Homeless Woman Gets Scolded Daily For Spending Money On Lipstick & Showers

Homeless people are allowed to have some dignity — and we're all closer to being homeless than we think.

screenshots of homeless woman who gets scolded for wearing lipstick and taking showers TikTok

TikTok and Instagram content creators Invisible People do regular interviews with homeless people around the country to get their perspectives on what it's like to be unhoused. Recently they spoke to Brenda, a 60-year-old unhoused woman in New York City, who shared the absurd and unkind blowback she regularly receives from her fellow New Yorkers for the way she cares for herself.

A New York City homeless woman gets scolded regularly for taking care of her appearance and hygiene.

"They look at me every day," Brenda told Invisible People. "They make assumptions. They're the jury...and they judge you every day, all day long." She said her bright pink lipstick routinely inspires people to criticize her on the street, which she finds ridiculous. "I've had it said several times, and my lipstick's under $3. But do they know that? No," she said.


The blowback she's gotten for wearing lipstick has surprised her, given New York's reputation for being more open-minded and progressive than most of the rest of the country. "If you're that petty in New York...you care that a homeless woman wears lipstick, I feel sorry for you. I mean, it's really pathetic."

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Homeless people are routinely scolded for spending money on anything besides food and water, and people love to claim that "they wouldn't be homeless" if they didn't spend their money in supposedly unwise ways. But at $3 a tube, Brenda's lipstick is costing her maybe $36 a year.


Meanwhile, in 2022, the median rent in the United States passed the $2000 a month mark for the first time. There are cheaper options, of course—currently, the most affordable place to rent a studio apartment is Wichita, Kansas, where the rent will run you about $595. That's great if you have the ability to move to Wichita, Kansas, and the first and last month's rent and security deposit saved up, plus all the other things you typically need to rent an apartment—a job, a previous rental history, a good credit rating.

Brenda's $36 yearly lipstick budget isn't what's keeping her from getting off the streets. 

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The homeless woman gets scolded for spending money to take showers, too. 

A $3 tube of lipstick isn't the only thing Brenda says she's gotten chided for. "I joined Planet Fitness over here," she told Invisible People. "It's a one-time startup fee of $16, $10 a month and $40 one-time fee. And I take a shower every day so I can take care of myself."


She then perfectly illustrated the double bind that our society routinely puts the unhoused in. "I don't want to offend people," she said, "I want to take care of myself." But of course, if Brenda was like so many other unhoused people, who either don't have the resources or the capacity to take care of things like hygiene, she would be treated like a pariah for being dirty or having body odor. 

Brenda wants people to know that she is not a special case—most Americans are terrifyingly close to living like she does. 

"I'm 60 years old, I worked 35 years, I'm a college graduate, I have no [criminal] record, I have never been arrested or accused of anything," Brenda told Invisible People in a second video, "and I sleep on the sidewalk." She had a sobering warning for those who judge her. "Maybe you're going to one day be where I am. You can never say never because you don't know." And the statistics show she's absolutely right.

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Homelessness in America has been steadily increasing for the last six years.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, homelessness has been on a steady uptick since 2017, with the number of unhoused individuals reaching an all-time high in 2022.


Tellingly, that all-time high came after two years of comparatively modest rises in homelessness rates from 2020 to 2022 due to pandemic-related economic investments by the federal government. Turns out that when people have money coming in, they don't end up homeless. Who could have seen this coming?

As for Brenda? She'll be continuing to wear her lipstick. "You're going to judge me because I have lipstick on? I'll put it on more and more every day," she defiantly told Invisible People. As well she should—people are allowed to have a shred of dignity and enjoyment, even if they sleep on a sidewalk. But go ahead and scold her if you want to. It's your karma.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.