Are New Beauty Standards Defined by Trans Women and Drag Queens?
If ‘life imitates art that imitates life imitating art,’ what theoretically is imitating what? Is it the art, or life?
The beauty standards and trends through the ages have always had interesting beginnings and roots; oftentimes unbeknownst to the general public who have commodified it. The current standard is no exception.
While every trend is different, most follow the same trajectory when it comes to their start and how they reach the masses. Every trend begins or is birthed within a small subset of society; usually a marginalized societal group. This small group is always known as the trailblazers, groundbreakers, and creatives. Their trends and concepts would be picked up and translated by a world that rarely gave them sufficient credit.
Even as times have changed, with the advent and rise of social media, these trendsetters (now known as social media influencers) are still at the helm of every recent trend. With social media platforms, the trends can be documented and traced back to their creation. What can also be traced is the way their ideas have been appropriated by the outside world. One example is the acceptance of glam makeup by cisgender women who have appropriated the trend from trans women and drag queens.
The current beauty trend of high glam, characterized by very glamorous makeup, long lashes, heavy contouring, and big, luscious hair, are all reminiscent of a beauty queen or a Vegas showgirl. While this trend had never been deemed appropriate for the average cis-woman, many trans women/drag queens this larger than life appearance.
To the general public, it seemed like the Kardashian sisters made this glamorous look popular, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This look did not start with them, nor was it created by them. Their beauty consultants and makeup artists (like many within the beauty industry) are people identifying as LGBT. Aside from the makeup professionals, many of today’s beauty influencers are not only individuals from within the LGBT community, but also identify and express themselves as gender-variant (Patrick Starr, Jazzy Baptiste, and James Charles are just three examples.)
Many within the LGBT community use makeup and beauty as an expression of their identity and a way to combat the restrictive binary gender roles. Drag queens and trans women were among the ones who heralded makeup’s use as a tool to enhance beauty. Drag queens and trans women became the muses as they came to represent beauty and glamour. While they may have been seen as social outcasts, due to social media platforms like Instagram, both trans women and drag queens became the beauty trendsetters due to their attention to detail and eagerness to take risk and try new looks.
What these transphobic and gender-oppressive fallacies do is not only diminish the talent trans women and drag queens have when it comes to makeup but also says that the feminine expression of beauty can only be relegated to cisgender women.
Cisgender women seem to think otherwise, though, as they look to them for makeup tips, application techniques, and glamour secrets. Just as the beauty gurus and professionals draw inspiration from them, cisgender women, with their social media outlets, have also begun following trans women and drag queens as such. Whether its colorful hair (i.e. trans actress Amiyah Scott’s everchanging flowing tresses) or noir-style makeup (i.e. RuPaul Drag Race’s Violet Chachki and Miss Fame), trans women and drag queens are the undeniable trendsetters and innovators.
We may never know which is imitating which, the life or the art. But until we do, let’s enjoy both the life, the art, and all the beauty it has to offer.