Male beauty gurus break down gender barriers

February 4, 2017 — by Muthu Palaniappan and Katherine Zhou

Last fall, popular cosmetics brand CoverGirl made headlines after the company introduced its newest and first male spokesmodel James Charles, a 17-year-old male makeup artist, who creates looks on himself for social media.

Last fall, popular cosmetics brand CoverGirl made headlines after the company introduced its newest and first male spokesmodel James Charles, a 17-year-old male makeup artist, who creates looks on himself for social media.

In past years, CoverGirl has typically nominated female celebrities and models to represent their brand through model shots and product promotions.

Notable CoverGirls include Ellen Degeneres and Katy Perry, but Charles is the first male spokesperson whose main platform is his Instagram account. Charles now has over 1.3 million followers on Instagram, attracting fame for his creative makeup looks.

With the recent rise in appreciation for full-coverage, glamourous makeup, male makeup artists and beauty gurus have become popular on social media. These artists appear on YouTube’s trending page and Instagram’s explore feature daily.

Although many of these artists have fervent supporters on social media, CoverGirl’s endorsement of Charles was initially controversial. After all, many people still find it strange for men to wear makeup.

To be sure, the notion that makeup is only for women is deeply ingrained in society, and applying a bit of foundation or eyeliner can hardly count as an “art form.”

However, these male beauty gurus dedicate hours of their time, meticulously picking out looks or creating avant-garde expressions that take considerable work and skill.

Although many looks may have so-called “feminine traits,” many male makeup artists say that they aren’t transgender.

In an interview with beauty and fashion magazine Marie Claire, Charles said, "My parents started questioning me about whether or not I was transgender … It took a lot of thorough conversations to explain that 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.”

Following in the footsteps of CoverGirl, cosmetics brand Maybelline also introduced a new male spokesman. Manny Gutierrez, an openly gay YouTuber, was named Maybelline’s first male model in late 2016 as well. Like Charles, Gutierrez has now found fame on Instagram with over 3 million followers.

People like Charles and Gutierrez have shed light on these new concepts, catching the eyes of some of the biggest makeup companies as well as celebrities like actress Zendaya and singer Katy Perry, who expressed support for Charles via Twitter and Instagram.

Junior Ania Kranz, herself a makeup artist, offered her support for Charles, saying, “Bringing these talented male makeup artists to the front line breaks down all the walls that were set previously. The face is a canvas and the fact that these companies are bringing males into this industry is revolutionary because it tells men that makeup is art.”

The rise in male beauty gurus has broken down barriers in societal gender constructs, as people learn to understand and appreciate makeup as a non-gendered art.

“If you’re a guy or girl, black, white, winged liner looks good on everybody,” Kranz said.

 
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