Have you ever seen billboards of make-up brands featuring men? Do you think make-up will ever be part of men’s everyday routines? If not, think again. Because make-up was always gender-fluid. The Egyptian Pharaohs back in 3100 BCE had elaborate make-up and skincare routines. Centuries later, popular musicians like Prince and David Bowie wore make-up. In between, warriors used kohl to protect their eyes on battlefields.
Now a few male influencers have taken the baton… oops, the beauty blender in their hands to initiate conversation about boys and beauty without fear of judgment. Three digital creators tell us not only about hues but the deeper shades of stigmas associated with men who wear make-up.
Metrosexual plus plus
Siddharth Batra, 27
Already doing fashion and style videos, Siddharth Batra (@siddharth93batra) dropped his first #GuyBeauty video this February, showing basic make-up for men. His community that he so carefully built went nuts – not in a good way. However, Siddharth found followers who lauded his ‘guts’ and the number today stands at 112k.
“There are people who comment ‘chhakka’ [on social media]. But this conditioning is meant to be broken!”—Siddharth Batra
However, Siddharth has been interested in make-up for longer than he can recollect. “I was always interested in how my mother used her cosmetics. Growing up, my parents knew I was metrosexual and fortunately, they were open-minded,” he says. “When I worked for an online fashion company, I had to wear make-up. I bombarded the make-up artist with questions and that’s how I decided to invest in a few make-up products for myself.”
Putting this on Instagram felt normal. “My social media is a reflection of my life and I’ve always believed in breaking rules. As I got better doing my own make-up, I realised other people would like to learn too,” he says.
Though he has many, many fans, he is, of course, trolled. “There are guys who give me genuine feedback and there are people who comment ‘chhakka’. But this conditioning is meant to be broken. My responsibility as a creator is to break the cocoon. If me and my partner both want to wear make-up, I don’t see why that should be a problem.”
Siddharth’s aim is not to shock. It’s just to normalise make-up for men. “A Hitler approach doesn’t work. I don’t want to hurt sentiments but I do want real change. The only way to do that is to intertwine pop culture, humour, fashion and beauty. The packaging matters irrespective of the numbers on social media because it all depends on how people view you; not just how many people view you.”
Beautiful on the inside
Ankush Bahuguna, 27
When Ankush Bahuguna (@ankushbahuguna) tweeted a picture of himself wearing eyeliner, the Internet went crazy. “Just a man wearing eyeliner without caring about what others think. It’s not my eyeliner that scares you, it’s my freedom to wear it that scares you. This really isn’t about me, this is about you,” he tweeted.
But the real conversation starter was an Instagram video that showed him applying make-up. “As an actor, make-up is almost my second skin. So when I tried it myself, I was impressed by how well I understood it. It’s not just an art, but also a science and I am good at this!” says Ankush.
He expected the trolling, of course, but did not imagine it would be as bad as it was. “The worst questioned my sexuality. These kinds of associations need to be nipped in the bud. So the next time I put up a video, I spoke about the stereotypes and attacked them collectively for attacking my choices,” he says.
“I’ll call out the trolls because on my bad days, I get really affected by what people say about me“—Ankush Bahuguna
More conversations about gender and beauty need to be had, says Ankush. “Ideally, make-up and skincare should come together and go much beyond conventional beauty standards. It should make people think, ‘Oh! It can also work like this’. But the messaging of most commercials cash in on consumers’ insecurities and I’ve fallen prey to it myself,” he admits.
The attitude to men wearing make-up is strange, says Ankush, because make-up has always been integral to Indian culture. “Whether it is Bharatanatyam or Kathakali, men wear make-up. So if you abuse me for wearing make-up, the onus is not on me. I’ll call out the trolls because on my bad days, I get really affected by what people say about me,” he says.
He who doesn’t care
Abhinav Mathur, 36
Four years ago, when lawyer Abhinav Mathur (@_abix_) entered the digital content space and had to participate in shoots, he started wearing make-up. “It made me feel positive and accepted and that changed everything for me,” says Abhinav.
Though he is not often on-screen, Abhinav took to cosmetics quite naturally. “It might be because I had no social stigmas in my mind. But that is not the case with most Indian men,” he says. “When I got into the industry, there were a lot of masculine-looking men but then I realised that everyone around me was glamming up. Conversations and your surroundings affect your thoughts deeply. I realised that applying foundation does not challenge my masculinity in any manner. So over the years, I’ve tried to perfect the art because when done shoddily, it shows,” he laughs.
“Skincare does not only mean taking care of the under eyes…”—Abhinav Mathur
As far as Abhinav is concerned anyone who wants to use make-up should use make-up. “I like my oily skin being taken care of with a dab of concealer and the right loose powder. It is about enhancing my features and I don’t see why making an effort to look good is a crime,” he says. “Of course, I’ve faced stares but I’ve always taken it with humour. If I let my guard down and become vulnerable, I will squirm. I’m very comfortable in my sexuality, so jibes questioning my orientation are not bothersome.”
Recently engaged, Abhinav is unconcerned by trolls. “Education is the real deal in this. Your insecurities come from what you see around you, and I’ve made peace with the fact that it is not possible to change everyone’s perception. Having grey hair in the influencer space might not be regarded as well-groomed, but I’ll flaunt it. After all, you do you!”
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From HT Brunch, November 22, 2020
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