Gone are the days where we blindly put makeup on and hope for the best when we step out of the house thanks to the multitude of makeup tutorials on YouTube and Instagram. Many of the most successful beauty influencers, like Michelle Phan, Zoella, Huda Kattan and Nikkie de Jager, got their start doing makeup tutorials. However, cut crease, baking, contouring and many of the makeup techniques beauty bloggers rely on are all thanks to the drag community. A new documentary from Elle tells the story of how drag queens have shaped the makeup industry and many of today’s biggest beauty trends.
“I don’t think that the drag community gets the credit they deserve for the trends that are happening with makeup—so many trends started within the drag community. I would love to see drag get more recognition for it,” Renny Vasquez, a celebrity makeup artist who works with Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Lopez, and Serena Williams says. “I think that we’re moving into a moment where people are digging in a little bit deeper and they’re like, ‘Where does it come from?’ [Drag queens] are starting to get some of the recognition. But, I do feel like it’s long overdue.”
Until recently, the drag community faced extreme discrimination and bigotry. Though they still do, RuPaul’s Drag Race, a show that combines the best elements of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, has given drag queens an important platform. After 10 seasons, nine Emmy Awards and 126 successful contestants, queens are more a part of mainstream culture than ever before.
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Despite increased visibility in television shows, movies and runways, drag queens are the unsung heroes of makeup. Many of the makeup techniques popularized by social media stars like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner originated in the dressing rooms of drag clubs. Drag makeup is a transformation, altering the face into a character. The techniques were inspired by theater makeup that was thick enough to withstand stage lights and gave the face an exaggerated expression. Today, we just call it contouring.
“Beauty is so often tied to what’s perceived of as normal, and drag has allowed queer people to be normal in mainstream society. That’s really powerful because we are,” Velour says of drag’s over-the-top makeup looks now being embraced, “It may seem outlandish but it’s normal and healthy and it’s a good thing. So as that gets to be recognized as beautiful in its own way, I think we’re going to see a big increase in people’s safety and happiness.”
Check out the documentary above and pay tribute to the drag queens that made your flawless makeup look possible.