Bold Ambition

Ingrid Butler is coming back to life after her first sinus infection. Being sick is inconvenient for most busy people, but especially so for Butler, who is running a burgeoning cosmetics brand almost singlehandedly out of her small studio apartment.

“I do everything (for the company) unfortunately,” she says, laughing. “The marketing, social media, customer service … I like to give the impression that it’s more than one of us, but it’s just me.”

Although her ambitious nature can lead her to overworking, Butler is determined to create lip wear for every kind of mood and woman with her company, Lipscape.

The Franklin, Louisiana native’s ambition was clear when she was a student at Syracuse University “for a very long time,” earning an undergraduate degree in psychology and African American studies and a master’s in pan-African studies. She is still working on a doctorate in geography – she moved to New Orleans initially to do field research for her dissertation but got a bit sidetracked.  

“I fell in love with the city,” she says. “Something about New Orleans encourages people to be creative, I find. A lot of people who move here kind of catch that bug.”

She started working as a makeup artist to earn extra money and realized keeping lipstick in her kit was eating up her budget. Her clients, most of who hired her for formal events, wanted to take the lipstick to reapply throughout the night. So she decided to make her own. Her best friend and parents got on board to help, even if sometimes they didn’t know what they were getting into.

“I ordered (all the ingredients) and took over my parents’ kitchen for a few months,” she said. “My mom was not super happy.”

After lots of trial, error, tears and late-night crises, she came up with a formula she liked (which she still continues to tweak, two years later) after researching other natural beauty brands and their ingredients. She wanted to find natural ingredients that are very moisturizing.

“Being in Syracuse, my lips were chronically dry. Winters were not forgiving on my lips,” she says. “I’m a doctoral student; research is my thing, clearly. I researched all the ingredients one by one.”

Drawing from her experience as a consciously-minded geographer and her “loud” personality, her first collection included bold, highly pigmented colors –think teal, purple and gold – with titles like “Unrest” and “Sea Level,” named after the effects of climate change. And because she’s ambitious, those colors would change slightly when they hit the light.

“I was doing the most right out the gate,” she says.

She said at first her wild colors struggled to find a market (“I’m loud, but the average woman doesn’t want green lips,” she says) but she met a group of drag performers in Lafayette that loved her colors, but they wanted them in glosses. That inspired her to learn how to make lip glosses and expand her line to include those, too.

Currently the line includes traditional lipsticks, glosses and a liquid-to-matte lipstick. Those liquid lipsticks are very on-trend right now, but many of them are drying. Packed with ingredients like carrot root extract, Butler’s lipsticks aim to not sacrifice moisture for staying power. She is also reviving her lip conditioner for her next collection, set to debut this month.

Her colors range from the wild, from a Caribbean blue to a true black, to the more every-day; during our interview she sports a bold plum tone that stands out but isn’t too crazy for a coffee meeting. Colors are meant to suit a wide variety of skin tones, too.

“I like to have something for every woman. I want to cover a range of skin tones and want something for every sort of event, or for that woman who might be conservative but maybe she’s feeling jazzy tonight,” she says. “I just want her to have options. Also I get bored making the same thing, because it’s just me by myself.”

Butler hopes to expand her line beyond lips to include other products, so perhaps by this time next year the name of her brand may no longer be Lipscape.

“Eventually I would like for someone to be able to do their entire face with my products,” she says.

Though she’s busy, she’s passionate about what she does, even when big companies like Sephora make it easier for women to get makeup that’s lower in cost and more convenient.

When stacked up against the big brands, she says her biggest selling point is that her products are hand-crafted with love, using natural ingredients sourced in the U.S. that you can actually pronounce. “That’s really important because the things we put on our mouths, we consume throughout the day,” she says. “You kinda want to know what you’re putting in your mouth.”

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