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“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it,” author Alice Walker writes in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel aptly named The Color Purple. But that isn’t the color Carol Rasheed, makeup department head for the 2023 film, focused on when it came to translating Walker’s story to big screen, out in theaters today. Instead, 2023’s film was shaped by a surprising tone: red.
The story follows three Black women—Celie (Fantasia Barrino), Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), and Sofia (Danielle Brooks)—throughout their lives. “I decided I didn’t want any of the ladies to have the same shade of red,” Rasheed says, adding that main character Celie was the hardest to nail down. “For Celie, I didn’t want anything that was too bright, and I spent so many days trying colors before I mixed a shade that was little bit more demure and cooler in color. Sofia is the tough one, the resilient one, so I felt that a deeper shade of red would be appropriate for her. I wanted to make sure Shug Avery’s color was vibrant and warm.” Appropriately, she’s now launched a trio of lipsticks in honor of these shades named The Evolution of Rouge.
Throughout the film, Shug Avery also has gorgeous, deep red nails—something Rasheed credits to Henson. “That was a decision that Taraji actually made on her own in terms of what color red she wanted to use,” she says. “It’s those very specific, seemingly little things, that really lean into the character be fully realized. The nail polish color was absolutely important to her character.”
The Color Purple came to screens in 1985. Steven Spielberg was at the helm as director, with Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey starring as Celie, Shug Avery, and Sofia. 2023’s version not only has a Black makeup department head, but also a Black director, Blitz Bazawule. “Blitz and I had length conversations and created moodboards about how the characters should look in their makeup,” Rasheed says. “He wanted our Black skin to shine like it does. So I was willed with the opportunity to be able to present our skin the way in which it shines.”
For Rasheed, joining the crew and creating the beauty for The Color Purple was a dream come true. “I don’t think there’s any of us that were not affected by that movie in some way, shape, or form,” she shares. “It was a very heavy movie back then and I was really moved by it.”