By: Megan Valle
In a dorm room at Stony Brook University, student Carine Green looked through his large makeup collection, searching for the perfect eyeshadow for his look of the night. He opened his Jaclyn Hill x Morphe palette and went straight for the shimmery gold color named ‘Queen’. He smiled ear to ear as he placed the pigment on his eyelid.
“Oh my god, I love it,” he said. Green, an 18-year-old college student, has been doing makeup since he was fifteen and recently started promoting himself as a makeup artist, looking for clients to help him start his own business.
“My first palette was the LA Girl palette and it was so cheap. It had four colors in it, it had this purple shade, a lavender shade, and a white,” Carine said. “And whenever I buy makeup, I would sneak my makeup in my closet. So I got home, and I snuck it into my closet. And I did it with all of my makeup.”
As a teenager with a very religious family, Carine was scared for anyone to find out about him wearing makeup. He would wake up extra early, put makeup on, and run out of the house before anyone could see him.
“The most difficult conversation was with my dad,” Carine said. “When I did my makeup for a ball, that was the first time he had ever seen me in makeup and the makeup was very dramatic. His immediate reaction was to call my mom and tell her ‘Oh my gosh, your son is becoming a transgender woman.’”
The idea that makeup is for women is not a new concept. Societal gender roles have made it difficult for young men and women to venture into their desired career paths.
“A lack of representation can lead to negative consequences for organizations and individuals within organizations,” Nicole Elias, a professor of public management at John Jay College, CUNY said. “For example, when fields are male- or female-dominated, members of the opposite sex may feel isolated and even become targets of discrimination, harassment, or assault. Taking this one step further, representation should go beyond the binary system of men and women, though, and include all genders—bigender, genderfluid, and genderqueer people.”
There are around 10 beauty schools on Long Island, one of which is the New York Institute of Beauty in Islandia. They have an average of 800 students yearly and are beginning to see an increase in male students.
“I’ve been working with the school for about 3 years now running all of the admissions here by myself, and are they a quarter of the student population? No, not yet, and I would love to see it,” Megan Leitch, admission representative, and student services coordinator for the New York Institute of Beauty said. “But, I definitely have noticed an increase in more male students who take our makeup programs.”
One of those former students is Robert C. Kohaen. He was never extremely interested in cosmetics or esthetics, but he fell in love with the art and is now an instructor at the school.
“I attended a full program at NYIB and fell head over heels for the company,” Kohaen said. “The beautiful thing about this industry I can say is that, from day one, I never felt like an outsider due to my gender or due to my sexual orientation or anything like that.”
“As for other males in the industry, I kind of lovingly refer to all of us as golden unicorns,” Kohaen said. “We’re very rare.”
Even though men in cosmetics are still rare, they are increasingly gaining recognition in the industry. Popular makeup brands like CoverGirl, Chanel, Milk Makeup and more, have started taking steps to make the industry more inclusive.
In 2016, CoverGirl hired its first male model. This month, Chanel released a line of makeup for men, and Milk Makeup has had multiple genderfluid ad campaigns in the course of their line’s history.
Shows like Rupaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have also highlighted men in artistic fields in ways they haven’t before.
“As queer culture has come out of the closet, it’s more acceptable to see gay men on a show like ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’,” Dr. Christopher Mitchell, gender and sexualities lecturer at Hunter College, said. “I would say its the effect of queer liberation and even women’s liberation. All of these movements have destabilized what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, what it means to have a normal sexuality. Even questioning the idea of sex and gender itself has allowed us to challenge a lot of stereotypes around gender and sexuality in culture.”
Breaking down these barriers and the idea of hypermasculinity is extremely important for the betterment of society and the workplace, said Dr. Michael Alcee, a clinical psychologist.
“When hypermasculinity becomes a way of defensively coping with fears of intimacy and vulnerability or an unconscious way of exerting power or control, it really loses its way,” Dr. Michael Alcee said.
“We have seen an opening of the range and variety of roles that men and women can play in their careers, and we would be better served by looking at how individuals make careers fit into their own balance of this yin and yang, and not so much colored by the stereotyped notion of what jobs suit what gender.”
On Long Island, centers for LBGTQ+ people provide safe spaces for young adults who want a place to express themselves freely without fear of discrimination or being misunderstood.
“I feel like just being a human being no matter where you’re coming from, no matter what’s your sexual orientation, no matter what your gender identity, what race, what ethnicity, what socioeconomic status, we all want to find some sort of happiness and what might mean happiness for one person, might not be for the other,” Devon Zappasodi, Pride for Youth Suffolk County director, said.
“If it’s not doing any harm to any other individuals, why frown upon that? It’s just an exploration and expression of themselves in their own pursuit of happiness.”
Men like Carine and Robert are examples of men who chose to do something they love despite what other people might think. They said, At the end of the day, what matters is that you are doing something you are good at, something you love, and something you are passionate about.
“The walls around gender are now starting to come down and we are beginning to see new forms of expression with it,” Mila Madison, the Executive Director of The Transgender Resource Center on Long Island, said. “We are starting to see a cultural shift in society, and usually when that happens these shifts first pop up in creative fields such as music, art, and fashion. They ultimately influence the culture and vise versa.”