When YouTube tutorials first became “a thing,” my artist friends would spend hours watching vloggers like NikkiTutorials and Jaclyn Hill contour, blend, and bake. Little did they know, I had already been practicing these techniques for years, thanks to the trusty drag queen beauty tips and tricks from my favorites.
I was lucky enough to hear RuPaul preach in person at the first ever RuPaul's Drag Convention. After Ru's keynote speech, the humble queen took some questions from us poor plebeians in the audience. One exuberant mom (sitting next to her blushing, embarrassed daughter) raised her hand, and asked Ru why her child was so intrigued by these men putting on makeup. To be honest, I don't fully remember Ru's response. I vaguely recall him laughing it off, saying something to the effect of, “It's because we're fabulous." I had to restrain myself from jumping up out of my chair and lovingly declaring my own retort. Drag queens represent the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, talent that accompanies pure confidence. They symbolize the freedom to be whatever makes you feel the most beautiful. Not to mention, they have the immense talent to back it up. If Miss Fame can take five o'clock shadow and turn it into the most beautifully contoured visage, then there's nothing you can't do.
Here's the most helpful drag advice to remember the next time you're getting glam, so you can strut the streets like your lip-syncing for your life.
1. "We're All Born Naked And The Rest Is Drag."
Let's get this party started with some words of wisdom from the mother of modern mainstream drag, RuPaul herself. Ru has blazed a trail, bringing the culture of drag to millions of television and computer screens. Thanks to Ru, talented national treasures like Bianca del Rio, Willam, and Alaska have become household names. Ru has build her brand on love and acceptance. She reminds us that we are all equal, regardless of our exterior. The simple act of getting dressed in the morning is drag. We all choose how we want to present ourselves to the world, and that choice can be as simple or as dramatic as we wish it to be. When doing makeup, don't let anyone hold you back. The options and opportunities are endless. Take risks and experiment. Try those glitter tears or those rainbow freckles. After all, it's just drag. It can always be removed with some sensible cold cream at the end of the day.
2. Hairspray Isn't Just For Hair
Well, if your bouffant is as coiffed as Ginger Minj's, please use about 90% of the can to keep your fabulous do locked and loaded, but reserve 10% to set your beat mug. To survive those hot southern summers in full drag, Ginger sprays her face with hairspray, which locks her makeup in place. It's definitely a trick I reserve for my times of travel, when packing a setting spray just seems too daunting. I do not recommend it for everyday (alcohol and other chemicals in hairspray can cause the skin to become dry and break out after prolonged use), but it has certainly saved my suitcase some extra space time and time again.
3. Forget Twins, Brows Aren't Even Sisters
According to Bob the Drag Queen, when it comes to brows, "Everyone says sisters not twins, but I say your eyebrows can just be like two girls that went to high school together who were always told that they look alike, but they never saw it." As long as your brows relatively start, arch, and end in the same place, then you're fine. Even the most beautifully full natural brows aren't perfectly symmetrical. So girl, do your best, and as long as they're the slightest bit similar, you'll notice that no one else will ever know the difference.
4. Don't Get Hung Up On Makeup Mistakes
As Willam says in the best makeup tutorial of all time, "You'll notice that this line is a lot bigger than this line, and that's because no one cares." We take ourselves way to seriously. We see tiny makeup mistakes that no one else will ever see. We overthink a nearly perfect cat eye, and then correct and add more product until we become pandas. We pick at blemishes but don't even notice those on our friends' complexion. We are our own worst judges. If we can stop overthinking how beautiful we are, we'll have more time for glitter, gloss, and more of the fun stuff.
5. Make The Best Use Of Your Lids
When Violet Chachki creates her signature, upswept eye look, she glues down her brows so she can draw the arch higher. In her makeup breakdown for Logo, Violet says, "I have... a really hooded eye as a guy, so I have always kinda been self conscious about it... I really wanna... open up my eye and... create like a socket and a hood and... all that kind of feminine eye shape." Hooded eyes occur when the brow bone sags or sits on top of the lid of the eye, creating a hood that covers most available lid space. For hooded eyes, more space can be made available by cheating the crease upward. You don't have to use glue like violet to get to achieve more brow bone space. When filling in your brows, focus on filling in the top of the brow, rather than underneath the arch. This will free up more space below. By blending a contour shade from the crease toward the newly heightened arch, you can give the illusion of the crease receding rather than protruding. This allows the eyes to appear more open so you can smize all day long, just like Violet.
6. Set Your Lip Liner With Eye Shadow
This trick blew my mind. Violet first lines her lips with a brown lip liner, sets the liner with a deep red powder, and then fills in her lips with a slightly brighter red lipstick. Because Violet overlines her lips, she needs to add dimension back into the top lip so the illusion isn't as clockable. The powder not only prevents the lip liner and lipstick from bleeding throughout a long night of multiple performances, it also camouflages the natural lip line by creating a darker gradient right over the edge. Because light colors come forward and darker colors recede, the slighter deeper red powder allows the edges of the new pout to fall into shadow, while pulling the center of the lips into focus, mimicking the highlight and shadow and actual lips. The matte natural finish of the powder also absorbs any shine on the skin underneath the overdraw lip, which throws attention away from the natural lip protrusion.
7. Make This Face to Perfectly Contour Your Jaw
When makeup artist and goddess Raja contours her jawline, "I make a funny face, I go like this... so that way I know where all the gross parts are. Then you just cover the whole thing, like that." Trust me, this trick works. It's the easiest way to make sure your contour goes where it actually needs to go.
8. Don't Close Your Eyes When Doing Your Eye Makeup
Raja says, "The worst thing you can do is apply all the makeup on to your eyelids and then you open your eyes and then it all disappears. So if you just look at yourself straight on, this is how people will see you." When you apply your eyeshadow with your eyes open, you can do the most work to support your eye shape. Shadow can be corrective. By placing medium to deep tones on the most prominent plane, you can bring the eye into balance. If you have no natural crease, you can create one by blending a transitional tone above the lid while the eye is open. If you have naturally downturned eyes, you can bring the shadow up a bit higher at the outer corners to snatch the eye upwards. If you're applying shadow with your eye closed, there's no telling what it will do for your eye shape.
9. Use Cheap Glitter To Adhere More Expensive Glitter
Contrary to popular belief, Courtney Act's makeup routine does not solely consist of chapstick and mascara. It involves some glitter too. "My new favorite thing for glitter application... I've discovered these little glitter pens which don't have enough glitter in them for a regular human being, but they act as a good glue that you can then stick glitter to." Adhering glitter is s difficult task. Most truly effective glitter adhesives are a bit pricey, and duo lash glue can make the eye lid feel crunchy. But my Wet N' Wild Fantasy Makers Glitter Eyeliner that I purchased for under $5 works beautifully as a tacky, long-lasting base for my Violet Voss glitters.
10. Contour Can Be Totally Transformative
Before the Kardashians, there were drag queens. Female impersonators have been utilizing contouring for years to transform masculine, angular face shapes into soft, rounded, feminine ones. As Alyssa Edwards says, "contour can really be the most vital part of creating the illusion the we're all searching for." You don't have to contour in the same cookie-cutter way you've seen all over Instagram and YouTube. Contour should just be used to get rid of the bits you don't want to draw attention to. If you feel like a potato (like I do most days), chisel in some cheekbones. If you feel your forehead is a fivehead, add some shading at the hairline. Contour can take you wherever you want to go. It's all about embracing the you that you've always wanted to see.
11. Highlight Can Hide Wrinkles
In dealing with fine lines and wrinkles, Miss Fame suggests to simply "take a small brush and brighten that little area up." If highlight brings things forward while contour and shadow recede, we can neutralize the appearance of a fine line or a sunken area by adding a bit of brighter concealer. The light pops the shaded area forward, which helps to soften the severity of the wrinkle. This trick works particularly well around the nose and in the marionette lines.
12. You Can Wear Anything You Put Your Mind To
According to lifesize Barbie, Trixie Mattel, "people always feel like, they see people wearing a specific makeup piece, like a lipcolor or like a liner shape or something and they're like, 'I wish I could pull that off.' You are no different from somebody else. When I worked as a makeup artist, people all the time were like, 'oh I can't wear colors like that.' You 100%, 1000% can. The difference between you and somebody wearing a red lip is... one day they just started." You can wear anything you put your mind to. The reason your blue lipstick or your metallic liner looks weird is... you're just not used to seeing yourself that way! Give new looks a chance! Have some makeup bravery and you may discover just how beautiful you can be.
13) Sell That Garment, Henny
The one common thread between all these queens: confidence. In our society, it takes so much chutzpah as a man to just put on a full face, let alone perform with it on in front of a crowd of drunken hecklers. But these queens know how to sell what they're wearing. Even if your lipstick is smudging and your contour is fading, you need to know how amazing your are. If you truly believe it, you can't help but radiate that energy outward. In short, the biggest beauty tip I have learned from drag queens is that confidence is the best accessory.
Drag queens are true makeup masters. If we open our hearts to the lessons they have to teach us, the transformative possibilities are endless. Just remember, when in doubt, always drag it out.