Growing up I did not see people like me in make-up or beauty. Society led me to believe that I could not wear make-up,” says DevDoee, a 25-year-old beauty influencer living in New York. “As a little queer boy, I remember watching my mum do her face in the morning and wanting to be able to do it as well.”
For many queer-identifying individuals, the experience of feeling like you can’t express your true self through beauty or fashion is not totally uncommon, due to lasting stigmas, homophobia, and transphobia. Though in the past few years, things have been shifting, thanks to the power of queer influencers and the rise of inclusive media. And this is especially true for ad campaigns, products, and collaborations created by some of today’s top beauty brands.
Recently, Sephora debuted a campaign featuring transgender, genderqueer, and nonbinary models, including Aaron Philip, Hunter Schafer, and Fatima Jamal, and last week, Pantene partnered with GLAAD on an ad celebrating the diverse beauty in the queer community. In the past, Urban Decay worked with nonbinary model Ruby Rose and Covergirl tapped YouTube star James Charles, and MAC Make-up has always made it a part of its mission to support the LGBTQIA+ community.
These efforts help bring to the mainstream the idea that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Isabella Giancarlo, cofounder of Fluide, a genderless make-up brand, says, “In beauty, queers are often forgotten, unless they’re trotted out to be trendy or pandered to by huge corporations during Pride.” So, while the efforts of these mass market brands are significant because they are stirring real cultural shifts, it’s critical to seek out queer-led businesses who are actually part of the community. And good news: There’s a new wave of queer entrepreneurs disrupting the beauty space.
Isabella Giancarlo, Cofounder and Chief Creative Officer of Fluide, New York
“Growing up in New Jersey, I always felt like an outsider, and although I didn’t yet have the language for expressing what I later came to understand as my queer identity, I knew that I was disinterested in conforming to the very narrow definition of beauty I saw around me. Back then, I was dying to see queer beauty represented by queer people. Many of us within the queer community have a complicated history with make-up. Perhaps we felt obligated to wear it or didn’t have the permission to wear it, or maybe couldn’t wear it in a way that felt authentic to us.
“Fluide is a queer beauty brand that started around the idea that make-up is a tool of transformation and a powerful means of self-actualisation. As cofounder and chief creative officer, it was important to me that we showcase and celebrate the self-expression of people of all gender expressions and identities – and continue to work to represent an inclusive and expansive definition of beauty. Representing queer beauty and self-expression opens up possibilities for all; in how we look, who we are, and who we want to be.
“We are a queer beauty brand every single day of the year, and we support our community by bringing underrepresented people to the table in every capacity for our brand – as art directors, photographers, consultants, stylists, and models. We seek to ensure that for every underrepresented person we have in front of the camera, we have three times as many behind the scenes. We donate product on an ongoing basis to fundraisers and other community events. We’ve partnered with Callen-Lorde, NYC Dyke March, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Stonewall Youth, and True Colors.
“As a brand, we try to embody a nonprescriptive approach to beauty, in that each product is versatile and can be worn so many different ways. There’s no wrong way to wear our products, and I love seeing the way people mix our glitter into our liquid lipstick or use our liquid lipstick as eye shadow. We definitely have an expressive, experimental approach to make-up (after all, our tagline is “Make Up the Rules”) and we are all about personalised, DIY looks.”
Products range from £9 to £28. Check out the brand’s recently launched Galaxy Pride Pack and Pride Trio, curated collections of their all-time bestsellers at fabulous discounts.
Jessica Blackler, Founder of Jecca Blac, London
“[Before launching Jecca Blac], I was working in film and TV as a make-up artist in London. My clients were always at the very beginning of their make-up journey when they would first come to visit Jecca Blac make-up studio. I used to find it so fulfilling to teach them how to apply make-up for their own needs. I used to also love how the feeling of make-up made someone feel amazing, and often it would be emotional to see themselves for the first time in make-up.
“I am a strong believer that make-up should be used by anyone who wishes to, no matter your age or gender. Jecca Blac was initially makeup lessons for the transgender community. I realised that my clients felt very overlooked by the beauty industry, as there were a lack of products that served their needs and they were never reflected in the brands. Jecca Blac celebrates individuality.
“At Jecca Blac we decided to create products that are gender-free. Our first product was the Correct & Conceal palette, which is a concealer palette that can be used for anything from beard shadow to undereye darkness. Since launching, we have launched several other products, and we are about to launch our first Pride collection.
“As someone who is a founder of a LGBTQ+-focused brand and part of the community, there is nothing more frustrating than when it hits June and all brands decide to add a LGBTQ+ flag in their logo. Pride is a time of the year that celebrates the community; it’s not a party for most, but it’s a time to reflect on the progress we’ve made. Brands should begin to celebrate this community all year round, not for trend purposes, but as a brand value.”
Products cost £20 to £30. The company currently makes two main products, the Correct & Conceal palette and the Sculpt & Soften palette, with more products on the way.
Gloria J. Noto, Founder of NOTO Botanics, Los Angeles
“Ever since I was a child, beauty and identity played major roles in my life, even from just watching my mum and my sister get ready, to trying to figure out who I was and what I liked. I believe that it’s important for every story to be told. And for everyone to have a voice or something to look up to or be inspired by.
“I was, and still am, a make-up artist, for 12 years, and a fine artist. I never saw queer faces on the ads of the products I was buying, and I didn’t know why. Even diversity in backgrounds was a hard thing to find. I got to a place with my career where I wanted to make a personal difference in what I was attached to and be a part of a bigger idea that was cultivating change within the space of beauty. I wanted to create a space for all of us who didn’t see ourselves in other things.
“NOTO botanics is a multi-use, natural, and gender-free full-body line. We make everything you need for your face, scent, and hair. We have a nonprofit product called AGENDER OIL, and each month we choose an organization to support. Featuring LGBTQ+ individuals through our content or events is a 365 mission for us and lives within our core.
“We come from a place where identity is an open space, and availability is broad. Therefore we choose to use models and feature those that align with the inclusivity that we claim, be it with queer models, verbiage that states our ideas, or events that we choose to be a part of. In the future, I hope to open a NOTO store in every major city, which will also act as a community space, in addition to NOTO retail.”
Products range from £14 to £43. This summer, NOTO Botanics will release a new mini travel bag and a full-body wash, and the flagship store in Los Angeles is coming this fall.
Andrew Glass, Founder and CEO of Non Gender Specific, Atlanta
“I became interested in beauty at a very young age and knew that it was an industry I wanted to be a part of. As a gay man, equality has always been important to me. I knew that if I ever started my own brand, equality would play a huge part in that brand’s core values.
“It was during my time at a men’s skin-care brand that I noticed how segregated the industry was. It became my mission to change that. As someone who has always wanted to feel accepted by others for who I am, I wanted to create a brand that accepted everyone else.
“I was running the global business at a men’s skin-care brand before launching Non Gender Specific – we’re a gender-neutral green beauty skin-care brand that focuses on inclusivity and reducing consumer waste. Every product is multifunctional, vegan, cruelty-free, and suitable for ALL humans. Our products work for all genders, skin types, and skin tones!
“We were one of the first brands to boldly promote genderless beauty. As acceptance for all humans is at the core of our business, we are consistently supporting the community year round.
“We focus solely on the amazing ingredients inside each product for our marketing efforts. We’ve strategically stayed away from having a face associated with our brand because we don’t want customers to think we only cater to a specific group.
“I think that as younger generations become older, acceptance of the queer community will continue to increase and gender-fluidity will become more mainstream. It’s important for brands to adapt to today’s consumer and be smart enough to see what tomorrow’s consumer will be. If brands don’t adapt, then their existence will be short-lived.
“Recently, we launched our very first gender-fluid fragrance called Flooid. It’s an amazing formula that is seductive yet sweet and warm with earthy undertones. The box for this product is infused with seeds. This box will grow wild flowers if planted! In the future, we’ll continue to bring new products to market and may eventually branch the Non Gender Specific name to more industries such as Fashion!”
Products range from £28 to £98.
This article was originally published by Teen Vogue.