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Drag Queen Makeup Hacks

For decades, queens have gone to great lengths and gotten creative with their cosmetics to transform their mugs from basic to beautiful. Chelsea Piers, a Drag Queen in New York City takes us through her best makeup tips and tricks.
As a busy drag queen on a budget in the big apple, I always take the subway to my gigs wearing only athletic attire and a full face of cosmetics. I look sort of like a pageant queen turned workout instructor. Being the fabulous city that this is, people often stop me to compliment my makeup and ask for tips. While I’m shocked that anyone would want to look like a life-sized Bratz doll, there are a lot of basic makeup tricks that drag makeup does right, especially in relation to foundation, so I’m mostly flattered and happily oblige. Unless, of course, I’m busy rehearsing my Britney Spears lip sync, in which case, back off, I’m in the zone.

For decades, queens have gone to great lengths and gotten creative with their cosmetics to transform their mugs from basic to beautiful. Whether you’re going for Naomi Campbell or Divine, you’d be surprised how many drag techniques come in handy for anyone interested in stepping up their makeup game. Here are some tricks of the trade to help you put your best face forward.

1. Skin Care is Key

You can buy the fanciest products in the universe and have the best technique in the biz, but it ain’t worth squat if you don’t prepare your skin properly for makeup. No need to go crazy. Cleanse your skin, follow it up with a moisturizer, and for the love of Lady Gaga, WEAR A PRIMER. This will provide a smooth, even surface for your foundation to glide onto. The Insta-Grip™ Jelly Makeup Primer is a great option that holds makeup for up to 24 hours while tightening and moisturizing skin. Who doesn’t love a triple threat?

2. Invest in a Fantastic Foundation

Your foundation lays the framework for the entire look, so don’t skimp on the product that creates your canvas. If you’re going for full glam, ain’t no shame in pumping-up that coverage. A high quality, full coverage foundation applied well will not only cover facial hair but also cover a variety of flaws and save you time on Facetune later. I swear by Dermablend’s Cover Creme foundation. It’s extremely long-wearing, transfer resistant* and will cover pigmentation, scars and even birthmarks. This stuff will hold up through wind, sweat, and tears, which honestly encompasses a typical night in drag for me.

3. Contour and Highlight APPROPRIATELY.

Not everyone needs the full Kim Kardashian treatment. Assess your face to see what needs attention and what you want to emphasize. For example, I have very prominent cheek bones, so it’s unnecessary for me to paint giant brown lines underneath them because shadow and light do a lot of the work for me. However, before you go crucifying me for that humble brag, also know that I have dark circles under my eyes that could rival Keith Richards and a face as long as Celine Dion herself. Therefore, I highlight extra bright and wide underneath my eyes. You can use Quick-Fix™ Concealer Stick two shades darker than normal for contouring and two shades lighter than normal for highlighting. Not all faces are created equal, so it’s important to do what works for your shape when sculpting and perfecting your foundation.

4. Powder Is Your Friend.

In order to ensure long wear, us queens quite literally pound powders into our faces to lock in our foundation. Some even say that’s where the term “beat your face” comes from! Powder can be a real game-changer when it comes to making your makeup last. Even though in drag makeup more is more, you don’t need to go full on Marie Antoinette with this step. Try pressing in or brushing a layer of Dermablend’s Loose Setting Powder over your foundation. It’s lightweight, dermatologist tested, and won’t dry out your skin. To bring dimension back to the face, a lustrous highlighter strategically placed on the high points of the face can help you get your glow on.

5. Bulletproof Lips.

Start with a lip liner to prevent feathering and bleeding. The trick is to fill in your entire lip, even if more lightly in the center to give your lipstick a base to stick to. When it comes to lipstick, I am obsessed with liquid mattes. They glide on creamy, dry down, and don't move. If you still find your lipstick smudges, set it with the Loose Setting Powder for extra hold.

6. Get Colorful.

I worked as a makeup artist for over two years and most of my clients were terrified of color. But if there’s anything drag queens do well, it’s play with every shade of the rainbow. The patriarchy might tell you to tone it down, but I say stick it to the man and do what you want! I think color is expressive and when placed well, cannot only make your makeup more vibrant and unique, but also serve as a reflection of your singular personality. Throw a wash of shimmery blue eyeshadow over your eyelid or pop some hot pink blush onto the apples of your cheeks and watch your whole world get brighter. Then set your powder and eyeshadow with the Lock and Last Setting Spray for all day wear.

7. Customize Your Lashes.

Lashes can completely transform an eye and are essential in every queen’s makeup arsenal. To get the best volume, I have started Frankenstein-ing my lashes. I’ll stack one pair on top of another, give them a haircut near the inner corner to open up my eye, or even cut small pieces off of one pair and glue them to another. This way, you end up with the perfect shape and lashes that are one of a kind!


Ultimately, my favorite thing about makeup is that there really are no rules. The drag community was born out of resistance and protest. The art form itself defies our traditional notions of gender, sexuality, and beauty. Makeup can and should reflect that spirit of rebellion. Take risks, forge your own path, and use makeup as a form of self-expression. Tutorials will tell how to get the perfect winged eyeliner or what shadow goes best with your eye color, but what many fail to tell you is to wear whatever makes you feel most powerful, confident, and beautiful.

*when set with Dermablend’s Loose Setting Powder

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