COVERGIRL Cosmetics embraces women from all backgrounds and identities to represent their brand as spokesmodels. This long list of female celebrity spokesmodels feature glamazons like Janelle Monáe and Katy Perry and fresh faced personalities like Ellen Degeneres and Drew Barrymore. Last week, COVERGIRL announced that for the first time, a man would be the company’s new spokesmodel. “Meet @JamesCharles: make-up artist, boundary breaker, and the newest COVERGIRL! Spread the word by regramming using #COVERGIRLJames.”
James Charles could barely contain his excitement as he announced his introduction into the COVERGIRL family. The 17 year-old make-up artist certainly possesses an incredible talent for make-up. His Youtube videos and Instagram photos demonstrate his artistic skill for creating facial masterpieces.
This groundbreaking announcement celebrates the inclusion of all genders under the scope of beauty products. Charles’ talent is being recognized as an accomplished make-up artist. It’s no wonder COVERGIRL honored him as the first of hopefully many more men to come. Charles’ bubbly and effervescent personality gained him quite a following within one year. On his Instagram account, he commented “Today marks my one year anniversary of the first time I ever tried make-up on myself. It’s crazy to see how much I’ve improved and grown as both a person and artist. 400,000 people in one year.”
Charles’ videos show his passion for cosmetics and his ease on camera as a free flowing conversationalist. The well thought out videos reveal inspiration and then delve into a detailed description of dynamic techniques and products involved.
For over 50 years, COVERGIRL has boasted a campaign of inclusivity and an “easy, breezy and beautiful” make-up routine. In 1992, only 5 percent of COVERGIRL’s parent company, P&G’s, consisted of women. Fast forward to 2011, P&G’s women in senior management rose to 30 percent. P&G strives for an collaborative environment with a broad range of experienced staff. Although COVERGIRL mainly markets to women, this initial step of welcoming Charles as the spokesmodel demonstrates an acceptance for men in the cosmetic industry to also wear cosmetics.
Many on social media are slandering Charles for his use of self expression and COVERGIRL for allowing this to happen. On COVERGIRL’s Facebook page, hateful commenters remark that “we are doomed as human beings” and that makeup is a privilege only for women.
There’s an acceptance for expert male makeup artists as a profession. However, a perverse notion exists that it’s socially unacceptable for males wear makeup, except in theatrical roles and on-camera scenarios. Even then, men must maintain a natural complexion. Mainstream culture by no means welcomes males to walk past these guidelines.
The strict culture of women’s beautification and men’s natural ruggedness still prevails in the 21st century. Traditionally, makeup is an exclusive use for women to extenuate their own feminine features. Women hide their flaws with concealer and foundation, extend their lashes with a mascara wand, and apply lipstick for sumptuous lips. Cosmetics were often viewed as a women’s tool to catch a male for marriage. Traditional societal roles like marriage no longer receive the same idealized perception; therefore, ideas about tradition are being altered.
An aggressive pushback for Charles and other males stems from their use of traditionally female form. The very thick wall of the gender binary attributes certain characteristics to females and males. This gender bending blurs the lines of the rigid gender binary. The obstruction of strict gender roles makes some uncomfortable as if there’s a personal affront occurring to being unaware of someone’s gender.
Women have fought for barriers to come down between men and women’s rights and characteristics. Gender bending applies for both genders, and the fluid nature of identity circumvents rigid societal standards. Women have fought for full equality and yet men are still being deterred from truly expressing themselves, such as wearing make-up.
Charles’ skilled makeup artistry surpasses many women that I know, including me. His makeup tutorials showcase technical skills and looks that I know would make me appear like a clown if I attempted to create myself. Regardless of gender, makeup is an art form that requires true mastery and skill levels in order to help individuals express themselves. Enforcing gender norms creates a very foreboding atmosphere, and strips artists like Charles from their ability to self-express. These standards really shouldn’t matter. Ideally, self expression should be free-flowing and gratifying. But the world still holds strong to those gender barriers.
For the all distasteful commentary on Charles’ COVERGIRL status, there’s also praise for his skill and representation of a major brand. Many commenters are celebrating his newfound status and for following his dream like so many others fail to do. His inclusion into this once solely female role hopefully influences other brands to follow suit. Only time will be able to tell the future of gendered beauty norms.