Macho Makeup part one: the concept
Until the young man got in the elevator on the fourth floor, it was just a typical Friday night. He wore faded jeans, an Arizona tee-shirt, hair like he just stepped out of the shower, and a hint of Tom Ford Ombre Leather cologne. He stood with his back to me, but did I catch a quick flash of makeup?
Now, I had to know without coming off as the resident elevator pervert.
Are young men feeling so secure as to wear makeup in Tucson, Arizona? Was he an artist, performer, gay, or straight? He was White, around twenty-three, and a university student on his way to neighborhood night spots. His phone whistled at him, and as he picked it up, I saw black lacquered nails, then he turned his head, attempting better reception, and I caught the eyeliner and blush. He walked out of the elevator and was high-fived by two young men, one Black one Asian. Together, they exited herd-like onto the street—young men on the Friday night prowl. Life goes on.
Yes, straight men wear makeup – haven’t I told you? You just don’t know about it! My friends at Ulta report increased cosmetic questions from guys wanting to ace their next zoom interview. They want to know how to lessen late-night dark circles, cover up nicks and disguise the surprise pimple attack. And, if my young nephews represent the future, they regularly borrow their mother’s eyeliner to “go with” their concert black tees. I already stumbled upon a bathroom full of boys playing with makeup—and having a blast.
If the boy in the elevator were a performer, he’d gotten my standing ovation. He made a big impression on me because he was not covering anything up—there’s nothing to cover up at this age. His goal was simple: to look and feel his best, and in so doing, peel away another layer of taboo male self-expression. He was openly saying, “I care about how you see me because you are important to me.” Applause.
It was time to pull together “men with makeup” images, and as the African saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others,” I would now beg talented professionals to join me.
Photo: A sneak peek from the photo shoot. Carlos (left) and model, Ricardo, on set. Stay tuned for final pics!
First, I sent a quickie text to my bestie hairdresser Jason Ashkenazi who was an instant, yes. He contacted Catie Fisher, a permanent makeup diva, and queen of all brushes. Then came Kevin Robinson, owner of Black Dress Photography, with an unsurpassed artistic eye and keen attention to detail.
We held a Zoom creative meeting. The question: men with makeup, what is it? They have to be men who wear cosmetics for a more significant reason than to cover up a pimple. They want to look better and maintain an air of naturalness. It has to complement their lifestyle, I said to the team. Yeah, and it should look simple, like they did it themselves, offered Catie Fisher. And the hair should look every day and natural, never done, added Jason Ashkenazi. Kevin Robinson topped off the concept with a no-portrait reminder; the models cannot be ultra-posed and glam. Yeah, we had something: Macho Makeup: when men cover up and not glam up.
None of us really needed this, and the simplest thing to do was pass since each team member books out weeks in advance. And yet, everyone agreed to work on a Sunday for zero pay--a muffin and coffee—that’s it.
One cannot underestimate the company of experienced professionals. Something is always shared and learned; there’s no way we would not benefit. Every salon professional must till their creative soil and hone their craft. We were selfish. We set out to create a beautiful experience for ourselves by seamlessly blending our talents into the photoshoot. And did I mention that except for Jason and me, none of us had ever met? We first saw each other at the Zoom online meeting two weeks before the photoshoot.
Why even do this? My standard answer is because it’s fun. But I know it’s much more profound. We do it to nourish our soul and create something that’s genuinely ours. To get out there, risk, and be creatively vulnerable—because it could all fail. We could be the laughingstock.
But, darling, what if it works?
To be continued: Macho Makeup part 2: the photoshoot
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