Breaking Gender Norms in a Conservative Community

Tears welled up in Andrew Elliot’s eyes as he applied makeup to a transgender woman’s face.

“I’m sorry,” Elliot said. “That’s very unprofessional for me to be crying while I’m doing your makeup.”

But the woman understood Elliot’s emotions. He was doing her makeup as part of an event organized by Danelle French from French Pharmacie where artists did makeup for transwomen, then a photographer took their photos. The idea was to give these women photos of themselves looking the way they feel inside. As part of the LGBT community, Elliot felt humbled to give the women a day of pampering and help make them feel beautiful.

Elliot has been doing makeup since he was nine years old when he got involved in theater, but he didn’t become a professional makeup artist until after he went through Kathy Moberly’s training in 2013. Making transgender women feel beautiful has been one of Elliot’s most rewarding moments as a makeup artist.

When he first got into doing makeup professionally, Elliot thought about going back to theater and doing

makeup and hair for productions. However, he didn’t see much opportunity because there are limited jobs in Indianapolis and didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Instead, he found his niche in the “no-makeup makeup look.” He creates high-fashion looks with a natural glow and steers brides toward a lighter look when he readies them for their wedding day. Elliot has found that the natural look is more editorial, which is his favorite type of work. Editorial work can be tough to come by in Indiana, so Elliot brings his fresh, natural looks to weddings and commercial work.

“I definitely like the more natural side of things, so the whole Instagram trend has been interesting to sort of navigate,” Elliot says.

Zak Taylor, another Indy male makeup artist, is on the opposite spectrum. He is part of the dramatic makeup movement on Instagram. His style of choice is intense, over-the-top, colorful makeup.

Taylor has been in love with makeup his whole life. When he was younger, his mom’s best friend would come over and let him rummage around her bag and play with her Wet n Wild makeup. Taylor would run to the bathroom and decorate his face. One time, his dad caught him and spanked him. This left him insecure about doing makeup until he was a junior in high school, when he got into YouTube.

Doing makeup on himself started as ironic for Taylor. He originally did it to make fun of the YouTube hype, but then he fell in love. He saw that the YouTubers were passionate about doing makeup and he wanted that for himself.

Now at 19, Taylor wears makeup every day. Elliot sticks to putting makeup on others, rather than himself. He reserves his own face for practice if he is tasked with doing an unfamiliar style.

If you let fear dictate every decision that you make, then you’re just going to be sitting in the same place for the rest of your life.” Elliot says. “Love yourself, surround yourself with love, and live fearlessly.

Occasionally Elliot will have an assistant or be an assistant, but typically makeup artists don’t get the chance to work with one another. But, he says they still have a community in Indy.

“The artists in this community, for the most part, are all super supportive of each other,” Elliot says. “At least, a handful of us are.”

In Elliot’s experience, if artists are booked up, they will typically give clients contact information for other artists.

Taylor, however, has not experienced this. He is newer to the industry and has not gotten that sense of community. He feels an edge of competitiveness with other makeup artists.

“Nobody needs makeup artists in Indiana,” Taylor says. “So when they do want an artist, you want to be the one that they want.”

Both Elliot and Taylor can attest to the stereotypes facing male makeup artists.

“People expect male makeup artists to be super sassy and super over-the-top,” Taylor says.

In some cases, Elliot has been treated almost as a spectacle from

people who haven’t had experience with a male makeup artist before. At one wedding he worked, the flower girl spent the day telling him, “Boys aren’t supposed to do makeup.”

Elliot doesn’t let interactions like that stop him. He seized the opportunity to teach the young girl that people can do and be anything they want so long as they aren’t hurting anybody. Elliot is a proponent of education and does what he can to inform people whenever he can.

Elliot and Taylor have both had notable opportunities in their roles as makeup artists. Elliot has done makeup for events like the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant and has had his work in magazines and commercials, and Taylor has done makeup on models for Midwest Fashion Week. They are both relatively early on in their careers and expect to continue gaining knowledge and experience. Taylor plans to move to the East Coast and become a full-time makeup artist. Elliot is a musician and he splits his time between playing the cello and doing makeup.

Elliot advises young males who are interested in makeup to just go for it and dive in.

“If you let fear dictate every decision that you make, then you’re just going to be sitting in the same place for the rest of your life.” Elliot says. “Love yourself, surround yourself with love, and live fearlessly.”

Photography by Sam Noble and Miller Kern.

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