“Makeup is all just colored dust, goop, and fluff, and absolutely everyone deserves to feel beautiful in it” Daniel, accurately summed up what beauty should be about! We had an interesting discussion with the incredibly talented makeup artist and activist about his journey in the beauty industry. From what started out as a drag queen Halloween costume to pursuing artistry on social media for the rest of the world to appreciate and learn from; Daniel and his alter-ego Ella, share their thoughts with us in this interview…
What has your relationship with the beauty industry been like and how do you think we can improve it?
My relationship with the beauty industry has greatly evolved since I purchased my first “real” makeup products for a Halloween costume in 2013. *creaky voice* I remember.. the good old days of makeup… when people only used social media as a teaching tool to share their techniques and genuine passion for products. In the 7 years since then, the industry has adapted and grown immensely, with the introduction of so many new fans into the community, so many new brand launches, and so much more mainstream interest in the inner workings of the cosmetic industry. I went from being a little kid with his face pressed up to the window of a big makeup store; to the person greeting you as you walk into the store, and beyond. My artistry and makeup collection have grown so much since I first got involved, and so too has my knowledge of how the industry works. Over time, a lot of the “magic” of makeup has faded away for me. But I’m constantly searching for new resources to reignite my passion and creativity, and they’re out there. There are so many incredible artists and voices in the beauty community, beyond the big names, who deserve so much recognition for their work, and I’m excited for the day when we will know them all!
In your opinion, how can companies ensure they’re not tokenizing the LGBTQ+ community?
Similar to the work seeking to end the pandemic of racial violence and police brutality, it’s so important that supporting the LGBTQ+ community is a year-round practice, not a one-time thing. Companies need to do more than launch a rainbow-themed collection every June, post a few IG pictures and send out an email blast voicing their “support”. To avoid the tokenization of LGBTQ+ people, companies need to ask themselves if their intention is to truly support and uplift Queer voices and creators or simply to make a buck off of a marginalized community for the sake of virtue signaling. Hiring Queer people to their permanent team, ensuring inclusive casting for projects, and staying highly aware of the political climate are some ways for brands to truly support to the LGBTQ+ community, and not just rainbow-wash their summer collection.
Lithe is a genderless beauty brand. What does a philosophy like ours mean for the larger community?
I have a complicated relationship with makeup and gender. As a child socialized from an early age to believe that my interest in makeup was wrong and dishonorable, it’s been a long, complicated process trying to unlearn the internalized shame I feel wearing and being seen in a full face of makeup. So when I see brands like Lithe Lashes proclaiming their brand and products as genderless, it makes me happy, but it also makes me long for a day when that announcement won’t need to be made. I hope in the near future, people will finally understand that, as I say sometimes, makeup is all just colored dust, goop, and fluff, and absolutely everyone deserves to feel beautiful in it- women, men, non-binary people, and people of all genders.
How have you evolved and accepted yourself throughout your journey as a person in the LGBTQ+ community and what advice would you have for those who are still learning?
Know that everyone’s journey to personal acceptance and understanding is unique- no two people will have the same experience, even if aspects of their lives are similar. I’m so lucky to live in a family with supportive, accepting parents and another queer sibling, but as a child and teenager, I was so terrified that wouldn’t be my reality. I spent my whole life (until I was nearly 19 years old) in fear of my family finding out that I was different before I even had the words to describe what “different” meant for me. I was bullied a lot as a child and young teenager, and I had very dark years where I couldn’t see things getting better. But I persevered, I learned to stand up for myself when I could, and I focused my energy into creativity to distract myself from the pain I felt. This drive to create and reshape my reality was one of the reasons I got into makeup, actually.
To kids, youth, and even adults seeking to understand and navigate their “different” or Queer identity, my greatest advice is to be kind to yourself, even if it feels like no one else is kind to you. You were put on this earth for a reason, and it might not be easy or fair, but you are going to survive every hardship thrown your way. LGBTQ+ people are magic. We take the pain, rejection, and bullying, and we transform it into art, energy, and passion. We can do anything and everything we set our mind to- and if someone is trying to get in your way, read them down and walk past them. You are everything.
What is your advice for someone looking to be an ally?
An important lesson in allyship that I have learned as a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, is that sometimes, as blunt as it sounds, allies have to shut up and listen. Being an ally is never about speaking over the people in communities you’re trying to advocate for. Being an “Instagram ally” and only standing up for marginalized folks on social media ultimately doesn’t do much to help. True, active, non-optical allyship is also offline, in addition to the internet. In the case of LGBTQ+ allyship, it means listening to Queer people tell their stories, standing behind Queer folks in Queer spaces and Pride events, and truly understanding why Queer people need allies. Don’t just decide to become an ally for Queer people because you “should” (although you absolutely should, don’t get me wrong). Be an ally for Queer people because it’s necessary and can save lives. Young queer children, trans folks in constant danger of violence (especially Black trans women) and people in countries where Queerness is a punishable offense- they need your help, and you can help them in many ways. Raise your voice (when it needs raising), support Queer creators, check in on your Queer friends, and, if possible, donate money and time to Queer initiatives. I recommend starting with organizations like The 519 (https://www.the519.org/), The Trevor Project (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/), and The Marsha P. Johnson Institute (https://marshap.org/).