When I was younger, I used to run a fashion blog. Nowadays one of my best friends is a beauty vlogger enthusiast, familiar with most parts of the culture around makeup and trends. While if you dig a bit into it you realize that both fashion and beauty are not only forms of expression but also forms of art, many people would undermine what me or my best friend were interested into as being “too girly” or taking our “lady duty” too seriously.
This is because most processes tied to beauty and dressing up are entangled in way too many double standards. Makeup for example is tied intensely to double standards for women, or people who are socialized as women. Makeup in its traditional sense is not considered an art form by most people, especially not an art form that all genders can perform.
On the contrary, it’s limited to something that women are just supposed to do, something they are expected by society to do in all occasions in order to be deemed acceptable and considered as beautiful, therefore deemed as worthy of social respect: much like shaving your body hair. Some women don’t even want to put makeup on and they’re often shunned for not making an effort, or for not being feminine enough.
And yet there are double standards here, cause if you care too much for makeup, follow beauty vlogs and save up to buy a set of glam brushes, you are shunned for doing too much lady work; the work you are supposed to do anyway, but on a level that makes you appear as having intensely feminine interests, which is considered a social aspect that people use to undermine you as not worthy enough to do things men do.
Gender roles being so tightly knit in our social practices can make it extremely hard for men who put on makeup. For reasons that seem absurd, certain arrangements of fabrics have long been thought to be “women’s clothes”, and slightly different arrangements of fabrics have long be thought to be “men’s clothes”, in the same way that makeup is considered to be a “woman’s work”.
Fortunately a massive twist is steadily being made in both the fashion and the beauty industry, following the redefinitions of the social conceptions of gender. Beauty outside the gender binary and cis/hetero-normativity standards is being redefined. There is a powerful community of extremely talented trans beauty vloggers, drag beauty vloggers, and a wonderful community of beauty bloggers who wish to normalize makeup for men.
The lists we can link to are endless: I wish I had the time to watch these imaginative tutorials all day! If someone watches their videos they’re gonna realize this is much more than just trying to look pretty in socially acceptable ways: it is art, and it is beautiful. Galaxies, stars, monsters and fauns, flowers, zombies, and anything you can imagine.
Last year, Refinery29’s beauty editor Phillip Picardi said, concerning his collection Men Wearing Lipstick: “when thinking about how to best showcase some of the season’s most exciting new lip shades, I was envisioning plenty of things: kisses on cocktail napkins, close-ups of pouts, animated GIFs of mouths moving, talking, kissing, eating, etc.
But, then I thought, Why not let boys show us the lipsticks? Women constantly appear in beauty editorials — why would it be weird to let boys do the same? Men wearing lipstick is not a novelty for me: In my world, as a beauty editor and a gay man, it’s a regular occurrence. But, I appreciate the men here taking time out from their jobs to sit down, pick out lipsticks that spoke to them, and try something new for the day. The lipsticks ended up enhancing their looks; making them cooler.”
The work of makeup artists can be awestriking whether it is professional or not, and in the past few months history has been written in representing male makeup talents in the rise of this new era.
The first highlight was James Charles, a 17 year old student from New York whose Instagram account currently has 1.2 million subscribers, after becoming the first CoverBoy in CoverGirl’s 58-year history in October! He does his friends’ makeup and has a Youtube channel where he posts his unique tutorials about artistic makeup.
He took his senior yearbook photos twice because he didn’t like the way the highlighter on his cheekbones looked. His spot spread on Twitter and Zendaya tweeted to him: “You win.” Charles joined Katy Perry who is the current CoverGirl ambassador to promote its products, the first product being CoverGirl’s So Lashy Mascara.
Charles said, in his interview with the New York Times:
The fact that I am the first boy is so cool. It shows that this industry is actually becoming genderless, and we’re really making the push toward equal opportunities for everybody, regardless of race, sexuality, gender. I think it’s a huge steppingstone for such a big and iconic company.
Hopefully other people will see this, and when they think, “Oh, this random 17-year-old kid just started doing makeup recently and is now the face of CoverGirl,” I hope that inspires them to really be themselves and feel comfortable and wear makeup and express themselves in a manner they haven’t been comfortable doing before.”
He also addresses the issue of online bullying, saying that there will always be people who will try to keep others from doing what they love. However, his followers are so loyal and supportive that they make hate comments matter much less. He’s always been a fan of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” but he makes it clear that what he does is not drag: he identifies as a boy, and he’s a boy in makeup.
CoverGirl’s competitor Maybelline recently made American Youtuber Manny Gutierrez their first male ambassador. Gutierrez has acquired more than two million Youtube subscriptions since he started posting makeup tutorials in 2014. Gutierrez has a Makeup Geek eye shadow palette and an Ofra lip set named after him. He’s friends with Patrick Simondac, who also has more than 2 million subscriptions on YouTube. This year Simondac was made a brand ambassador for the nail polish line Formula X.
Gutierrez too makes it clear that what he does is not drag. He explains to Marie Claire: “It’s an art form for me. I’m still confident as a boy and I will always be a boy. I can be confident with bare skin and with a full face.”
It’s time for makeup to be normalised for guys: people need yet to realize that it makes no sense to assign genders on liquids and pastes or pieces of fabric, for that matter. Thankfully in 2017 everyone is allowed to do art, to paint on a canvas or tattoo their bodies; it only makes sense that everyone should be allowed to paint galaxies on their faces.