I met Lijha Stewart about four years ago, when we worked on the first of many makeup tutorials together. She’s the quintessential makeup artist: incredibly creative, self-assured, great under pressure, and of course, a master with brushes and sponges in hand. In short, she’s hard not to like—so much so, that I never suspected she was dealing with some sort of internal struggle or identity crisis.
“I’m not sure if it was necessarily the job. I think it came from my identity being silenced for so long,” says Stewart, who previously served as Make Up For Ever‘s Brand Educator. “Also, as you know, the beauty industry can be so oppressive, and even though some brands speak to diversity, I find most of them to be only capitalizing on what they feel will sell. I was sick of an inauthentic existence, both personally and professionally.”
So last year, she decided enough was enough and it all started with reconnecting with, and eventually, marrying fellow makeup artist Yvonne Macinnis. Together, they have since gone on to create Lipstick Queers, a new platform inspired by their love story, a passion for makeup artistry and a desire to push inclusivity forward. Ahead, in their own words, Stewart and Macinnis chronicle the major events that led to the creation of what is shaping up to be one of the beauty industry’s biggest and most impactful initiatives.
The First Hookup
Technically we met in Toronto during Yvonne’s first training when she started working for a makeup company where Lijha was her trainer, then again in Paris for a training where we were both students. Yvonne was in a heterosexual relationship that ended about six months after we met. Around the same time, we spent a couple weeks together in New York City and finally were able to explore the obvious energy that was calling to us.
We hooked up for the first time after Yvonne stayed at Lijha’s apartment in Williamsburg—waking up unexpectedly wrapped up in each other’s arms. Although we knew it was frowned upon, we continued to fall in and out of a sexual then romantic relationship that we kept a secret for four years. It was so hard, but we hid from coworkers, friends, and family, only letting a few into the secret life we were living, in fear of losing our job titles as director and national artist—statuses that we had worked so hard to achieve at fairly young ages. The lies and deception eventually tore us apart, and we ended our relationship, not speaking to one another for almost an entire year.
Our relationship was rekindled the first time we saw one another after that, at a pro artist function in Provincetown in October 2017. The love we denied ourselves for that year was still there. We knew in an instant we no longer wanted to hide and announced our relationship to peers and friends that week … and decided to get engaged a few weeks later.
We prefer to remain more fluid, as celebrating transformation is a part of who we are and what we do.
The Big Day
For our wedding in January 2018, we didn’t want subscribe to traditional anything, so instead, we dressed in full bio-queen realness, including thigh-high silver stilettos, boas, sequins, and leopard print from head to toe and were married by Elvis in Las Vegas in front of a pink Cadillac.
Instead of having family or guests, we streamed it live on Instagram so everyone we knew could be part of our day! Hiding our love was now a thing of the past, and we wanted to share our truth with anyone who would listen.
We identify as “queer,” “femme,” “stemme/stem,” and cis women. We feel there is still so much divide within the lesbian community that still labels groups of lesbian-identifying people, and we prefer to remain more fluid, as celebrating transformation is a part of who we are and what we do.
We’ve decided to use our medium as a form of self-expression and freedom from traditional beauty culture.
Makeup Artists First
Although our journeys were different, our defining moments are similar: creatives, driven for success, finding our way to the top of an industry that often ends up disenchanting; passionately wanting to create art in our medium of makeup that means more than “making something pretty”; sharing art and experience with fellow artists and (hoping to) inspire or provoke new ideas in some way.
As professional makeup artists, we’ve decided to use our medium as a form of self-expression and freedom from traditional beauty culture. We feel there is still a divide in feminist perspective around cosmetics/makeup and want to bring that to our work in the pro makeup industry, as artists, educators, and mentors.
Lipstick Queers is a community. It’s driven by art, acceptance, love, unconventional beauty, body positivity, intersectional feminism, sex positivity, and most importantly: INCLUSION.
Lovers of love. The Freaks. The Weirdos. The Outcasts. The activists. The doers. Feminists. Artists. Progressives. Gay/queer/straight/bi … everything in between and outside of that. The allied. The ones who ask the questions and the ones who are still questioning. Our community is your community: to feel love; to know you’re special, accepted, and fucking FABULOUS just the way you are.
We were able to hide in plain sight for years because there is little to no visibility of fabulous femme queer love. We want to create space for intersectional feminists from all backgrounds, promote body positivity, share art, create community, inspire love, and show humans from all walks life that we are more alike then we are different. We knew it was our responsibility to challenge labels in the LGBTQIA community and beyond.
Our passion is to inspire a new space where all forms of beauty are celebrated with intersectional feminism at the core.
The inspiration comes from our desire to explore liberation from traditional beauty standards by challenging perception in identity, gender, and binary with physical transformation. We are inspired by so many that fought for women’s, gay, and human rights before us and believe it is our responsibility as artists to create a safe space in the world as it continues to evolve and grow in the gender revolution!
Our passion is to inspire a new space where all forms of beauty are celebrated with intersectional feminism at the core. We want to create a momentum around self-love, expression, and love for each other—a safe space to come and connect with humans from all backgrounds.
Lipstick Queers just soft-launched its website, where you can learn more about the beauty movement, in addition to launching a T-shirt for supporters. And be sure to keep up with Stewart and Macinnis here. And because they love makeup as much as us, ahead are the products they always keep in their kit:
Cozzette Infinite Eyeshadows
“Just the most delicious texture of shadow we’ve ever felt. Cozzette shadows are a makeup artist’s dream!!!”
$12 at Cozzette Beauty
Danessa Myricks Color Fix
“All the colors of the rainbow. Every texture. Super waterproof and there are no rules to where we can put these bold, beautiful colors. Just what we want in a makeup – FREEDOM to Create!!”
$18 at Danessa Myricks Beauty
M.A.C. Star Graphic Glitter
“Cute moment for an editorial lewk and we like to stick them on our nails for a little dazzle!”
$22 at M.A.C. Cosmetics
Marc Jacobs Beauty Velvet Noir Mascara
“Best mascara for in-your-face, bold, chunky lashes in one or two swipes. We love to style our lashes with this!”
$26 at Marc Jacobs Beauty
Milk Makeup Holographic Stick
“They are currently doing everything right if you ask us. Their campaigns are beautiful and very inclusive- but their holographic sticks are in our kits and on our eyes and faces almost everyday.”
$28 at Milk Makeup
Make Up For Ever Artist Color Pencil
“Colorful pencils that can be used anywhere for anything – and a top secret collaboration with Lipstick Queers under way- stay tuned!”
$18 at Make Up For Ever