joli Rouge, how a teacher's kindness stands out as her first memory of beauty, and her pre-performance rituals.
What is your first beauty-related memory?
My grade three ESL teacher, who was also a beautiful and powerful South Sudanese woman, would wear a red lip to school everyday. One day I complimented her on the colour and said I wanted to do that too. A week later she gifted me with my very first cherry-flavoured chapstick.
What does beauty mean to you now?
True beauty to me is effortless. It's a state of being that resonates from your core, that you choose to express on the surface through our speech, actions and adornment of our bodies.
As a poet you have a deep understanding of the power of words. You also learned a second language at 7 years old. What sparked your interest in words, and when did you first realise their potential?
I've always seen words/letters like the keys on a piano. Each note holds a different vibration. The more you play with words through different accents and tones you're able to create a vocal symphony that is unique to your message and who you are.
Can you tell me about the poem you wrote for Clarins Joli Rouge? What was the process like? What part of the Clarins story did you have in mind while creating it?
Clarins believes in making life more beautiful by passing on a more beautiful planet. When writing the poem I thought of the things I found beauty in, and how using my words will be one of my contributions to making this world a better place.
Your poetry doesn’t finish on the page, you then proceed to speak it aloud. How has spoken word poetry allowed you to cultivate your own voice, both as an artist and in your life more broadly?
Poetry to me is an art form, and all art truly is a way of life in its purest form. Expression of self is an important part of my identity; especially as a queer, Black woman. Our voices are needed in society, now more than ever. If I have the platform and opportunity to share my words and experience, I will.
Do you have any rituals before you perform on stage?
I found that over the years there’s no cure for stage fright or nervousness, apart from good preparation. I find myself in front of the mirror, in the car, on the street – literally anywhere, just reciting my poetry before a performance. While I’m doing this I tend to ask myself the question of ‘How would the younger version of myself receive this message?’ Is there even a message? If so, how should I be delivering it? Is my tone too harsh? Am I speaking too fast? Is there a rhythm that’s consistent and easy to follow?
Clarins believes in beauty with a conscience, which is why they’ve introduced refillable Joli Rouge lipsticks. Does your artform exist for you as a place to inspire, educate or challenge?
All of the above. Nina Simone once said "an artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times" – the world we live in needs to be inspired to create a change through conscious education by challenging the status quo; from justice to economic and environment reform.
When would you wear a bold lip?
Anytime that I feel like it! Date night, premieres and night out on the town with my people.
Clarins Joli Rouge lipstick comes in a variety of vibrant colours. Which one are you drawn to and why?
I love the Joli Rouge 742 in Satin. It allows me to have a subtle pop of colour while also keeping my lips lush.
Who do you admire for their fearlessness?
Any and all women who have created a path for themselves in their chosen field of education, business and accomplished everything we were once told we couldn't do.
What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever received?
Staying hydrated and highly melanated!
Explore Clarins Joli Rouge collection at the brand's website.