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Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous
By Alex Carrigan
*Editor's Note: This piece was written as a daily commentary leading up to a Pride event on the 17th of September.
I came out earlier this year, and September 17, 2016 is the first Pride event I’ll be able to go to since I came out. I bought a ticket for a special event that evening, where there will be food, cocktails, and drag performances, including famous drag queen, DJ, and adult filmmaker, Chi Chi LaRue. Because this is my first Pride, I wanted to fit in with the event and feel like doing something new. I thought about what I could do, and I came to a conclusion: I would try drag.
This has immediately not gone the way I wanted. First, I am not the right body size to be looking for women’s clothing in cheap retailers (Finally! Motivation to lose weight!), so I’ll probably just tie my hair in pigtails and find the campiest shirt I have. But I can try makeup. I’ve only worn makeup once before when I needed cover up for my senior portrait, but then I had my sister help (thank you, Emily). Now I will be trying it all on my own, and that presents a challenge.
I am relying on internet tutorials and guides to apply makeup. I am going to try and put makeup on every day in the week leading up to the event. I hope this will make me semi-passable. I’m not trying to attract anyone or show up anyone (cause I know there will be people with better makeup there than me), but this is something neat that I want to try.
So here I go:
Day 1: September 10, 2016
First of all, now I see just how absurd the price of beauty is. I’ve seen numerous pieces about how much it costs for women to buy beauty products, and I'm already in disbelief. For my shopping list, I looked up a list of essential makeup tools and went to the nearest CVS for this task. Removing the sales tax and the additional purchases I made for non-makeup related products (like cough drops and Neosporin), this came to $110.57. What?!?
Below is a picture of everything I bought. That includes:
I don’t know if it’s the brands that are why this rang up or the sheer amount. If anything, I did learn that these do go a long way, so maybe that’s part of the draw. Buy one thing of foundation, and it last several months. I don’t know, but I’ll probably get an idea when I try these out more this week.
Now I’m home and ready to try. I have a makeup guide on my laptop and all my tools nearby. I’ve watched a few videos, and I’m ready to make a first attempt.
First, I did the foundation, Beauty Balm, and translucent powder. For starters, it looks great. It’s covered up my acne and made my skin look a lot better colored. It hasn’t covered the five o’clock shadow, so I might have to shave closer to each attempt I make this week. It’s similar to my senior portrait, so this at the very minimum is something I might do for my normal life when I have special events.
Now is when it all falls apart. It turns out applying eye shadow is a lot easier than it looks. The eye shadow set I got has some simple, dark colors. It turns out it is very easy to make it look like some piece of machinery belched exhaust in your face when you try black eye shadow. I made a few attempts, such as trying the white, then the black, or even messing around with how I apply it. It never looked good.
Eyeliner is even harder. Now that I’m close to stabbing my eye, I can’t figure out how to properly put it on, and it just looks like I’m doodling on my face. When I was a kid, I’d dress up as Harry Potter for Halloween, and even though I wore fake glasses for those, putting on eyeliner makes it look like I’m just drawing the glasses on because I can’t even find plastic glasses.
Lip liner and lipstick are even worse. There is no way I can put either of these on without looking like Heath Ledger’s Joker. Even skipping the lip liner and I still look like I fell face first into a strawberry pie.
I was going to include a picture, but I washed away the evidence way too quickly after seeing how bad it was. Now my eyes feel weird so I have to keep washing them out. If you want to know what I look like, just imagine Imperator Furiosa had sex with Bozo the Clown, and I’m the result. Or rather, just look at the album cover for Lady Gaga’s Artpop, and that’s close enough.
Also, I painted my nails. I might have trimmed them too small, so I’ll have to let them grow out for this. And I’m a natural nail biter, so this will be a test of temperance as well. Oh joy.
Day 2: September 11, 2016
Something I noticed is that, since I painted my nails, I’ve become slightly more narcissistic. Now that my nails are painted a shiny green color, I keep looking at them. Maybe it’s because I associate painted nails with pretty ladies, but I keep looking at them or hand modeling with them. Even as I write this paragraph I keep finding myself looking at my nails, flexing my fingers between every few sentences so I can look at them and see how they’re starting to chip or fade away.
In the time since I first tried to put makeup on, I went to a drag show at my favorite gay bar in Charlottesville on Saturday night and spent my Sunday running errands and cooking around the house. The entire time I was out or in rooms with other people, I wanted them to say something about my fingernails. Either I hope they complement the color or they ask why so I can tell them about this. I’m not particularly going out of my way to show them off, but I’d like an aside glance at least.
Now for the second attempt at putting makeup on. I made sure to shave this time in hopes that less of my shadow will show. Frankly, I am terrible at shaving, so I might have to really play around with shaving this week. I have a new job starting soon that will require me to be more well-groomed, so I should probably get used to shaving daily.
I’m feeling better about using foundation and translucent powder. My skin looks monochromatic instead of the weird splotchy color it was before, so I actually feel like I’d look good on camera. I am figuring out a few things. One, I should have gotten bigger brushes. Two, I keep getting it I my hair, so I should be more careful. Three, I picked the worst time to get a cold because wiping my nose takes makeup off. And four, I need to really carefully wash and dry my hands because I got some powder on my laptop while sitting here and typing this. Hooray.
So today, I tried to watch a makeup tutorial video in order to try things differently. I figured seeing it done would be easier than just reading descriptions. For eye shadow, it actually turned out better. I decided to try a more neutral brown color for the start, and it actually looks slightly decent. Not great, but actually subtle. I might have to play around with the shades and how to place them on my eyelids, but I feel I’ll get the hang of this soon.
Now, it’s occurred to me that I’ll have to pretty much take it one step a day. While I felt better with eyes hadow, eyeliner still got into superhero XXX parody quality. It’s so easy to mess up eyeliner, and so easy to get jittery when you’re so close to stabbing your eye with a pencil. It also didn’t help that I did the cat-eye thing almost naturally. It doesn’t look good at all.
Mascara is also a pain. It’s easy to miss your eyelashes and get it on your lower eyelid. I have naturally small lashes, and this definitely is not the time to try out false lashes. So now I look more like Tammy Faye Bakker.
Oh, and lipstick and lip liner can just go to hell. Lip liner just makes my mouth look huge, and the lipstick never looks right when I put it on. I may have to pay more attention to videos putting lipstick on or move where I draw the lip liner, but man is this going to be a tough one, when it really shouldn’t be on paper.
So this is what I looked like after this day’s attempt. Shocking, right? I look like Mother Brain from that crappy Nintendo cartoon from the late 80’s. I think if I regressed any further I’d enter Norman Bates territory. Oh well. Thank god showers exist to wash it all away.
Of course, they can only get so much. It got most the makeup off except the eye shadow, so now I look like Criss Angel. Great. This is what I get for writing each section after I make attempts.
Day 3: September 12, 2016
I’m not letting a cold stop me. I’m making my next attempt. Also, I had to get called in for a training session for my new job, so I had to quickly remove the nail polish from my fingers. First, I had no idea polish remover worked that quickly. Second, I didn’t think the smell would linger in my car as I drove there. And third, I already miss my sparkly green fingernails. I’ll repaint them on Saturday.
Also, it occurred to me to actually listen to appropriate music while doing this. I made an offhanded reference to one of my favorite queer movies, To Wong Foo, when I was about to start painting, and so I’ve got Salt N’ Pepa’s “Body Beautiful” playing on loop. I guess I am feeling very Chi Chi Rodriguez as I work, and I hope to be a Vida Boheme by the end of the week.
Anyways, about the makeup. I shaved using a coffee butter shaving cream I got a few years ago. It smells awesome and makes my skin feel smooth. I normally don’t use it because it’s skin colored and I could easily miss entire strips of hair on my face, but since I’ve been shaving daily, it’s much easier. Now I smell good too.
Foundation went as usual, but I played with eye shadow. I tried a black, but it looks too Black Swan for my taste. I did switch to a more neutral brown, and I think it looks better. I might need to buy some better powder or foundation because I feel like the dark circles on my eyes never go away. It’s what I get for years of staying up late watching anime.
Eyeliner will be a challenge for me. I might have to find a liquid liner instead of the liner pencil I’ve been using. I feel it might be easier and look less like I’m drawing glasses on my face. This will be my uphill battle for the week.
Oh, and I should have used lip balm before I use lipstick. That’s why my lips are chapped. Damn. I feel like I applied it better today, although my mouth looked too much like an oval and not mouth-shaped. I’m starting to get a bit Baby Jane at this point, and that’s giving me ideas for Saturday.
Also, I didn’t bother with mascara today. Because fuck it.
Day 4: September 13, 2016
I had a training thing for my new job today, so I couldn’t do the full makeup application today. I did put on foundation and powder for the training session so that I could try wearing some makeup out of the house. I did feel like powder fell into my mouth at times, but the few times I caught my reflection it looked pretty decent. It’s probably not something I’ll do all the time, but I’ll at least do it on bad acne days.
Day 5: September 14, 2016
The Baby Jane comment from two days ago changed everything. I thought about it, and said “Fuck it.” I’m going full Baby Jane for this. I began by drawing the peace sign on my face which meant the coverage wasn’t as heavy as normal, so it was pretty good. I might need stronger foundation because my dark circles are never going away.
After that, I just didn’t care. I basically threw on whatever I wanted and went as heavy as possible. For the eyes, this meant going for black eyeshadow to get that raccoon look down. The eyeliner pencil became my new friend, because I realized I could draw whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted on my face. Thus the extremely long cat eyes.
Then I drifted into clown whore territory with the heavy red lips, freckles, and lipstick blush. The blush I bought doesn’t really show up on my face, so I figured I’d draw it on with the lipstick. I also drew a heart on my cheek like Electra Heart, because I could. Then I wrinkled my brow and traced those lines also because I could.
The result is Lovecraftian. Maybe it’s a good thing American Horror Story is back on tonight because I can easily play the new serial killer on that show.
So yeah, I’m going to abandon the idea of looking beautiful and just figure out what I can do with my face with the supplies I have. I have other ideas in mind for the final look, so I’ll be looking into implementing those over the next few days.
Day 6: September 15, 2016
I said I was going to go for batshit crazy for my Pride look, and I decided to do some craft shopping to help me do just that. After a surprisingly fun trip to Michael’s, I came back with a 3XL t-shirt, seven paints, and some brushes. I stenciled a phrase on the shirt, and got to painting. This came with a few problems of its own.
First, I knew to put cardboard under the shirt to give it some padding and in hopes the paint wouldn’t seep through and stain the table. It didn’t seep through and stain the table, but the cardboard wasn’t big enough, so it did seep through the shirt. It’s worse looking inside the shirt than on the outside, but considering I want to paint something on the back tomorrow, I’m now a bit more worried.
Second, I wrote in block letters and grabbed foam brushes, but those are not good for small details and edging. I should have had a smaller brush to touch those up, and I might just take a Sharpie to the shirt to make it clear what each letter is.
Third, whoever was stocking Michael’s needed to be careful. The yellow was not the same kind of paint as the others, so the yellow letters don’t look as good. I can see I have to do another layer of those tomorrow.
Fourth, I realized it the minute I set the paint on the shirt, but the Pride flag has eight colors, not seven. I don’t have pink on the shirt, so already I feel like I’m not doing this properly. If anything, I know people will get what I’m doing, so I won’t kick myself too much. But I really should have known this.
So after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 2, I made another attempt at makeup. With the eye shadow, I used the one color I hadn’t used yet and got sort of streaky on the sides, like Kiss makeup. I sort of like how that looks, so if anything, I can try to do something punkish for Halloween. When I settle on my look on Saturday, I’ll really have to do my eyes a lot because I know I won’t be satisfied.
On a whim, I did my lip liner with the eye shadow pencil. Even I knew black lip liner wasn’t a good idea, but man was it something to see it on my face. My mouth looked like Oblina from Aaahh! Real Monsters. It’s not good. And for good measure, I drew two hearts on my cheeks instead of one. Because why not?
Lastly, inspired by the Sia music video “The Greatest” that I saw earlier this week, I decided to use the rainbow paint to put the pride colors on my face. I sort of randomly picked my forehead just to test it out (after making sure I was able to put the paint on my skin). I actually like the bright pop of color, so I might try it on Saturday, albeit in a better way and in a place where it won’t get in my eyes or mouth.
I have one more day to test the makeup out before I settle for Pride. This will be quite a ride.
Day 7: September 16, 2016
I finished my t-shirt today. I wrote “#FLUID!” on the back because I wanted to make it clear where I identify on the spectrum. I also painted a flag (still missing that damn pink!) because I had extra paint and wanted to fill the back. Lastly, I outlined everything with a sharpie to make it stand out. It’s a messy shirt, and it’s likely this will just be a shirt I sleep in after Saturday, but I still am glad I made it.
Makeup today wasn’t really about doing anything too special. I did make my eye shadow look a little more Kiss-like, admittedly because I was covering my mistakes, but also because it looked cool. I might have finally gotten the lipstick right, although I still can’t make my mouth still have that mouth-shape after I put lipstick on. I’ll need to figure that out.
Lastly, I tried to do the rainbow paint on my face, dotting it as freckles. It looked kind of cool, but I soon had to abandon the idea. Since this isn’t face paint, it smells pretty strong, and I can’t stand it for too long. So I definitely will have to scrap that idea.
I also painted my nails again. Yay!
So with that, I’ve gotten a rough idea of what my face will look like, what shirt I’ll wear, what accessories I’ll have, and everything else I’ll need for my first Pride celebration. Tomorrow will be all about pictures and having fun, and I’ll not try to worry too much about how I look.
D-Day: September 17th, 2016
The day has come (well, it did a few days ago. Never plan an article the same week you start a new job, kids). I woke up, took a shower, and put on my face. For the most part, I stuck with what I had figured out the first few days. But now that I had a complete look in mind, I knew not to take it so seriously. Thus, I painted raccoon eyes on, darkened my eyebrows with the eyeliner pencil, put on red lips, and drew a mole and a heart on my cheek.
I also quickly learned how to braid my hair for this. I didn’t bother getting a wig, but my hair has gotten pretty long lately. Since I’ve started wearing it in a ponytail, I figured I’d try pigtails. After watching a few videos, I got the basic braid technique down. Now I sort of feel awkward for making fun of Christian Grey braiding Anastasia’s hair in my Fifty Shades of Grey review, because it really was easy. But then again, that movie sucked, so I don’t care that much.
Thus, I had my hair, my makeup, my beads, my painted t-shirt, and the nerve to actually walk out of my house looking like this. It was weird going to the pride event in Charlottesville. I spent the drive wondering what people thought about me if they looked over and saw me driving next to them. I wondered if they thought I was a woman, or if they could tell I was a man doing really cheap drag. Even walking from the parking garage to the park where the event was, I wondered if people had weird thoughts about me.
But honestly, once I was in the park, it didn’t matter. I saw people who had way more time and effort to put into their pride looks, and I felt at home among them. People complimented the shirt I made and asked me about it. I lost all my lipstick on a free apple, but I learned not to care. I sat and watched performances from Charlottesville drag queens, queer bands, voguing demonstrations. I ate snacks from LGBT-supportive businesses. By the end of the festival, I was tired, my neck was red because I didn’t have hair to cover it, and my makeup was almost all gone. But I was still in a fever, so I was ready to keep going.
I went home, cleaned up a bit, fixed my makeup and hair, and went to Impulse Gay Social Club for their Pride Party. Not many people said anything about my look. A few who I have met regularly had to take a moment to realize it was me, but they were all kind and complimentary about my look.
The moment that made my night was when the guest DJ, drag queen, comedian, and adult filmmaker Chi Chi LaRue, made her appearance. As the emcee for the show, she walked around and made shady jokes to the people in the crowd. As she walked by me, looking at me sitting at the bar, in complete awe at finally seeing a gay celebrity in person, she paused, and said:
“You look like a serial killer. I just know you have arms and legs in your freezer.”
It was, without a doubt, the best fucking thing anyone has ever said to me. I went into this project hoping to look like Alyssa Edwards but came out looking like Buffalo Bill. That shady comment made it all worth it, and was the perfect closer for my first ever Pride.
What have I learned from this?
Well, I know I need to really turn it out next Pride. Whether I’m in Charlottesville or some other town for Pride, I want to make an effort. I might need to do more research into makeup products and applying makeup before I go at it. At the very least, I probably just need to find a friend who can do makeup for me. I’m sure I can find someone to do it. Or I’ll go to the Lancome counter at my nearby Belk and have them contour the heck out of me.
I also really got to explore more of my gender identity through this. I generally consider myself non-labeling, but it was fun to try and be more feminine than I normally do. For one, I found there was no shame in trying to make myself feel and look beautiful. I got to explore something that is generally kept away from men, and I found it wasn’t that bad when I really got into it.
Part of me wishes I didn’t go too comedic with all of it. My rationale was that I was playing to my strengths (and somehow, that includes being funny, so go figure), so even if my makeup was busted, I wanted to present a complete package that felt celebratory and fit with the Pride atmosphere.
Hell, I just might start painting t-shirts for events like this. Sure, I can now only wear the shirt I made when I sleep or paint a room, but I’m still glad to have the shirt. I definitely plan to play with my appearance more, and I want to feel less self-conscious about it. Maybe I’ll wear foundation when I go to my job one day. Maybe I’ll use some eye shadow to cover my dark circles if they’re particularly bad. Either way, I feel I really came to learn how much fun I could have playing with beauty and my own appearance, when I had previously been somewhat hesitant to do so, and that will definitely help as I start to come into my own as a member of the LGBT community.