Last year was, by all accounts, the year of the butt. Specifically, it was the year that mainstream western culture embraced big butts and the many pleasures they bring with them. In many other corners of the world, booties have been big for a long time. And if big butts are soon discarded by fashionable trend-hoppers (as gross as it is to consider a body part a "trend"), they'll still be en vogue for many, many people. But 2014 was the year that "many" included the mostly white, reasonably well-off consumers catered to by North American culture.
If the first few weeks are any indication, it's not too soon to make a bold prediction: what 2014 was for butts, 2015 will be for lips.
As with butts before them, big lips are not a new phenomenon. They may be new to a culture that still idealizes waif-thin Nordic women, but there are a lot of people rolling their eyes at the newfound fascination with large, luscious lips. Worse still (but all too predictably), our new love of lips has been largely inspired by Kylie Jenner, a white girl who may well be cribbing her entire style from a black woman, rather than an actual embrace of multiethnic and multiracial beauty.
Heather Sanders is the woman whose style Kylie Jenner has been accused of copying.
Never a group to let genetics stop them from conforming to the fad of the day, white women have taken to lip-plumping with gusto. Products like weird, stinging lip gloss have been available for years, as have lip injections, but the recent lip-fullness trend has led to a new and lucrative trade in natural lip enhancers that don't involve plastic surgery or cayenne-filled lip gloss. Most of these are basically plastic containers you can stick your lips into, and then create an air vacuum to swell your lips.
There are a number of products like this, but none can match the surreal artistry of the Fullips videos. This seven-minute magnum opus, in which Fullips founder Linda Gomez's daughter Ashley demonstrates her mom's product, raises so many questions.
Why is there no time-lapse while she suctions her lips? Why is there no music, at the very least? For a video of a woman holding a red Duplo to her mouth and making odd sucking/inhaling motions, how is it so discomfortingly sexual? Is this a product demonstration, or an entry at a university art show? Prepare yourself for the most uncomfortable, confusingly sexual video you'll ever watch.
Linda Gomez is no slouch in the weird demonstration video department herself, though. Here's a much briefer video in which the Fullips matriarch shows off her product and appears to be wearing a satin wedding dress. Where her daughter's video had the off-putting quality of being accidentally sexual, Linda seems to relish in that aspect.
Unfortunately for both Linda and Ashley Gomez, Fullips is just an amateur in the lip-enhancing-via-suction video game. They may stand to make money off their product, but YouTube user and current high school student Laura Birchard has basically blown the roof off their entire business model. Her video, which is nine minutes long, has almost 1.5 million views. She's also been into lip-plumping since at least 2013, so Birchard's trend game is on point.
The tone of her voice draws you in immediately. Why is she so quiet? Sure, some casual viewers might assume that she's in her family's house and doesn't want them to hear, or perhaps isn't even supposed to be on the computer so late at night. But I sense something else afoot: Birchard knows she's discovered a vital secret. She knows she's about to share something valuable with you. She can't risk outsiders hearing while she divulges her hard-earned knowledge with you, the worthy viewer.
Now, how does Birchard get the fabulous lips she has so long desired? After playing around with many different methods, she says, she happened upon a film canister. "I used to take a lot of photos when I was in middle school," she offers by way of (unnecessary) explanation. "Well, I'm still in high school, but." The shrug and head-tilt she employs here, as if to dismiss her young age, belies a wisdom few of us can hope to attain in our oldest years.
Birchard's method is to flatten the opening of a plastic film canister and suction one lip at a time. She cautions the viewer and prospective lip-plumper to go slowly, building up time over a few weeks, lest you bruise your lips and be forced to walk around with a pair of inflated hickey tubes on your face. Once you've acclimated your lips, and fine-tuned your timing to achieve your desired fullness, you will be as happy as Laura Birchard is. Toward the end of the video, something catches her eye off-screen. "I'm sorry, I just can't stop looking at them," she says to the camera. If only I had felt that kind of contentment with anything during my teen years.
One key to Birchard's happiness must be her interest in philanthropy. Rather than trying to monetize her genius, like Linda Gomez, Birchard has released it into the world, for all the thin-lipped despairing women (and men, and others) of the world.
"These are not $50. They're like $5 for a pack of four," Birchard says as she waves a bent film canister at the camera and compares it to the $50 contraption she almost bought before realizing the error of her ways. Indeed they aren't, high school student Laura Birchard. And thank you for showing us the light.
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