Beauty Beyond the Binary

Written & Photographed by Jill Kliger

This article has been adapted for the web from our Outside Issue.

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People use makeup for an endless list of reasons. Some use it for a confidence boost, to enhance their features or to creatively express themselves. But when have any of these purposes only applied to women? From the ancient Egyptians to European kings, it used to be perfectly acceptable for men to wear makeup. Only in the recent century has makeup been branded as gender-specific. However, in the past decade, huge strides have been made in the beauty industry to include everyone else in the equation.

Nick Bodi, a student from Westford, Massachusetts, has been wearing makeup since his freshman year of high school. He had started caring more about his appearance and wanted to enhance his features with basic products like powder foundation and mascara. For Bodi, makeup is a form of self-expression that has given him both confidence and clarity in his identity. He states, “Makeup has allowed me to become 100%, unapologetically, me. I wouldn't be who I am today without it.”

Granted, his journey of self-discovery through makeup wasn’t without obstacles. “It feels like there are certain groups of people who tend to stray away from me, and other men who wear makeup, potentially due to them being uneducated about us or simply uncomfortable; this is something that can easily be fixed, as we shouldn't be feared for looking different from other boys or because we wear makeup.” Although our society has become increasingly open-minded and accepting in recent years, there is still a stigma surrounding men’s beauty. Fortunately for Nick, he has a strong support group including his family and friends that have fully backed his choice to wear makeup.

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This stigma around men’s beauty is continuing to die out from increased exposure and awareness, and the media is to thank for that. Male celebrities that wear makeup have taken over social media and are completely reinventing traditional beliefs about makeup.This list includes popular Youtuber, Michael Finch, and makeup artist, Mario Dedivanovic. These widely successful men have acted not only as a driver of the men’s beauty movement but also role models to men. Nick Bodi sees a lot of professional makeup artists as role models, like Pat McGrath and Kevyn Aucoin. Bodi says he looks up to these men, “as they have always been staples in the fashion and beauty industry. Everything they did was no less than perfect and they built their own empires. I've also recently, in the past few years, started looking to many drag queens for makeup inspiration, like Trixie Mattel, Milk, Naomi Smalls, Miss Fame and Kim Chi, just to name a few.” The once-strict definitions of masculinity and femininity have blurred, and gone are the notions that you have to present yourself in a certain way because of your gender.

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This societal shift sparked by the media has led to significant changes in the beauty industry. Makeup brands and retailers such as Sephora are now providing cosmetics catered to men. Magazines have sections educating their readers about men’s beauty by suggesting products and creating tutorials. Even men’s magazines have jumped on the movement, encouraging their male readers that makeup is for men, too. Major makeup brands like L’Oreal and Maybelline are including male models in their advertisements; Covergirl made history by appointing the infamous Youtuber, James Charles as the first male spokesperson for their brand.

It’s 2018, and the idea that it’s only socially acceptable for women to wear makeup has antiquated. The media and beauty industry has seemed to welcome men with open arms, and it shouldn’t be long until the rest of the world does too. Nick’s advice to any men considering makeup is to “find a good foundation and work from there. You'll see great results in 1—how you look and 2—how you feel about yourself. You never know where it could take you.”