With the rise of Instagram, we have also seen a rise in male beauty and makeup gurus, who create masterpieces on their own faces. I felt compelled to write this article about these boys and men who love makeup for two reasons. The first is that now, with James Charles Dickinson being CoverGirl’s new spokesperson, it’s important and relevant for us to celebrate diversity and acknowledge that makeup is not just a women’s thing. The second reason is that I believe that by wearing makeup, men are changing what it means for all of us.
In this post I’ll tell you a bit about the male beauty gurus that you absolutely need to know, give a really brief summary of men wearing makeup in history, talk about why I think the new male beauty gurus have amassed such followings, and what I think they mean for the future of makeup.
Who Are the Makeup Boys of the Internet?
A few things stand out about these Internet makeup enthusiasts. They love their contour and highlight, they’re all fairly young (generally between the ages of 16 to 29), and they have diverse ethnic backgrounds. Introducing you to all of them would be difficult, but here are the few most famous male makeup artists you absolutely need to know:
1. James Charles Dickinson
James Charles Dickinson, the first CoverBoy, is only 17 years old, but he already has 770 thousand followers on Instagram, and over 100 thousand subscribers on youtube. His strobing technique is out of this world, although his elfin features also help him stand out.
2. Manny Gutierrez
With almost 3 million followers, Manny Gutierrez is a 25-year-old makeup artist who has collaborated with all the big beauty brands, including Tarte, Makeup Geek, Jeffree Star, and Ofra Cosmetics. His youtube tutorials get hundreds of thousands of views, and for a great reason. His high-energy attitude is totally infectious, and his reviews are spot on.
3. Bretman Rock
Bretman Rock is also ridiculously young, but he has the largest following of all: 6.5 million subscribers. This likely has mostly to do with his feisty personality, outrageous sense of humor, and incredible eyebrows. However, his makeup skills are not to be doubted.
4. Angel Merino
Celebrity makeup artist Angel Merino is one of the older guys in this group. He has 1.2 million followers, works as a professional makeup artist in LA, and has also launched his own glowy makeup, Artist Couture.
5. Alan Macias
Alan Macias’ look is lush and pouty, with lips any girl would die for. He’s only 18, but he’s already amassed a following of over 300 thousand people, and his makeup seminars are always well attended.
6. Ryan Potter
17-year-old Ryan Potter is a Seattle based makeup enthusiast whose style is flawless and clean, with over 140k followers, and killer Halloween makeup looks.
7. Ramsey Aguilera
Ramsey Aguilera’s wings are sharp enough to cut. He’s from LA, and in addition to posting makeup tutorials, he also gives some excellent skincare tips and reviews!
8. Patrick Starr
Patrick Starr is a real beauty. His style is a little more feminine and he is not afraid of playing with color! He’s good friends with Manny Gutierrez, as well.
9. Zachary Ward
Zachary Ward is a Las Vegas based makeup artist, who goes all out, but also has some really lovely natural makeup looks. His youtube tutorials are excellent.
But Let’s Be Real – These Boys Weren’t the First
I think it is important to remember that men fascinated by makeup are not new – or at least, they’re not any newer than women wearing makeup in the West. On the stage, makeup had always played an important role both for male and female actors, but up until the beginning of the 20th century, makeup in day-to-day life was frowned upon.
In the 1910s, with the advent of film technology and the beginning of the Golden Age of Hollywood, cosmeticians like Elizabeth Arden and Max Factor popularized makeup for wear in day-to-day life. Speaking of, Max Factor was one of the first commercial makeup producers. He was also responsible for coining the term “makeup” as a noun, as well as for creating many of the iconic makeup looks of early Hollywood, including the unique lipstick styles of Clara Bow and Joan Crawford.
As soon as makeup became a part of the everyday life of women, some sections of the LGBT community embraced it as well – but almost strictly in the privacy of underground gay clubs. Drag queens, of course, are the most relevant in this case.
Drag queens are (usually) gay men who perform in gay clubs dressed as women. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race knows how important makeup is to this performance art, and how elaborate it can be.
However, drag queens tended to perform only within their own community, and many would never reveal this side of their identity to their families or anyone else outside the gay community. A few exceptions exist, such as José Sarria, an out drag performer from San Francisco, who was also the first gay person to run for public office in the United States.
However, the “makeup boys of the Internet”, as I tend to think of them, are a little different. It seems to me that Jeffree Star is a precursor to the Instagram phenomena. While his appearance was quite feminine, he never identified as a drag queen, and his photos were certainly all about the makeup.
Myspace celebrities like him paved the way for other Internet celebrities, like the beauty gurus of youtube, or the personalities of Instagram.
The Importance of Instagram and the Internet
In the past, the main avenue where boys could wear makeup was the drag bar, where chances are they wouldn’t run into anyone who could influence other parts of their lives, and the repercussions were quite small. For other men, makeup or women’s clothing were strictly things they wore in the privacy of their own bedrooms, never letting anyone else – especially their family – see.
Nowadays, thanks to the rise of social networks primarily frequented by younger people, like Instagram and Myspace before it, these boys are given an opportunity to broadcast just about anything, as well as many other parts of their life and innermost thoughts, to a much wider audience, without having to worry too much about their families finding out.
Why Did They Get So Big?
I think there are a few big reasons why so many male makeup gurus are becoming so famous, but I would like to get the most obvious one out of the way first: these boys are hella talented. Did you see those pictures up there? Damn! However, I think these guys also manage to stand out and speak to us on a level different from that of the various female beauty gurus.
What they are doing is different, so they stand out. There are thousands of women – all of whom are excellent makeup artists – who regularly post their creations online, whether it’s videos or Instagram pictures, but only a fraction of them receive such incredible recognition.
Up until now we just were not used to seeing men wear makeup, especially not just for makeup’s sake. To a certain extent, I think that the sheer novelty made these boys stand out from the crowd, while their skills gained them hundreds of thousands of fans.
The final reason is a touch more profound. What the makeup boys of the Internet are doing speaks to our soul as outsiders and rebels. As these young men break the mold and redefine what it means to be a man, they speak to our hearts.
They are changing social norms, one like at a time, and while they receive a lot of praise they also receive quite a bit of Internet hate. As an audience, we see their bravery and honesty, and it resonates with us. And after all, who doesn’t love an underdog story?
What Does This Mean for the Future of Makeup?
With the path being paved for men to wear makeup without being judged, I think we will also see the separation of makeup and femininity. Right now, the makeup boys of the Internet are predominantly queer (I’m using it as an all-encompassing term here), but I don’t think it’ll stay this way for long.
Some straight men are already starting to use makeup, albeit stealthily, to cover blemishes and under-eye circles. I think that soon enough, visible makeup on the average man will also be accepted, because as a society we are slowly but surely starting to not only reject traditional gender roles, but we are rejecting the very notion of gender.
50% of millennials, based on a survey done by Fusion, believe that gender exists on a spectrum, rather than as a binary, while in a study done by the Innovation Group only 48% of respondents identified as heterosexual.
It is very common to see big cosmetic retailers like Sephora and MAC Cosmetics hire male makeup artists, and encourage them to get creative and wear a full face of makeup. While in most professional situations right now that might not be appropriate, I am convinced that in the next 20 years societal expectations will shift.
Personally, I am so excited to see this shift happening! Makeup art is a phenomenal creative outlet, and there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be open for everyone to enjoy. It gives us a lot of agency over how we are perceived, and forces us to really contend with our own faces and understand how we perceive beauty.
There is also the tendency in society to discount women’s hobbies as frivolous, while men’s hobbies are legitimate – so we might be seeing the legitimization of makeup. Lastly, I think the overall blurring of the gender roles and expectations also builds a future where women won’t be obligated to wear makeup to prove their femininity.
So thank you, brave and beautiful boys, for challenging the world of beauty so publicly, and helping make a difference for all of us!
Photos courtesy of Instagram
Don’t miss: Fashion Blogs Pay Off More Than Ever