Let’s be real, drag queens have earned their noble titles. Expertly arched brows, knock-your-socks-off chiseled contour, nary a wisp of hair out of place, and a set of eyelashes that would even make Bambi jealous are just the beginning for our dearly beloved queens. Heavy stage lighting is a friend to no one, but these ladies werq it, serving up the sexy in killer costumes and sky-high heels. With an Emmy in hand, RuPaul has single-handedly brought drag culture to the mainstream, and we’re here for it.
To celebrate Pride Month, we sought out the true drag queen MVPs and asked them to spill their glitter on the beauty routines they swear by, products they can’t live without, and the tricks they’ve picked up along the way.
Take these queen-approved makeup hacks, and sashay away.
Embrace the Change
“When we all start, we all think we’re slaying and amazing and gorgeous,” says NYC icon Shequida. “And then you look back at the pics years later, and you’re like, ‘Ew, that drugstore makeup isn’t cutting it.’”
Not to say that everyone needs expensive products to rock a glam look; the trick is to understand what works with your face, and that takes time—and a lot of trial and error.
“I used to look like your favorite drunk aunt at a family party,” says “Shade Queens of NYC” star Brita Filter. “Now my look is more put together. It took me a long to get here.”
Pay attention to the details and what makeup styles make you feel your best, and remember: Not everything works for everyone, and that’s OK!
Blend, Baby, Blend
“Contouring is the most important thing to me, it’s what I’m known for throughout the land,” says Brita Filter. “You have to use more than one color. Some people think it’s just using dark colors and then bam, you’re contoured. It doesn’t work like that. My trick is to make it look like a martini glass, skinny and full in the right places.”
She uses four different foundations and three powders to set everything, but it’s the blush and highlight that really pull the look together. “I live for the Anastasia Beverly Hills Sun Dipped Glow Kit. It hits the cheek to perfection; I can’t do my makeup without it.”
But word to the wise: Consider your lighting. According to Shequida: “If you’re going to be doing all that contouring and then out and about in the sunlight, that does not read well.”
Multitask to the Max
Everyone can relate to the morning rush of getting out the door on time, queen or not. Make your routine work with you, and not against the clock, by doubling up on applications.
“I have to multitask my makeup,” says Pixie Aventura, of her 90-minute makeup routine. “While my eyelashes are settling into the glue, I’m contouring. And when the other eyelash is drying, I do my lips.”
Master the Shade
When going all in for a dramatic eye, start with lighter hues and build up to the color you want.
“Do not go straight in with a dark color first; it’ll be impossible to blend,” says Brita Filter, who tends to switch up her shadows based on the evening’s costume and routine, but always amps up the inky eye.
“I’m all about the black liner and big eyes. It’s a pretty intense process—I wear four pairs of lashes at a time. I stack and cut them to make my own and fit my face. It’s a pain in the ass, but otherwise you can look like a bunny on crack.”
She swears by NYX’s Super Fat Eye Marker for a mega sultry look, but without the messy application.
Make It Matte
Queens and mere mortals alike have no patience for the drama that is lipstick reapplication.
“What I love for lips is the Too Faced liquid matte lipsticks because they have strong pigments, and it really stays on. I want a lip that is gorgeous, clean, and really pops,” says Shequida. “But when you’re doing a matte lipstick, you have to prime your lips with a little lip balm; it’ll crack otherwise.”
Play to Your Audience
There is a time and a place for everything, even with makeup. “I see real girls with beautiful faces who are contouring like crazy and doing drag makeup, which is great if you’re trying to be a drag queen, but if you’re just running errands during the day, it’s little much,” says Shequida.
A trick she swears by is to make a few funny faces in the mirror after you’ve done your glam.
“If your face looks weird, you’ve done it wrong,” she says. “People are expressive, so when you’re lip-synching for your life, or just out in the regular world, your makeup needs to look right in every position.”
Keep It Tight
Ninety percent of the time, dewy faces are the dream. The other 10 percent of the year, humidity is doing the work for you. Whether you’re on stage, or in the middle of a sweaty East Coast summer, oil-slicked shine is not cute.
“I always walk around with MAC blot powder,” says Shequida. “Hands down, it’s the best blot powder I’ve found for getting rid of shine, and it doesn’t add color, even though it comes in different shades. But I always suggest to people that before you powder, take a dry cloth or paper towel and dab the excess oil, then powder down. Greasiness looks gross on everyone, and you don’t want to powder down your grease! That’s asking for a pimple.”