Not since the band KISS started painting their faces in the 70s, have men been more famous for putting on makeup. The gender bending makeup artists, such as Patrick Starrr, Manny Mua, Jeffree Star and Bretman Rock, have millions of followers across social, are getting major brand deals and are the “go to” makeup artists for celebrities. It wasn’t too long ago that people were making a big deal that Queen Latifah, a full figured black woman, was the face of Cover Girl. We’ve come a long way baby.
Bretman Rock, the 18-year old Pilipino male makeup artist, sits if front of me wearing black Chanel suspenders over a black long sleeved shirt, tight black pants and sparkly black shoes. His eyebrows are sculpted; his lipstick and blush are flawless.
He was always this way. Growing up in Hawaii, he was always wearing a wig, lipstick, and painted nails to school. You’d think he would get a hard time growing up like that, but he was actually embraced. He said, “It’s really easy for people to accept you, because these are the girls I grew up with, so they’ve seen it all. I could go to school in a bikini and it’s just Bretman Rock being Bretman Rock. I just got treated like a normal person.”
He grew up watching MUAs (makeup artists) like Juicy Star and Michelle Phan but there weren’t a lot of male makeup gurus. “Now they’re so many of us. It’s great because we all have different styles. Because a lot of the girl MUAs, they tend to, no offense, but they all look, sound, do the same thing. Why are you all trying to be Kim Kardashian?! Not all, but most talk like robots. Girl, put some personality in there,” said Rock
While Bretman Rock is brimming with energy and sass, Patrick Starrr has a calmer, more laid back vibe. He grew up in Orlando and had a unique background that led him to social media success. He worked at Panera, started studying classical piano, then went to school for nursing. He said, “I feel like being a people person, having experience at customer service, being an educator, and being a photographer prepared me for a career as a digital content creator.”
He grew up in a rural area, where it would take him 30 minutes to get to the grocery store. Obviously, he couldn’t find any other male makeup bloggers to relate to, until he connected with Manny Mua on Instagram. Starr explained, “There was no community in Orlando. No guys were into makeup. Manny was that for me. He was in San Diego and I was in Orlando. We would Face Time and edit our videos and post at the same time. We made a little bestie pack and would post every Friday at noon. We started posting consistently at the end of 2014. Having a peer in the space really helped because there was no one else like us.”
His following grew quickly and once he had about 200,000 followers, the offers started to roll in. He remembers telling his parents about his first sponsored trip. “We were in the kitchen and I was telling my parents that a makeup company was paying for me to go to the Bahamas. They couldn’t understand why anyone would pay me to go on a vacation. I grabbed a spoon and tried to explain it to them, "If I post this spoon, people are going to buy it because I said it’s the best spoon.”
He told me that with him, it’s business first. “When I started out, I did everything myself: I filmed my own videos, did my own editing, booked my own deals, reviewed contracts, formed an LLC, etc. I even pretended to be my own agent. His name was Tony, but it was just me with a deeper voice! It’s a lot different now. I have a team. I’ve got two assistants, a PR person, an editor, and an agent. But I’m the CEO. I’m running a big company.”
People tend to forget that these guys are entrepreneurs and are running extremely successful businesses. Jeffree Star told me, "In just a few years, I have turned my small company into a multi-million dollar makeup empire...Now, I have hundreds of other brands and companies hitting me up to review their products for high prices and there is a whole new door open to people who want to be in front of my audience."
Brands are finally starting to get it. Manny Mua said, “I do think that brands are taking us more seriously now. It was a long time coming. In the beginning it wasn’t so easy to get a brand’s attention. And they thought that we were a joke, just trying to be in a girl’s world. I think now brands see that we’re not going anywhere. The numbers are strong and powerful.”
The reason that these male MUAs have such an engaged following (aside from their makeup skills) is because they’re real. Manny frequently starts off his videos by saying, “I’m gonna start my video, if you don’t like it, don’t f'ing watch it!” It’s hard to imagine Jennifer Aniston or George Clooney saying something like that.
It’s refreshing seeing celebrities actually being real and brave. Instagram is full of pictures of beautiful people, dressed impeccably in an exotic setting. How brave is that? Not very.
Jeffree Star reminds us that, "It takes a lot of guts to put on a face full of makeup, being a male in the world where a lot of people still think that cosmetics are only for women."
So why would they open themselves up to so much hate and criticism?
Because they're brave and not afraid to show their true selves.
Rockman had some words of wisdom for all of us, “What really matters is when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you like what you see? If you’re happy with that, that’s all that matters. People will always have something to say. Once you stop trying to impress other people and start trying to impress yourself, that’s when you find yourself."
This article originally appeared in Forbes on June 29, 2017. For full article click here.