3 LGBTQ+ Creators Show How They Express Themselves Through Makeup

·10 min read

Makeup can be transformative, personal, playful — and it’s for these reasons that it’s viewed as a powerful tool of self-expression. But for the queer community, it’s also an important tool of resistance against gender norms and archaic beauty standards, which feels particularly meaningful during Pride — a celebratory time “to be 100% yourself,” according to L.A.-based makeup artist Alexandra French, who describes her everyday beauty approach as “more is more.” “I love to go hard [with looks], especially during Pride, but I also love giving myself the freedom to experiment all year-round.”

For the LGBTQ+ community, makeup is a way to celebrate one’s authentic self, and it can come to life in countless ways. For some, it might mean experimenting with colorful rhinestones and face glitter, for others, a geometric eye look. That’s why we asked three LGBTQ+ creators, in partnership with Ulta Beauty, to show us what Pride makeup looks like to them, along with their first memories of Pride, and how they express themselves creatively through beauty.

Zenobia Teague, 28, Multidisciplinary Artist

What’s your earliest memory of Pride?
“I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, and there weren’t a lot of Pride celebrations happening there at the time. When I moved to New York City in 2015 and started working in nightlife, I was booked for a Pride show hosted by actors, comedians, and performers. I was starstruck and completely blown away being in the same lineup with established entertainers. It was a melting pot of multiple disciplines of artistry, and very inspiring.”

What does Pride mean to you today?
“It’s a time to celebrate, uplift, and honor trans people, especially trans femmes and Black trans femmes. In our queer community, these are people who have been on the front lines fighting for queer rights.”

How do you express yourself through beauty?
“While performing on stage, my aesthetic is very early-‘00s music video diva. I want my look to feel glamorous. On the other hand, in my daily life, if I wear makeup at all, it’s because I need to feel more empowered to exist in the world as a marginalized and intersectional individual. So, off-stage, I’m mostly a comfy kind of girl — all about the sweatpants and keeping it natural — but when we hit the stage, it’s a different scenario, baby. It’s glitz and glam and bling.”

What makeup product ties everything together when you’re prepping for a show?
“The lash. Every makeup lover knows the feeling of things not coming together, when you’re not sure if you made a mistake. But when you get the correct lash on, it ties it all together, and it’s incredibly empowering. I’ve been on a journey with lashes. A medium-length, piecey lash works best for my eyes and is super complementary. I like that it allows you to see my eyes through the lash as opposed to being too dense and looking like a chinchilla crawled up my eyelid.”

How did you create this look?
“I started off [with] a natural to medium coverage base, using Urban Decay Cosmetics All Nighter Brightening Vitamin C Makeup Setting Spray, as I want to keep my skin looking fresh. Then, I added dimension with some cream blush and contour. I set my face and baked under my eyes and on my jaw using Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Setting Powder, then added some warmth with the Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer. I added a satin finish blush and r.e.m. beauty Interstellar Highlighter Topper to bring life back to my skin. For the eyes, I played with some of the blue hues in the Juvia’s Place Culture Eyeshadow Palette, using my finger to apply them on the lid and then diffusing the edges with a fluffy brush. Then, I added some fun, wavy graphic liners and mascara. I finished the look off with a little lip liner, a dab of nude lipstick, and a healthy dose of the Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Gloss Bomb Heat Universal Lip Luminizer + Plumper.”

Why did you create this specific look?
“I’ve always loved and appreciated skilled and seamless blending in makeup — from eyeshadow to the complexion — and it’s so satisfying, after a ton of practice, to achieve that myself. For this look, I wanted to feel both ethereal and fresh, natural and done-up. Makeup can be so powerful — I felt like I was able to evolve myself into the image of my own imagination with this look. What’s more empowering than that?”

Kelli Caton, 26, Casting Assistant

What’s your first memory of Pride?
“The first time I went to Pride was in New York City in 2018. I was out then, and in my first (and current) relationship with a woman. It’s such a loving, accepting community that celebrates each other, and you see that at Pride, even as an ally. I live in L.A. now, and the queer community here is also so accepting and proud.”

What does Pride mean to you today?
“It means that I can be out — and proud to be out. I think of young Kelli living back in Texas, where I’m originally from, and it makes me acknowledge my privilege. L.A. is obviously more accepting than places in the Midwest and the South. I’m also a white cis woman, and even though I’m not straight, I’m a femme queer person. I want to recognize that privilege as well, because there are so many people throughout the country (and the world) who don’t get to be themselves or have the opportunity to celebrate themselves and their communities freely.”

How do you express yourself through beauty?
“Makeup is such a meditative thing for me. It’s one of my creative outlets. Year-round, [my look] isn’t that different, but during Pride it’s amped up a bit. This time of the year, I like to experiment more with more colors and glitter.”

Can you walk us through the look you created?
“I first primed my face, then added concealer on my lids as an eye base. For brows, I put concealer on a spoolie and ran it through until the hairs were covered, then set it with finishing powder. For my eyes, I used the Juvia’s Place Culture Eyeshadow Palette. I started with the shade Benin and put that all over, up to the brow bone. For dimension, I added the other two matte pink shades, Kalabari and Kobi, in the crease and around the eye. For the shimmer on the lid, I used r.e.m. beauty Midnight Shadows Metallic Gel Eyeshadow in Touch with my finger. I also smudged a bit of the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil in Cuff under the eyes for some extra shimmer.

“I applied concealer and setting powder under the eyes and around the cheekbone where I was going to blend the eyeshadow in as blush. For blush, I used the same Juvia’s Place eyeshadow palette in the colors Kalabari and Kobi and blended it from my temples down to my cheeks. I also applied it to the sides of my nose to contour and keep it all monochromatic. I then used the r.e.m. beauty Midnight Shadows Metallic Gel Eyeshadow in Touch again for highlight on my nose. For lips, I put the Fenty Poutsicle Hydrating Lip Stain in Strawberry Sangria only in the center to make it look like I just had a popsicle. I then used the NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil Creamy Long-Lasting Lip Liner and finished it off with a pink lip gloss.”

Why did you choose this look?
“I really wanted to do something dramatic but on the softer side. I love playing with makeup and experimenting with new products, but I prefer to not go too dark, especially with my hair and eyes being so light. I love using one color and really running with it, so I chose pink because it’s one of my favorite colors to use on the face. I was really excited to use the Juvia’s Place eyeshadow palette — the range of shades for pink were just too good. Since going platinum, I’ve gone back and forth between whether or not I wanted to bleach my eyebrows, and because I knew I wanted to go mascara-less for this look, I decided to give it a shot just to amp up the drama.

“I think [this look] is a really accurate depiction of how I’ve learned to express myself with makeup. My style and overall look has changed so much within the last year, along with my self-confidence. I’m no longer in a place where I want to wear makeup every day to conceal parts of my face. These days, I really don’t enjoy wearing it unless I’m pulling a look or trying something new. It was a journey to get here, but I love the artistry behind makeup. It’s so much fun.”

Alexandra French, 30, Celebrity Makeup Artist

What’s your first memory of Pride?
“I met my wife when I was 22, and she brought me to Dyke Day in L.A. in 2015, which was the same year I came out. That was the first ‘gay’ thing I had ever been to. Being around a bunch of lesbians and queers made more sense to me than anything before. For the longest time growing up, I felt like something was ‘wrong’ with me — I never had gay friends growing up in North Carolina. After Dyke Day, my girlfriend and I went to Pride, and it was so cool to be part of something that finally made sense. It felt like everything finally fit.”

What does Pride mean to you today?
“Pride means being open and able to be whoever you want to be. It’s sad to see what’s happening in Texas and other Southern states that are trying to take away and diminish [LGBTQ+] rights, especially the rights of children [within that community].”

How do you express yourself through beauty? 
“I work a lot with actors and singers who are so used to playing it safe, and that’s when they hire me — to take a risk. I [personally] love wearing a little black eyeliner and lots of glitter and rhinestones. I love to go hard.”

What’s the one makeup item that makes you feel most like yourself?
“I really love eyeliner. On days when I’m feeling meh, I put some eyeliner on — electric blue, green, whatever — and I think, Ohhh, who is she?

Can you walk us through the look you created?
“I used Colourpop Colour Stix Eyeshadow in Hummingbird in the inner corner of the eye and on the wing to really give this look a pop of color but still keep it wearable and cool. I then used Colourpop Colour Stix Eyeshadow in Isla Vista on the lower lashline and blended it into the teal wing. I used Stila Glisten & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow in Ocean on the center of my eyelid, applying it with my finger. I used Too Faced Better Than Sex Volumizing Mascara on my top and bottom lashes (I love chunky lashes) and finally, Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey.”

Why did you choose this look?
“I love this look because it’s bold but wearable. I tend to wear simple colors, clothing-wise: either all black or jeans with a white shirt. Makeup is where I really dress myself up. I grew up painting and wanted to illustrate children’s books before I decided to become a makeup artist. So, color and playing with all types of shapes and textures is something I love to incorporate into my everyday [beauty] look. Makeup should be fun and not too serious.”

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