5 fabulous drag queens spill their make-up secrets
Including tips to get rid of stubborn glitter eyeshadow
Big hair, feathery lashes, cut-glass cheekbones and lips like a juicy fruit; drag queens don’t use make-up to enhance their features, they use it for artistic transformation. Thanks to the Emmy-winning reality TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) and conventions like DragCon in New York, this dramatic culture has finally made it to the mainstream. It’s already taken the fashion world by storm, as Sasha Velour, a past winner of RPDR, did a cabaret at Opening Ceremony’s S/S 2019 show in New York, and Violet Chachki (another RPDR contestant) stole the spotlight at Milan and Paris fashion weeks.
Even if drag feels exaggerated for everyday wear, we realised that there are still many beauty and life tips we can glean from these veritable artists.
Stage name: Rich Elle
Day job: Banker
Performs: Across Vancouver, at clubs like XYYVR, 1181, and The Junction
“While drag has given me self-confidence, it has also afforded me some incredible opportunities to meet amazing people and to perform for crowds— something I never imagined.”
Multitask with lipstick
“One of my favourite tricks is using liquid lipstick for basically everything,” she says. Rich uses it with an angled brush for eyeliner, and with her fingers or a beauty sponge as a blush or eyeshadow primer.
Believe in yourself
Rich got the best piece of advice from her mother, who told her, “If you love it, people will love it. If you stay true to yourself and do things to please yourself, that passion and positivity will be contagious.”
Stage name: Maya
Day job: Publicist, LaLiT Hotels
Performs: All over India, but you’re sure to find him at Kitty Ko, Bengaluru
“I’m grateful for Maya because she dragged me out of the closet.”
As a drag performer, Maya’s face is often plastered with layers of make-up, which can cause ugly breakouts. This finally stopped when he introduced fresh aloe vera gel into his night-time routine to help hydrate his skin and detoxify the pores. “I just slap it on and sleep with it,” he says.
Slay in high heels
The six-foot-tall Maya rarely wears high heels, but when he does he loves to dance in them. His trick? “Maintain equal pressure between the toes and the heels, and then try to walk without making any noise; it takes practice, but it’s worth it.”
Stage name: Tropical Marca
Day job: Full-time drag queen
Performs: At Kitty Su, Mumbai and private events
“Drag taught me to love myself a little more— being plus-sized, I always felt insecure, but dressing in drag gave me the confidence to slay.”
Create a plush pout
Just like a push-up bra, make-up makes Marca feel invincible, and it’s no surprise that he often relies on his favourite red lipsticks (a mix of Huda Beauty Liquid Mattes in Cheerleader, Icon and Heartbreaker) to do the trick. He likes to focus on his lips, and does a subtle overdrawn look. He says, “Draw tiny dots just outside the lipline with a nude pencil, and then connect them. Or you could apply a darker lip colour on the corners of your mouth for a fuller pout”.
Master glitter removal
“Glitter eyeshadow is regularly used in drag, and more often than not gets into your eye, especially, if you, like me, sometimes use nail glitter. It can be damaging,” he warns. Marca uses a trusted Indian remedy to gently take off the fallen glitter by applying a small drop of honey in the eye. “The honey will collect in the corner gathering up any dirt or glitter—just make sure you use good quality, organic honey.”
Stage name: Lady Bai
Day job: Content acquisition specialist, IBM
Performs: At Kitty Ko, Bengaluru
“Drag for me means being free from the person I was taught to be as a boy.”
Draw a realistic brow
Lady Bai’s pet peeve is a flat, one-dimensional brow. “The brow needs some variation for it to look refined,” he says, and recommends two different colours of brow pencil to do the trick. “Draw with the lighter colour close to the inner corner and the darker one on the outer corner, then blend it together with a spoolie brush.”
Make powder your friend
“When I apply a colour corrector and wear foundation right afterwards, the two tend to blend with each other,” he says. Lady Bai now dusts a veil of translucent powder right after the corrector, waits for it to settle, and then applies foundation to keep the two products from merging.
Stage name: Abhijeet
Day job: Music, nightlife publicist and event producer
Performs: All across Chicago, but she is a regular at Berlin Nightclub
“Drag helped me understand my gender identity better, and made me feel like I had a place where I belonged.”
Layer on the shine
She considers glitter her best friend and often dabs it over highlighter for extra oomph. “If you’re feeling adventurous, tap some glitter before your liquid lip dries, and seal with lip gloss for the ultimate dazzle,” she says.
Get your contour right
If you’ve accidentally overdone your contour, Abhijeet has the perfect fix to smoothen it out. “Apply a thin layer of translucent powder below the contour line to correct the shape, and brush off the excess,” she says. “Then blend with upward strokes, and throw on a pop of bronzer and blush to blend the contour colour into your foundation.”