So, Why Makeup? And Why Now?

Published on December 28, 2012 by   ·   1 Comment

What is it about a new piece of cosmetic goodness that just sets the heart aflutter?

00000 Makeup Ben NyeI have always loved makeup.  When I was a kid, there was a book in my school library that was all about costuming and makeup; I checked it out so often, I think the librarian was tempted to give it to me so she wouldn’t have to keep stamping the damn thing.  I think mine was the only name on the card.  It had projects for using milk bottle caps to make medals for military costumes and diagrams for transforming yourself into a vampire or Cleopatra (I know you young chil’ren are going to be reading this like, “Library cards?  Milk bottles?  WTF is this bitch on?”  Ah, the good old days; but don’t worry, kids, I’ll be back in modern times soon enough).  At the back of the book, there was a section of resources you could use to find props and materials.  Long before the days of email, I wrote a letter (I know!  How quaint…) to the address listed for Ben Nye Theatrical Makeup Company and told them how much I enjoyed the book I was reading and asked them if they had any catalogs or samples they could send me.  A couple of weeks later, there was a small package in the mail; the folks at Ben Nye had graciously sent me an entire student makeup kit!  It was a revelation!  There were creams foundations, highlighter and shadow, liner pencils, and even that weird black stipple sponge that I’ve never had any luck using correctly, even to this day.

00000 Makeup DivineWhen I got into drag early on in my college years, I rediscovered my love for makeup – even if I wasn’t very good at it as several pictures from that period would attest, if they weren’t safely hidden away from public scrutiny!  I loved getting dressed up and trying out new products and shades, trying to change my face to look like things I had seen on TV or in magazines, or even what little I had seen of drag culture at the time.  Even before I started performing, I fell in love with the transformation, with the sense of play.  Of course, there is also that delicious feeling of naughtiness that goes along with it: men aren’t supposed to like things that are sparkling and soft and beautiful.  The transgression and the pushing of boundaries was part of the fun for me.  It reminded me of the first time I had seen a picture of Glenn Milstead aka Divine in his outrageous red mermaid gown look from Pink Flamingos.  I didn’t even know exactly what I was looking at, but I knew that I was fascinated!  That strange, wonderful, almost alien creature with its hair shaved back to make room for the out-of-control drama that was Divine’s eye makeup!  Van Johnson, the makeup artist on John Waters’ early Dreamland Productions films, was truly inspired; I was watching a documentary called Divine Trash where John Waters says in an early interview that he wanted Divine to be the “Godzilla of Drag.”  At the time, drag queens were all busy trying to look like “real women,” and Divine, Waters, and Johnson wanted nothing to do with that.  They wanted an image that would shock and amuse and delight and terrify.  It certainly worked for me!

00000 Makeup RuPaulBesides Divine, one of my early drag and makeup deities was RuPaul.  As a closeted gay kid living in Bumfuck Nowhere, North Dakota in the mid-90s, RuPaul was a breath of fresh air.  Her Supermodel of the Worldalbum gave me a little taste of glamour; and again, as I was just starting to experiment with my own transformation, RuPaul was there to inspire.  Her campaign as the spokesperson for the first Viva Glam lipstick by MAC had me enraptured.  Again, it was the perfect mixture of glamour and beauty with the trashy and forbidden.  I found an ad in Details magazine where RuPaul’s body was used in different poses to spell out “Viva Glam.”  Her outfit is a red vinyl corset and matching brief with matching red platform thigh-high boots.  The last letter, the “m,” has the camera focusing right into RuPaul’s crotch, looking up between her spread legs to her flawlessly painted face.  The whole think is so sensual and erotic and beautiful, I ripped it out and had it hanging on my wall for several years; another copy became part of my makeup “scrapbook.”  A year or so later, when MAC came out with their second Viva Glam lipstick, they re-did the ad with RuPaul and new VGII spokesperson KD Lang, this time in black.  It was still good, but somehow I never found it nearly as appealing as the first one.  The sexuality just seemed much less “boundary-pushing” or something.  Although, choosing a drag queen and a lesbian (who almost never wears makeup) as your spokespeople in the first place says something about the queer delight I found in the MAC brand back in those choatic pre-Ellen days.

So that’s the “Why makeup” part: I love playing with makeup, and I get as much enjoyment out of learning and experimenting with my drag persona as I do from actually performing it.  So, why now?  Well, I guess you could say that I’ve decided to “broaden my horizons” as the cliche goes.  As noted above, RuPaul was an early inspiration to me and I fell in love with MAC products.  My first lipstick purchase as an adult, even before I’d really toyed with the idea of creating a new persona, was the original MAC Viva Glam.  RuPaul’s ads proudly proclaimed “I am the MAC girl” and I knew I wanted to be a MAC girl too.  I had a few staples (like theatrical cream foundation from Ben Nye or Graftobian, Coty’s Airspun powder, etc.) for creating my look, but for all of the fun colorful stuff I went to MAC.  A few years later, after I’d taken a couple of makeup classes in the Theatre department and had some performance experience under my belt, I joined the MAC Pro program, a program that allows makeup artists and “makeup-using professionals” to get discounts and have access to classes and other special opportunities.  I ate, slept, and breathed MAC.  It was a little bit of an obsession.  I waited impatiently for each new collection to come out, and it was rare for one to come out where I didn’t find at least one product I just had to have.  Many a night I ate ramen noodles, thinking about the little black box that was on its way to me with all of my new goodies.

00000 Makeup Gold GrecianBut now is the time for change.  In fact, I spent quite a bit of the last 3 years (and the last year or so in particular) dealing with lots of transitions and transformations.  My beloved MAC has slowly been changing itself from the cutting edge, professional brand I came to love when I was starting out into a more watered down brand meant to appeal to the masses.  I still love and use many of their products, but all the time I find them getting less and less distinguishable from every other brand on the market.  Because of this, I figured it was time to get out there and see how the cosmetics world had changed – and boy, had it ever!  Quality is new longer tied to price, as their are many new lower-priced brands out there that feature exceptional quality.  As the old “rebel brands” like Urban Decay and Hard Candy become domesticated, there are great new startups that are working to bring products that are fun and vibrant and just really, really cool out into the market.

That’s why I wanted to do this makeup forum NOW: to document and share all of my new adventures and experiments to share with others who like to play and enjoy the world of makeup.  I’m not claiming to be some beauty expert; more than a decade into performing, I still struggle with my own makeup!  But now there are so many more resources out there than when I was first starting.  Books and DVDs, makeup tutorials on YouTube, websites, and more.  How can I resist wanting to be a part of it?!

00000 Makeup ArtPlus, it’s another way for me to connect with other people who like to play and enjoy the crazier side of makeup!  I love the wild and the wacky.  Makeup misfits, unite!  There isn’t one “right” way to do drag makeup, or everyday makeup either.  Makeup should be about creating and exploring, not about fitting yourself into a template that someone else says is what you “should” look like.  So take any info you find here and alter, change, transform, or ignore it as you see fit, and I will do the same with anything you bring here for me.  Let’s get talking and get creating!

Now go forth, and get painted!

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Readers Comments (1)
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