When I was nine, I saw a movie that changed my life: To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. I sat transfixed at the transformation scene in the beginning, when Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo become Miss Vida Boheme, Miss Noxeema Jackson, and Miss Chi-Chi Rodriguez. I had never seen anything as glamorous or exciting as these queens, and in that moment I exploded into the fully formed sequin and glitter freak I am today. RuPaul is one of my heroes, and RuPaul’s Drag Race is the ultimate celebration of everything beautiful, creative, and fabulous about the world. At the risk of sounding creepy, I worship the queens on this show and their infinite wisdom of feminine trickery. Drink deeply at the fount of their wisdom, and read on to learn how to properly beat your face.*
*This means to do an exemplary job at applying your makeup.
Miss Fame (Instagram: @MissFameNYC) was a contestant on season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In addition to being a drag model, she’s a makeup wizard in her own right (she assisted Pat McGrath), so she knows a thing or two about perking up your mug.
Her favorite technique?
Strobing Highlighting. “After applying foundation, put a little highlighter on the center of your cheekbones, forehead, and chin,” she says. “Then take a little concealer and draw a pin line down the center of your nose with your ring finger—if you want to get crazy, you can even take your pinkie and highlight the tops of your nostrils!” Then blend to you heart’s content.
Need something more extreme? “Go to Alconeco and pick up a face-lift kit. It’s two pieces of tape with a bungee cord attached, and you take a little glue called Telesis, which is for attaching prosthetics, and place it on your temple. Stick one end of the tape in the glue on one temple, and wait for it to dry. Then wrap the bungee cord around the back of your head and attach the other piece of tape to a dot of glue on your other temple. To hide the bungee, create a part across the back of your head, lay the bungee cord along the part, and let your hair fall down over it.” Got that?
The Cut Crease
Violet Chachki (Instagram: @VioletChachki), the winner of RDR season 7, is the pinnacle of dramatic burlesque glam. Were I not a shameful slave to jeans and sweaters, I’d want to be like Violet.
Violet, like lots of women, has slightly hooded eyes. The trick to getting more “eyelid real estate,” it turns out, is something called the cut crease. “Creating a new eye crease is a big drag trick,” she tells me. “After I block my brows”—a process of covering your eyebrows with an Elmer’s glue stick, then covering them completely with setting powder. Fascinating!—”I do my eyeliner. I just cover my entire natural lid with eyeliner, up to my crease. Then I go in under my brow bone and draw in a new crease. You have to play with shadow to create the illusion of a new eye shape. Underneath the crease I’ve drawn, I use a pearlescent cream eyeshadow that really catches the light. Above the drawn-on crease I do an ombré black-to-gray with eyeshadow, just like how the shadow on a real eyelid would look.” Again, be sure to blend.
If you’re not looking to fully block your brows, draw on new ones, and create a new eye shape from scratch, Violet’s shading and blending tricks will help exaggerate a natural eye shape, too. Just draw the line closer to your natural crease, leaving space between it and your eyebrows for something less theatrical.
The Cat Eye
One of the most vexing of all makeup techniques, the perfect cat eye “just takes a lot of practice,” says the super-sultry star of RDR‘s season 5, Honey Mahogany (Instagram: @HoneyMahogany).
“I like to use a cream eyeliner and an angled liner brush. I line my upper lid in two to three strokes, getting as close as I can to my natural lash line,” she says. “To help stabilize my hand, I rest my elbow on the table and then place my chin in my hand to draw the line. To get the point of the cat eye, I use the outer corner of my eye and the end of my eyebrow as reference points: The line between those is the angle of the wing.” Feel free to use a very light dash-line (remember those?) to get the idea before you go for it. “I draw a straight line from my starting point toward the end of my eyebrow however far I feel like drawing the wing that night,” she says, adding that it’s OK to use more than one stroke to do it. “Then I draw another line, starting about a millimeter closer to the inner corner of my eye, toward the endpoint of the first line, to make a triangle. I fill in the space between the two lines and even out and thicken the rest of the line. The most important thing to remember is that it’s OK to start and stop drawing the line; you don’t have to do it all in one swoop. I never do!”
Raise your hand if you’ve never successfully applied false lashes. Willam (Instagram: @noextrai), who was disqualified from RDR season 4 for the best reason ever, is the author of Suck Less: Where There’s a Willam, There’s a Way (out next year) and a pro at lashes.
“You’d think my father’s Playboys would have been wasted on me, but that’s where I learned to replicate the perfect centerfold look,” says Willam. “The hardest skill to master was finding the right lash for my eye. Eyes are the windows to the soul, and some windows need blinds instead of curtains.” I don’t know what that means, but sure!
“I start with one strip of wispy lashes that I’ve trimmed to fit my eye—they shouldn’t hit the inner corner of your eyelid. I [blow] a little hot air on them to let the glue dry a bit and warm up the lashes so they’ll curl better before I apply them. Once they’ve set, curl, and apply mascara. Then I take a second pair of lashes and trim the inner third of them off so that the remaining piece fits from the inside edge of my iris to the outer corner of my eye,” he says. After you’ve applied the second set, “Hit it with some mascara and curl them again once they’ve set. The third pair of lashes is for making your eyes appear upswept or a little cat-eyed. Take the remaining section of the second set of lashes and apply it to the outer corner of your eye. Then I like to use a whole other pair trimmed to fit from the pupil to the outer corner—something spiky that gives length and drama.” If that sounds like a lot of work to you, you’re right! But it’s worth it. Trust.
Moving on from eyes, the lips are what I was most intrigued about. Call it Kylie Jenner Syndrome, but pouty, overdrawn lips are officially a thing, and nobody nails ’em like a drag queen. Jujubee (Instagram: @jujubeeonline), the gorgeous and lovable finalist on RDR season 2, shares her secrets.
“The most important thing is to start out with lips that are clean and exfoliated. I use a warm towel and some vitamin E oil, and I rub it in circular motion on my lips. Once they’re dry, I line just outside the lip line with a nude lip pencil (Kryolan Contour Pencil in 902) to create shape and a border for lipstick,” she says. “Next step is to fill the lips with my favorite nude lipstick, M.A.C. Honeylove; it’s matte and super-pigmented, so you don’t need much. After the lipstick is on, I go back with a deeper nude pencil (Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetic Pencil in Lydia) to contour outside the corners and bottom lip line to create depth and added fullness. I sometimes apply lip gloss just to the center of the lip to give it a little shine and volume. Remember to press the lips together instead of rubbing all the work away!” Preach, girl.