A history of drag beauty
As well as dancing, lip syncing, comedy, styling, and so much more, make up is an integral part of the art of drag. It’s a key way in which queens can carve out their own identity (as well as some killer cheekbones) and unique persona in this bustling community.
Back in the day when contouring was unheard of and baking was just something you did in the kitchen, drag queens in clubs across the world were using these techniques to transform their face. While you can now learn just about any make up technique from YouTube, seasoned queens had to pass this knowledge down to the newbies.
For many years, the drag culture remained underground. Major cities all had their booming drag scene – from the ballrooms of New York to London club circuit – but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it started to work its way into popular culture. Drag hit the big screen with movies like Priscilla Queen of the Desert, as well as queens such as Lily Savage making regular appearances on the small screen. Ru Paul’s collaboration with MAC for their 90s Viva Glam campaign was one of drag’s first forays into mainstream beauty. Then came along Ru Paul’s Drag Race, shining a light on drag, including the mesmerising make up routines.
The techniques used by drag queens when getting ready for a performance are based around two key principles: sculpting the face to create more ‘feminine’ features (although drag has since grown to be more than just female impersonation), and a super long-lasting face that will not budge throughout a high energy show. Enhancing your features and not having to touch up make up throughout the day are what we all want, so it’s no wonder that drag techniques hit the mainstream beauty world.
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