This website is primarily dedicated to women, but this post is all about boys who wanna be girls. If you got a problem with that, feel free to click elsewhere.
From a very early age, I have had a fascination with drag queens and drag queen makeup.
I guess it started with the John Waters movies I loved watching from my youth. Hairspray particularly made an impact on me because of Divine’s double role in the film – as Edna Turnblad and Arvin Hodgepile – I remember thinking “Divine is so much prettier as a woman.”
Even before my fascination with Divine, there was my obsession with Boy George – Do You Really Want to Hurt Me is still one of my favorite songs ever, and he’s just so bright and colorful in Karma Chameleon.
In Trinidad, I knew quite a few out-and-proud gay men (some of whom are family), but the drag culture is more underground, and as far as I know, much less fabulous and more gritty than the queens in America. Let me explain.
My first memory of drag queens in Trinidad… I clearly remember being about eighteen or nineteen, standing outside a popular fabric store on Frederick Street across from Woodford Square. There was a commotion across the street, and I saw a tall, intimidating shemale in heels and a miniskirt throwing rocks at a homeless man who was running away. Lots of cussing and “I will stab you” and that kind of thing, and an interested crowd of onlookers quickly formed. The vagrant had apparently hurled a homophobic insult at a group of very fierce and scary drag queens, who were threatening him with extreme violence. They were scandalously loud, clad in bright clothes and wore badly applied makeup and wigs, and if their stomping ground was Woodford Square, then let me assure you that those queens were rough and tough to say the least!
My fascination with drag queen culture has grown up with me. In my job I’ve interviewed some of South Beach’s most famous and fabulous queens, particularly the glamorous, super fab Elaine Lancaster, and my favorite, Shelley Novak who describes herself as “Barney Rubble in a dress.”
What fascinates me the most is the aspect of transformation. These are men who love makeup more than I do and know how to work it better than I do – and that’s saying a lot.
For me, there are drag queens, and then there’s Rupaul.
I absolutely adore RuPaul! I used to watch her show on VH1, and that was before I was even really old enough to “get” it.
RuPaul is definitely one of my makeup muses, because she embodies transformation. The phrase “Work it, girl,” probably wouldn’t have entered the cultural lexicon without Supermodel.
No wonder RuPaul was made MAC Cosmetics’ first drag queen makeup spokesperson back in 1995.
Drag queen makeup ain’t just for the boys who dress up like girls anymore. Seriously, Ru totally looks like Wendy Williams’ sister in the video for Workout. That wasn’t meant as a diss to Wendy, I love her show! She totally glams it up, and I don’t think she’d be insulted by the comparison.
From the looks of things, Lil Kim is going down the scary-drag-queen route with her makeup. (Seriously Kim, something’s gotta give. And it should be the eyebrows).
Drag queens have made makeup their artform, and women who are uncomfortable with makeup can learn a lot from the queens.
Why? Because they aren’t afraid to experiment with color, or products that I don’t even know how to begin using. Makeup is the foundation of a drag queen’s identity. They can go from scary to sensual with a swipe of lipgloss and some eyeliner.
Some of the best makeup artists cite drag queens as their muses, because they encourage creativity and embrace what’s different. I see drag queens as makeup trendsetters, and I love learning about their process of transformation. A good drag queen knows more about looking pretty than most women do.
She does offer a few tips: “There’s nothing i can tell you that will turn you into a genius make-up artist overnight. alls i can say is, get you some good brushes and practice. it doesn’t hurt to videotape or polaroid your experiments to study what works on you and what doesn’t.”
I’ve never filmed myself, but I love taking the time to practice new makeup looks at my vanity, and letting myself be creative with color.
I also found this quote from an annoyingly hard-to-read site on drag queen beauty tips:
“I can do my makeup in an hour, if I have to. I like to take three hours, and that includes my bath. You can’t rush glamour. I do contouring and lashes and lip liner, then blotting, another lipstick, and liner after that. My foundation is M.A.C. Studio Line Full Coverage N8. It used to be N7, but I’m not passing for a white woman anymore….The most masculine thing about me is my jaw. I’m telling secrets now: If I can overemphasize the eyes or the mouth and use hair to soften the line of my face, it de-emphasizes my jaw. Having big hair also helps me proportionately. Because my legs are so long, it lengthens the whole area from my shoulders up,” Ru said to James Servin, in an interview for Allure Magazine in February 1997.
I found the holy grail of drag queen makeup tips here. This site offers a step-by-step guide on applying drag queen makeup, including how to use the stuff I’m scared of like spirit gum, medical adhesive, jewels, and fake blood. I probably will never use fake blood or scabs on my face, but hey, knowledge is power.
My favorite tips from that site? Always use sunscreen, powder your base liberally, great advice for fake lashes – I feel more informed and perhaps ready to give them another try – and finally, take it all off! Makeup removal is absolutely of paramount importance.
Armed with these fabulous makeup tips, I feel ready to do my face up like a queen, and experiment with jewels and glitter for nights on the town. However, unlike most drag queens, for me less is definitely more. That doesn’t mean that this girl isn’t ready to work it!
I have one thing to say : sashay, chante!