When Makeup Blends Gender

goldie embedPhoto: Courtesy of Steven Paul.
Recently, we noticed a popular thread on Reddit titled "I turned myself into a guy! ...Using makeup!" The comments that follow are positive, thanking the makeup artist for sharing and trading tips and tricks for similar looks. After seeing the forum, though, we felt there was some deeper digging to be done. The skills involved in the photographed transformation are undeniably impressive, but there's more here than just a quick makeup tutorial.
Advertisement
People who use cosmetics and clothes to perform masculinity — otherwise known as drag kings — have their own subculture and history. They are also uniquely positioned to play with the complexity of how we understand what it means to be a man. It's more than just some well-placed stubble (though that can help). So, to get a better understanding of what goes into a drag performance and how makeup is used, we talked to Goldie Peacock, a professional drag king.
How would you describe your performances?
"I'll give you an example. In one of my pieces, set to Britney Spears' 'Stronger,' I portray a circus-style strongman who fails to lift a phallic-shaped weight — until I shoot myself up with a giant syringe of steroids and succeed, easily lifting the weight in all kinds of suggestive ways. The piece touches on homo-eroticism and gender expectations, and because I choose to dress in red, white, and blue and wear an American-flag bandana around my neck, it also addresses the American obsession with things that are 'bigger, faster, stronger.' Sometimes, though, I just want to dance around with enthusiasm and make people feel good, and it's not that deep."
What role does makeup play in your performance?
"I use eyeliner to darken my eyebrows and draw on facial hair and sideburns, which are current symbols of masculinity in our society. Sometimes I choose to don both facial hair and, say, pink glitter — which, during this cultural moment, is strongly associated with femininity. I hope that when people see me wearing a gender-blending look like that, they feel inspired and like they have permission to be creative and not so rigidly adhere to the gender binary."
How do you feel when you have the drag makeup on?
"I feel ready for my close-up. If I'm wearing more than usual, like lots of glitter, glitter on my lips, fake eyelashes, a facial-hair piece or glued-on stubble, it can feel kind of heavy at the end of the night. But, I don't usually take it off until the very last minute before bed, because I like how I look."
What does makeup mean to you outside of your performances?
"I have always gravitated toward makeup and enjoy playing with it, not only in a performance environment. I like that it can help people express themselves and feel good. I wear it several times a week just because I feel like it. I have a makeup drawer at home — sometimes I'll open it up and see some beautiful product and want to put it on right then and there, so I do."
Advertisement


Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page!
Advertisement

More from Makeup

Anyone who has been to Sprinkles knows its cupcakes are so delicious that you wish you could taste them all the time. Now, you can — or at least you can ...
Attention royal family fans: There's a new Charlotte Tilbury lipstick in town and it's regal AF
“I love cleaning my makeup brushes,” said no one, ever. Okay fine, some people do get great satisfaction from washing their beauty tools, but we're not ...
When I was eight years old, I knew nothing about makeup. Did that stop me from collecting palette upon palette of colorful shadows and sparkly tubes of ...
Pat McGrath posted three photos from the Versace fashion show to Instagram that tease a new product she's working on. The first shows Gigi Hadid with ...
Every morning, before I steep my morning tea, I scroll through my Instagram feed taking note of all the standout swatches, 60-second videos, and ...
Contouring can, as we've shown before, look scary. But, enhancing your cheekbones or jawline doesn't have to be frightening — or require the skill of a ...
(Paid Content) Some beauty trends from decades past always manage to circle back — they’re just too good to keep locked away in a previous era! Now you can...
Here's the good news about brown eyes: They're easy to play up, since brown is a mix of the primary colors. This most-common of eye colors is a gorgeous ...
I don't consider myself a vain person, but when I think of my #goals, having Cate Blanchett levels of skin perfection is right there at the tippy-top. Well...
Base makeup is one of those notoriously hard beauty products to shop for. Like picking out jeans or bras, the process takes time, commitment, and patience...
Three months ago, if you offered me a liquid lipstick, I'd give it a hard pass. I've tried a few before, and saw little advantage to applying lipstick from...
If there’s one thing King Kylie has conquered, it’s the art of the Snapchat selfie. Oh, and she seems to know a thing or two about lipstick, too. We’ve ...
If you haven't heard about rainbow highlighters, then you have some serious catching up to do. This year, a magical unicorn of a highlighter popped up on...