Makeup has been used as a vehicle for beautification and self-expression since the human race began, with some form of it being used for anything from stage productions to war paint. For thousands of years, women and men alike have painted their faces how they liked, with their only audiences being the people around them. When photography and movies became a phenomenon, however, beauty standards began to change. People anywhere in the world could see Clara Bow’s rosebud lips, Marilyn Monroe’s coiffed peroxide hair, or Audrey Hepburn’s gamine appeal. A desire to look like your favorite model or actress shot through society like a lightning bolt.
In late 1960s New York, the drag community was pushed to the public eye when the Stonewall Riots began, fighting alongside the LGBT community to protest their persecution by the police. However, the drag scene truly gained worldwide visibility when Divine and RuPaul joined the public eye. Two massively popular performers, they are the backbone of what we know today as the Drag movement.
When Instagram launched in October of 2010, drag and beauty would be irrevocably mixed. Today, Instagram has over 400 million active users, with a thriving beauty community. A group of individuals, known as “beauty gurus” or “beauty influencers,” call the shots when it comes to trends, and the current look has a flair for the dramatic. Borrowing tips and tricks from drag queens and mixing them with traditional makeup techniques, beauty influencers have perfected that “photo flawless” face, making them look sculpted and polished for their many enthralled followers. Their followers have taken these trends and made them mainstream, causing a new wave of beauty known simply as “Instagram Face.” Here are three current beauty trends you might not know came from the drag and theatre communities.
Contrary to current belief, Kim Kardashian did not invent contouring. The art of sculpting your face with creams and powders has been around as long as the stage, in order to combat a flattened appearance under bright stage lights. Contouring adds dimension to the face through artfully placed faux shadows and light-catching highlights, and has since been seen on faces across the internet, with sub-trends like “clown contouring” (painting the face in a clown-like pattern with your contour creams, then blending it out to a flawless face) “non-touring” or “strobing” (using only highlighting shades and no contour color) and “tontouring” (applying fake tan as contour to have a semi-permanent sculpted face).
Under hot theatre lights on stage, people sweat. A lot. To combat this, a technique was invented to assist actors in keeping their makeup on. It was recently re-coined as “baking” and people everywhere are taking notes. When you “bake,” you apply all of your cream or liquid products and then pat on a heavy layer of loose setting powder, leaving the excess on as well. You then let it sit for five to ten minutes, then carefully brush off the previously mentioned excess powder, leaving a very dry and matte skin texture in its place. Since “baking” is usually done with a translucent powder, it can impart the “baked” areas with a not-so-subtle highlighting effect, which the queens in the drag community have certainly been using to their advantage. Baking adds a little extra structure to the face, which can aid in that hyper-feminine look they strive for.
3. Ombre brows
When drag queens “beat their faces,” a term which originated in the act of patting or “beating” ones face with powder on a puff to set cream makeup and is now used to refer to the entirety of a makeup application, it’s a common step to completely cover the eyebrows and draw them back on. When redrawn, eyebrows are thinner, higher, and given a dramatic ombre or faded effect, adding a feminine lightness to the brow area. This can be done on carefully manicured natural eyebrows, using any number of brow products that are available now. Although natural brows can very often have a sparse front, it’s taken to the next level with the careful blending and fading that gurus and queens often use, giving the brows both a lifted look and a structured sharpness.
It’s very common to find people online and in the real world criticizing the techniques and tools that online beauty enthusiasts and their followers use. People will brigade against beauty gurus, saying that it’s too much or too fake, but, at the end of the day, it’s just makeup. It washes off. All that matters is that you wear what makes you comfortable and happy. When you’re happy, your confidence shows through, and that’s the most important thing.