Life’s A Drag, But Drag Makeup Sure Isn’t

We are experiencing a golden age in drag performance, with Rupaul’s Drag Race rocketing into mainstream popularity and sparking an unprecedented interest in the art. At its core, drag is about expression and freedom, to perform, to explore social narratives through a character, to spread a message or simply have fun. A queen’s drag aesthetic is a huge part of bringing the character to life.

Drag has existed long before popular culture “discovered” it, and it doesn’t get enough credit for the trends that were inspired by it. Drag makeup has heavily influenced the current beauty industry, obvious in “drag makeup challenges”, drag-inspired palettes like Kat Von D’s Divine palette and Manny MUA’s “Life’s A Drag”. Here are some popular makeup trends that draw on drag for inspiration.

Cut Crease

Photo Courtesy

A cut crease is a clean, sharp eyeshadow look where the crease is defined by “cutting” it with a contrasting eyeshadow colour. In the above look on Jeffree Star, there is a clean distinction between the green shadow and beige-gold shimmer. It’s a useful drag technique because it makes the eyes bolder and brighter by adding contrast. A lot of drag makeup draws from theatre makeup- thick, distinct colours and lines that aren’t easily washed out by harsh stage lighting.

From Miz Cracker’s makeup tutorial for INSIDER.

In this video for Insider, Miz Cracker shares that by adding contrast to her eyes, it makes her face more expressive. Here, you can see her cut crease created with the two distinct colours of white and brown.

Via @thebiancadelrio, @violetchachki and @kalkarbdashianw

To keep the crease clean, foundation or concealer is laid down to keep edges sharp and defined! It is also useful to go in with a small angled brush to clean up the look. Here, we can see how the same technique can be used to achieve different styles: the legendary Bianca del Rio’s signature dramatic, clownish makeup, as opposed to the sultry Violet Chachki’s classic blue eye, or Kalorie Karbdashian’s funky pink look.


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The world was taken by storm when Kim Kardashian uploaded a picture of herself mid-makeover, prompting the trend to go mainstream. Contouring has become a mainstay in the makeup scene, with everything from contour kits, sticks, powders, creams, and thousands of online tutorials and tips.

From Mariah Balenciaga’s makeup tutorial for Logo.

This technique, like the rest, has its roots in stage performance, used to enhance features and make expressions more easily read. In drag, of course, the crux of it is its gender-bending illusion, and so it’s a no-brainer that a lot of contouring would go into sculpting a newer, feminine face. Pictured above is the stunning Mariah Balenciaga, known for her mug. To achieve her fishy, airbrushed look, she likes to start contouring right from her base, using three different foundation colours. Talk about dedicated!

Via @trixiemattel, @arielversace and @monetxchange

Here, the queens all sport deeply defined contouring, giving the appearance of sky-high cheekbones.


Baking is another technique highlighted in the Kim Kardashian pictures: note the copious amounts of white powder! This involves packing on setting powder in the highlight areas, and letting it “cook” generously for a period of time. That way, the powder absorbs any excess oils, and keeps the makeup in place. Then, dust off the excess and bam! Super-staying makeup.

From Vanessa Vanjie Mateo’s makeup tutorial for VH1.

“You wanna make sure you use all this product because it’ll absorb and you won’t look greasy,” Drag Race fan favourite Vanessa Vanjie Mateo quips, “You wanna slap that b*tch into yo’ face!” We couldn’t explain it better.


From Farrah Moan’s makeup tutorial for VH1.

None of us are strangers to what highlighting is, and in recent years the absolutely blinding highlight trend has been in, making cheekbones pop like never before. From Becca’s Champagne Pop to Fenty’s Trophy Wife, iconic highlighters will markedly be a defining trait of 2010s beauty.

Via @farrahrized

The gorgeous Farrah Moan of Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 9 and All Stars 4 is well-known for her blinding highlight. Where there is shadow, there is light, and so highlight contrasts darker contour in exaggeration of facial structure.



Cover images via @plastiquetiara, @naomismalls and @miz_cracker.