Drag queens are ready to rule the world of beauty

We have arrived at the gold and glitter age of drag queens in the evolution of beauty, where no one leaves the bathroom mirror without some serious contouring, hunty. Giants such as Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Estee Lauder once ruled the make-up counter, then came the design houses Chanel, Dior and Tom Ford, but now men who impersonate women are changing the game, first through techniques such as cut-creases and baking and now through products.

Rising through the ranks of social media, collecting millions of followers along the way, Patrick Starr is the latest entrepreneur to target a mass audience through the once niche filter of drag, with his recently launched One/Size make-up range at Sephora.

Being seen has become increasingly important for minority communities once ignored by the beauty machine according to performer Max Drag Queen (Max De Nardis).Credit:Simon Schluter

“The idea of transformation, of confidence, there’s something about it that attracts people and makes it inspirational,” Starr, 31, said on a video call from his Los Angeles office. “A lot of the techniques that are used today in 2021 were inspired by drag queens.”

“One/Size stands for the unseen and unheard. We’ve seen this cookie cutter idea of beauty since the ’90s. But now, since 2014 and 2015 there has been a cultural shift in beauty and the importance of who hasn’t been seen. Ironically, I’m one of those people.”

Starr describes himself as a “plus-size, overweight, bald Filipino boy,” leaning into his perceived imperfections with enthusiasm, clearly understanding that this is what sets him apart from the classic, million dollar contract faces of Estee Lauder such as Paulina Porizkova, Carolyn Murphy and Constance Jablonski, who sold beauty through the filter of aspiration rather than transformation with their genetic blessings.

“What I have done in the past eight years, existing as this persona Patrick Starr, is personify beauty. I have been able to create an emotional connection that isn’t traditional, like through the magazine pages or television commercials. We have a story. We have an identity. People want to relate to us and have this feelgood transformation.”

Patrick Starr for his make-up range One/Size, available through Sephora.

Starr tests his products through the drag community but also faces competition from queens used to lip-syncing for their life on the Emmy Award-winning television series RuPaul’s Drag Race. Performers Trixie Mattel, Kim Chi, Miss Fame and Willam have all released make-up lines, while others such as Alyssa Edwards, Aquaria, Gigi Goode and RuPaul have collaborated with existing brands.

“I think that as queer artists it’s important that we support and buy from other queer artists,” said Max Drag Queen, a rising star of the Melbourne bar and brunch circuit. The accomplished 22-year-old, known as Max De Nardis when untucked, has worked his way across the LGBTQIA+ make-up counter.

“When I first started it was Jeffree Star but as I’ve grown it’s been Trixie Mattel, Kim Chi and POC brand Juviah’s Place. Then there’s my go to Krylon. Obviously, what works, works, but it’s important as a customer to be seen.”

While the pink dollar is powerful, it’s the mass market make-up audience that is fuelling the drag make-up trend. Message boards and reviews for drag make-up products are filled with fawning comments from cisgender women.

Beating the competition: Patrick Starr’s One/Size is up against ranges from drag queens Trixie Mattel, Miss Fame and Kim Chi.

“It’s all to do with the power of transformation,” says make-up artist Linda Jefferyes, who has worked for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire. “If you see a man who can change his jawline, slim his nose and make his eyes look fabulous to look like a woman, then many women naturally think about what it can do for them.”

“We had that no make-up look for so long, it’s exciting to see all of this colour and people feeling empowered to experiment. It’s making make-up fun again.”

To achieve his transformation into a red carpet camera-magnet, Starr said that it can take 100 steps, which he shares with his Youtube audience. Out of those 100 steps, he expects that most people take away three or four tips and tricks.

“They may resonate with sculpting their features to become slimmer, or to make their eyes look lifted in a wig. Make-up is no different from what we eat and what we wear. It’s a true form of expression from the inside out.”

With Ru Paul’s Drag Race preparing for its 14th season, with spin-offs in the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Australia and New Zealand, Starr is confident that the audience for make-up with cross gender appeal will continue to grow.

“I remember attending a drag brunch in Miami and this little girl ran up sobbing, saying that she was obsessed with me. In my mind I thought ‘oh yeah’ but her mum showed me the girl’s 10th birthday cake with my face, in full regalia, on it,” Starr said. “There’s a cultural shift in what’s happening in the world in terms of acceptance.”

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