The irony of this world is that while we label makeup as a woman’s thing and not ‘manly’, women themselves are often ridiculed and made fun of for applying makeup. One can imagine how hard it must be for boys to wear makeup and confidently celebrate who they are.
For a long time, men have been a part of the beauty and makeup industry as makeup artists. Yet, they remain the most alienated and underrepresented when they put some makeup on.
It’s 2021, and we have seen many male beauty influencers coming up on social media and normalizing men putting on makeup in the past few years. They have not only been successful in their efforts but have also inspired many young boys to create accounts on Instagram and express themselves.
Currently, there are plenty of boys on Instagram, barely 18, creating some viral makeup looks and getting popular day by day. But this growing popularity comes with a price. They struggle with being accepted and respected at home, dealing with online harassment and bullying by strangers, and exclusion from friends and peer groups.
In this article, Brown explores questions rarely asked about the journey of India’s young budding male beauty boys.
Support from family and their reactions
18-year-old Aaryan (@aaryan_dighe), who perfectly pulls off the bold lip and winged liner look and has a knack for perfectly recreating looks of songs and people who inspire him, says, “My parents are okay with it. They completely support me. The only thing they’re worried about is what if I end up damaging my skin. They’ve always allowed me to grow, evolve, and let me have my own experiences, whether good or bad, instead of forcing their opinions on me. “
While Aaryan is among the few lucky ones who didn’t have to rebel or prove their talent, Indraneal Medhi had to, and boy does he have some captivating skills to look out for! An 18-year-old based in Bangalore, Indraneal (@indraneal) shares, “My parents weren’t too keen on it. I first started in grade 11. I did my makeup a couple of times, and my mom told me to take my “art” (yes, there were air quotes used) and do it on paper instead. She then proceeded to take my makeup multiple times, even in twelfth grade, so I never really could be consistent with my uploads. My father told me I would “mess up” my career. But the joke’s on them. I’m making money off makeup now. I mean, not to the level I would want to, but we’re getting there.”
Required change in society’s perception of makeup
“I really want people to stop seeing makeup as something restricted only to beauticians. Makeup is for everybody to apply and everybody to wear. I wish people saw makeup as a legitimate pursuit for everyone,” says Rupankar Das (@rupankar_das_mua), an 18-year-old freelance makeup artist — who is quite known in the beauty community — when asked what he would change about society’s perceptions of makeup if he had the power to.
Online hate and bullying
Bhumneshwar Manhas (@bhumneshwar_official), a 23-year-old beauty influencer and Youtuber, best known for his mind-blowing makeup looks and reels, shares his way of dealing with the constant hate and bullying. “When it comes to online bullying, I guess the amount of hate we men receive on social media is awful. How do I tackle them? Well, I just ask myself one question — ‘Do these people who leave negative comments really matter to me?’ And the answer is ‘no.’ So why would I waste my time on them? I ignore the comment or reply to them with a bang. And there is a saying — When people say bad things about you, that means you are doing something amazing that not everyone can do.”
Frequent hacking and banning of social media accounts
It is very common to see accounts of young boys and men being reported to Instagram, or being banned, or hacked frequently among the male beauty influencer community besides the usual hate comments and slurs they receive.
Pavan Kumar (@pavank_artist), a 29-year-old professional makeup artist who inspires younger makeup enthusiasts and is often seen reposting and promoting fellow creators, says, “It is very common and heart-wrenching to see Instagram accounts of male beauty influencers getting hacked or banned frequently. People give their heart and soul, dedicate their lives to prove themselves. When our accounts go through these problems, it is very devastating. I am also a victim of this. In 2018, my previous Instagram account was disabled and inactivated. I had to restart my account and work again on gaining followers and building an engaging profile again.“
He adds, “Being a bearded man in the makeup industry, I face online bullying frequently via hate comments and speech. While I do appreciate critiques since it helps me grow, I have started seeing even hate speech as ‘support.’ In this online era, every view matters as it helps increase our profile engagement.”
Lack of representation of boys in makeup commercials and as brand ambassadors
While brands in India have become inclusive and frequently send PR packages or talk about gender neutrality of makeup on social media, we fail to see them embracing and portraying boys in TV commercials or mainstream advertising channels, which by the way, is still the most effective brand awareness channel.
When it has been proved that TVC and traditional marketing campaigns prove to stay longer in the minds of the audience and naturally help break the stigma among older generations, why don’t we see major beauty brands in India use boys and men as their face of the brand when they seem to support it on social media?
Indraneal perfectly capitulates his views on this. “In my opinion, it all just boils down to how conservative a market is. Businesses look at the social climate and ethical landscape before progressing with a marketing campaign, and that’s understandable. However, they also possess the power to influence and change perceptions through these campaigns. Makeup has no gender; it’s not an exclusive industry. I want to link this to the cognitive miser theory, which outlines that an audience relies on common images to create stereotypes and associations to consequently use them and aid decision-making. If makeup is portrayed as gender non-conforming, as a tool of empowerment rather than a mask for insecurity, I believe we could drive social change. That can only happen when campaigns include more inclusivity, be it based on gender, race, status, and whatnot!”
And this is precisely why I went on a hunt to find and pick a few male beauty influencers purely based on talent — to celebrate and admire the boldness and courage these young men display to show the world their talent despite the stigmas and norms that encircle them.
And how could you help them while they break stigmas? Talk about them, give compliments and constructive criticism, share and celebrate their efforts and simply drop a ‘like’ the next time you find such gender non-conforming heroes.