Dance Disassembled: Drag, burlesque artists use makeup to express themselves


From selecting music and choreography to perfecting costumes and makeup, the ins and outs of a dance performance are intricate and detailed. Put on your dancing shoes and follow columnist Laura Carter as she takes a behind-the-scenes look at the dance, stripped down.

(Katelyn Dang / Art Director)

The worlds of drag and burlesque use makeup to enhance and shape their performance.

Performance makeup, especially for drag, is used to amplify facial features in a way that traditional makeup doesn’t. The makeup used in burlesque and drag performances uses brighter colors that contribute to the dance or the overall personality. For former student Jared Menschel, also known as Valley Gyrl in the drag community and on Instagram, makeup is integral to personal exploration and finding self-confidence in their performance.

“The way people can express themselves through the art of makeup is an incredible achievement for me,” Menschel said. “I will never forget the first look I painted on my face. … I went from being a little shy, but suddenly I had this moment like, “I’m unstoppable.”

Menschel’s journey to flirting began after watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and attending RuPaul’s DragCon, and he evolved with practicing different looks during the pandemic, they said. With the help of a makeup artist friend, Menschel said his makeup skills could progress exponentially faster than before once he learned how to do an eye shadow look. Most of the makeup looks that Menschel creates are based on outfits, like the monochrome pink looks to amplify the pink eyeshadow designs.

The makeup he uses tends to be brighter in color than traditional everyday makeup, and Menschel said he’s drawn to makeup looks that use bold pinks and neon blues. They also take significant inspiration from the musical artists they listen to, such as Carly Rae Jepsen, whose music recalls colors like sky blue, said Menschel. The colors they see while listening to music are reflected in their drag looks, they said, especially the vibrant pinks they use in eyeshadows.

“In general, I prefer pinks, blues and purples,” Menschel said. “It’s very important for me to listen to an album and understand what the artist is about and really (have) a sense of who he is based on the colors that I think his music gives me.”

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For King Baba Moon, a Los Angeles-based drag king, drag makeup goes beyond what is created on the performer’s face. Make-up is used as an element of a character, and he said it’s a tool in a drag performance that works hand-in-hand with the other elements of the look, such as outfit and backs. -modified plans.

“The makeup is part of the performance that I do,” Baba Moon said. “It’s about expressing myself, and the art isn’t just on my face. It’s also the way I dress, the way I move and the things I play.

Baba Moon’s experience in the pickup world began with the COVID-19 pandemic because the pickup public attention has shifted to an online platform. Since He doesn’t frequent drag venues very often, he said the shift to consuming drag content online has made him more accessible. Baba Moon said learning the technical aspects of makeup is a quick process due to her background in the fine arts. Most of the progression from his earlier to more recent drag looks differ in the tools used to apply makeup – such as brushes and sponges – and not in technique, he said.

Baba Moon’s makeup also incorporates some facial definitions characteristics, he said. All of the looks are completed with a mustache and unibrow that connects to a line along the nose which he says is from old Mexican masks. He said the exposure to these Mexican masks, with their vivid colors and dramatized facial features, left a lasting impact on him growing up that filtered into his dragster persona. The makeup application process takes between an hour and four hours depending on the complexity of the look, he said. Because drag makeup is so dramatic, he said Each step of the application process is followed by fixing the makeup with a rice water fixing spray.

“The thing with drag makeup is if one part of your face is super defined, you have to define everything else,” Baba Moon said. “Even though my makeup is not very heavy, it is heavier than usual (makeup).”

[Related: UCLA student takes dance moves to national level in commercial]

In group dance student Bruin Burlesque, the makeup used in the performances is variable and changes depending on the piece being performed, said Maya Peterson, fourth-year dance student and president of Bruin Burlesque. Although the group did not present any performances, Peterson said their dancers’ makeup would be flexible to allow for personal expression within the performed piece. Since many dance pieces tend to have standardized makeup requirements, such as a certain shade of lipstick, allowing dancers to choose the shades of makeup they apply would help reflect the club’s goal of providing. a space for personal expression.

“The stage makeup and dance makeup were a lot more dramatic than your everyday makeup,” Peterson said. “Burlesque is a bit more feminine (than) other styles of dance.”

Sometimes, she said, dance pieces contain special instructions for makeup looks, like using brighter lipstick or making dancers look like they don’t have makeup at all. Since Burlesque is a style of dance that relies on dramatization, the makeup that comes with it could build on facial accentuation in a way that other dance styles couldn’t, she said. .

For drag and burlesque artists, makeup is used as a way to contribute to a dramatized version of the character displayed. A performance relies on makeup in the same way it relies on costume and choreography, and ultimately drag makeup is just as important as the rest of the elements of the performance. Especially for dance groups such as Bruin Burlesque, where the group’s goal is to amplify individualism, makeup can be used as an extension of that goal, Peterson said.

“For me personally, this club is all about self-expression,” said Peterson. “If we were to have a performance, I would give everyone the freedom to wear makeup however they want and make sure they’re comfortable with their looks.”


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