Heavy contour, dramatic brows, highlighter you can see from space — these on-trend makeup looks may seem like they originated with Kim K. or YouTube's OG Beauty vloggers, but that couldn't be further from the truth. A light dusting of reality for us all: There was a subset that made glam makeup a part of the zeitgeist decades before KUWTK, and YouTube has nothing on their tried-and-true tips and tricks.
Look to drag queens, in all their chiseled, strobed, glammed-up glory, if you want the more accurate origin story of so-called "Instagram makeup" today — and rest assured 2017's reigning queens are still coming up with the most inventive techniques around. But their impact runs far deeper than that: Drag queens have been fighting for equality and acceptance since as early as the 1800s. Today, it's RuPaul's Drag Race that's bringing it into the mainstream like never before.
"We have an Emmy and it's great, but we don’t do this to snatch trophies. The truth is that we must do it," RuPaul told an intimate crowd at an event for the show in L.A. "It's our calling, to bring love, colors, music, laughter, dancing, and joy — that is what we bring. [It's] our secret weapon in these trying times. That is how we prevail and that's how we will ultimately win."
To celebrate the show's ongoing work for freedom of expression, we caught up with four queens from various seasons to spill their top makeup tips and tricks. Spoiler alert: These beauty secrets will make you want to work.
The eternally friendly 26-year-old won Miss Congeniality in Season 9 and is rarely seen without her signature bold brows. (See: Her high arches are even peeking out from above her shades on the first image of this slideshow — and they look damn good.)Photo: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images.
Trick: Eliminate Your Lip Color
“I have a bright, vibrant lip color naturally, so sometimes when I throw the lip color over it, the color reads differently,” the 26-year-old says. Her fix? “I eliminate my lip color using an Anastasia liquid lipstick in a light beige tone and then I apply my lipstick over it.”
Her trick for an ombré lip look? “Sometimes I’ll apply a pink gloss over my [liquid lipstick] base, then I'll do a darker liner over it and [lightly blend] the two colors together. A little liner and color and it'll look really juicy — like a pussy."
Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Milkshake, $20, available at Sephora.
Trick: Prime Your Undereyes
“I use primer under my Eyes before I apply my concealer to add moisture to those damn fine lines,” she says. “I love the Tom Ford illuminating primer.”
Tom Ford Illuminating Primer, $75, available at Nordstrom.
Trick: Stage Contour, Blush, & Shadow Cannot Be Beat
"La Femme is very pigmented and trustworthy for the stage," she says, noting that it's also a heck of a lot more affordable than designer options. "If you're constantly swatching a contour color that costs $90, well, that can be hard on your pocket. A lot of stage beauty products have the same ingredients, but different packaging."
La Femme Glow On Rouge, $8.10, available at Makeup Mania.
Trick: Cover All The Senses
Valentina’s final tip? “Whenever you're done with your makeup, you must always drench your entire body in perfume,” she says.
Chanel N°5 Eau De Parfum Spray, $80, available at Chanel.
The 35-year-old is an OG drag queen — she starred on Season 3. The Atlanta-based queen first tried drag at 18-years-old as part of a Halloween costume; now, she's known in the drag world for her grace and sophistication.Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images.
Trick: Don't Fear Powder
Mariah's top tip? "Make sure you use powder," she says. "A lot women are afraid of powder to set their foundation, but it will help you keep from creasing, it'll last a lot longer, and you won't look greasy. I know the dewy look is in right now, but use a mineralizer or a highlighter to get the pop on your cheekbones, don't walk around looking greasy — especially in the summertime."
Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $23, available at Sephora.
Trick: Know Your Audience
"Don't apply a full beat of makeup when you're going to work," she says. "[Makeup] needs context."
Amorepacific Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+, $60, available at Sephora.
The Scottish transplant calls SoCal home, and was a popular fixture on the L.A. drag circuit long before joining the second season of the show. As you might expect, she started out with a bang by winning the very first challenge on her season.Photo: Tara Ziemba/Getty Images.
Trick: Mix Water With Lash Glue For Foolproof Glitter
Wearing glitter requires a professional's technique — and Morgan has it down pat. "A lot of people use glitter glue, but I don't," the 36-year-old told R29. She uses Duo's Clear lash glue spiked with water. "Mix two drops of lash glue with a drop of water, mix it together, then add your glitter and apply while it's still tacky," she explains. "That way, it doesn't crack."
Ardell Duo Lash Adhesive Clear, $5.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
Trick: Liquid Liner Need Not Be Pricey
"My favorite liner is NYX's Final Liner," she says. "It's amazing. It's really dark and it doesn't crack like other liners. The white one is quite good as well, mainly for applying under glitter. Whenever I apply a white liquid eyeliner, I hit it with white eyeshadow after to soften that hard line, then I apply the glitter and the glue, and it makes the glitter pop."
NYX Cosmetics Vinyl Liquid Liner in Black, $6.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
Trick: Coconut Oil Removes Anything
Big fans of glitter ourselves, we had to ask: How the heck do you remove it at night? "Coconut oil," she says. "Any kind that's natural or organic, because I'm putting so much toxic shit on my face already."
CocoCare 100% Coconut Oil, $2.25, available at Walgreens.
Trick: Hairspray Sets Makeup — But It's Not For Everyone
"I use hairspray to set my makeup," Morgan says. "People say, 'Don't ever get hairspray on your face!' but with everything else, the smoke, dirt, air, it doesn't much matter. And it's just a light misting."
Yarok Feed Your Hold Hairspray, $13, available at Anthropologie.
The 23-year-old Brooklyn native starred in Season 9 of Drag Race, coming into the competition with a win under her belt: Drag Queen of the Year at the 4th Annual Brooklyn Nightlife Awards in 2016.Photo: Tara Ziemba/Getty Images.
Trick: Don't Get Stuck In Your Ways
"I used to think that because I have trouble Skin, I needed to wear cakey, hard makeup," Aja told R29. "Someone told me that I should go with a really smooth foundation, basically a liquid. I was like, 'Girl, I'm a drag queen and I have things to cover!' Turns out, the best decision I've ever made was switching to a softer foundation, so it goes to show you that no makeup tutorial can teach you what actually works best on your skin — you have to experiment."
Revlon ColorStay Makeup with SoftFlex for Combination/Oily Skin, $9.69, available at Target.
Trick: Warm up Your Contour
"Contour should be soft," Aja says. "Unless you're going for a dramatic look, then have the lines, but if you're going for a glamorous look, you need to blend and always use a transitional tone — a warm orange or brown. So you do the contour, then you go over it with a medium orange or light brown powder, then you blush over it to really put it together."
Rimmel London Kate Sculpting Cosmetic Set, $6.59, available at Target.
Trick: Pop Your Eyes With White Liner & Lashes
Some tricks are classic for a reason: Aja lines her waterline with white liner to make her eyes stand out, then uses a few small lashes to further widen her eyes. "A lot of girls like to do a bottom lash, but because my eyes are so small, I can't do a full strip of bottom lashes, so I strategically place a few cut up lashes under my eyes," she explains.
Sephora Collection Eye Pencil To-Go in Pure White, $6, available at Sephora.
Trick: Always Prime
"Primer is very important," Aja says. "A pore-filling primer, always. My favorite is Smashbox — it's a $40 primer, but it's worth it! It has gotten me together on many occasions, and it's getting me together tonight!"
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, $39, available at Smashbox.
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