Rebellious Beauty

Spotlight / Shoot Spotlight
Poppy Marriott
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Josie Gealer Ng
Apr 14, 2020
I first met young graduate photographer Poppy Marriott last Summer when they invited me to their photography degree show in London.
I loved the narratives and energy within their work.

Poppy identifies as non‑binary and this influences much of the dialogue within their photography – focusing on portraying their peers and friends within the queer community in bold, positive, and beautiful ways. Shortly after attending the show we asked them to cover Pride 2019 for our editorial team and also began working on ideas for a creative shoot championing non‑conformity and individual expression.

We chatted about the impact beauty plays on young people today and the use of makeup as a visual language to express creativity and identity, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. We decided we wanted to create a series of bright uplifting portraits championing personal beauty, individualism, and happiness. We cast six models and gave them topic of how they use or don’t use makeup to express their identity.

All models were given complete freedom for their hair, makeup, and styling and everyone interpreted the theme so differently. We also interviewed each person on their view on beauty standards, makeup, and identity, some of which are highlighted below.
BEN
In what ways (if any) do you feel different with and without makeup?
Makeup is magic, it makes my day better, it removes any of the issues I may have with my skin and presents my best self to the world. I love playing with color and defining my features.
There is a reason that filters have become so popular on social media, as they smooth and correct our appearance giving the world a curated version of ourselves. Makeup is our filter, allowing us to curate the way we look, and who wouldn’t want to do that?!

How important is makeup to you?
There is a beautiful intersection where makeup meets identity. They are separate things but give way to a special relationship when combined. Applied to the face, cosmetics unlock a new dimension, where true selves are realized. No two faces are ever the same, so the way we apply makeup will always create our unique self and show the world our identity through our individuality.
 
Why do you think there’s been such an increase in popularity in experimentation of make‑up and beauty over the last few years?
Perhaps it is more to do with the structural changes in all of our lives, we now live our lives for the most part digitally, how many people have you interacted with this morning just on your phone? Humans are social beings, and sometimes similarities make us feel comfortable. We can now see many more like‑minded people, and if they are experimenting with makeup it gives many others the green light for them to try. Think of it as a mini social acceptability domino effect, there will always be one person in our lives that made us feel like we could do whatever we wanted.

How do you think make‑up correlates with identity and/or individuality?
We’re supposed to be well‑adjusted people, and society would tell us that vanity is a sin. At the point I’m at with my identity and exploring who I am, makeup plays a big part of that and gives me the boost I need. I love catching myself in the mirror because I am vain, and I have no issue with it! I have spent time on this face, and it makes me smile. The way I look is purely for me, it’s part of me, and I couldn’t access my whole self without makeup. That might change in the future, but right now that’s truly how I feel.
ANT
Do you feel there has been a shift in the way beauty is perceived and thought of in the last five years?
Yes and no. Beauty has always been perceived as an indicative of socially desirable attributes like high intellect, a kind demeanor, a high moral standing ‑ this hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the understanding of beauty as a feat or an achievement rather than something you’re either born with or without. It’s perceived not as a natural attribute, but evidence of skill with a brush and a commitment to upholding standards of what ‑ is in the moment ‑ considered beautiful.
Through advancements in cosmetic surgery, augmented reality, and the acceleration of online consumerism, conformity has never been more accessible. Therefore, “not being beautiful” is more likely to be considered a conscious decision to not make yourself appear beautiful, rather than a bad hand dealt by the genetic lottery.

How important is makeup to you?
It’s only important to me because it’s important to everyone else. If we all stopped wearing makeup tomorrow, I’d breathe a sigh of relief ‑ although life would become extremely dull without it and I’d probably want it back. How else would I know how everyone feels about themselves?

How do you think makeup correlates with identity and/or individuality?
I don’t think it necessarily correlates with either identity or individuality. Makeup is generally used as a tool to construct a look ‑ this look can take any form the user desires. Our desires can be both individual and normative ‑ therefore, makeup is a tool for conformity as much as it is for liberation. It can be utilized as a means of empowerment and agency in as much as it can be harnessed as a systemic means of oppression. Our relationship with makeup is reflective of the individual’s relationship to transforming your appearance ‑ identity in turn can intersect with this relationship.

Why do you think there’s been such an increase in popularity in experimentation of makeup and beauty over the last few years? 
The deconstruction of social boundaries surrounding constructs like gender and class leaves permissible room for exploration of new aesthetics. Increased representation of inventive styles of makeup through social media (as well as the propensity for experimenters to gain cult followings) means a faster cultural turnaround in terms of “what else can be done”. It’s almost like a creative arms‑race led by influencers and propagated by consumers. So, primarily because social media has made creative ingenuity extremely profitable for corporations and lucrative for influencers.
GRACE
In what ways if any do you feel (if any) different without makeup?

I find makeup helps me feel powerful. I usually struggle in social situations as I have anxiety, but colorful makeup is a great conversation starter and I have actually found it reduces my anxiety because of this. I have learned to appreciate myself with and without makeup and have found the process of applying makeup to be act of self‑love, it is part of my day that allows me to be mindful and check in with myself before my day begins.

Do you feel there has been a shift in the way beauty is perceived and thought of in the last 5 years?
I’d like to think we now have a more inclusive definition of beauty and that the way we perceive beauty is not just defined by gendered western images of a beautiful person.

How important is makeup to you?
Makeup has really allowed me to explore so many things in my life, whether that is making a statement about an issue that is important to me or allowing amazing creative opportunities and collaboration like this one!
SHIVA
What inspires your makeup look?

I take a lot of inspiration from my grandmother. She’s a strong, talented Indian classical dancer, and I am very much inspired by her aesthetic

Why do you think there’s been such an increase in popularity in experimentation of makeup and beauty over the last few years?
Because we’re beginning to realize the importance and liberating powers of de‑gendering make‑up. It’s also an avenue for creative development and expansive exploration.

In what ways (if any) do you feel different with and without makeup?

Makeup makes me feel powerful, it reinforces the comforting fact that I am much more than this body, this face. Its infinite possibilities excite me.

How do you think makeup correlates with identity and/or individuality?
Makeup does not "define" one’s identity, it supplements it. One’s relationship with makeup is personal and different for everyone. Makeup can often act as an avenue for solace and healing.

How important is makeup to you?
I have a lot of respect for the art of makeup and what it stands for: freedom of expression. In many ways it reminds us of how there is no one way to be beautiful and that beauty can come from anywhere, irrespective of one’s background, race, gender, sexual orientation, color, socio‑economic status, and ability.
TULANI
How important is makeup to you?
Over the past five years I’ve become more self‑confident, which has led to me to be way more ‘extra’ with my makeup. As an artist I really enjoy creating looks and I do 100% see makeup as an art form. It’s both really important and not at the same time for me. It all depends on the context of my mood from day to day.

In what ways (if any) do you feel different with and without makeup?

The mood I’m decides if wear makeup or not and the type of makeup I wear. The more confident l’m feeling that day the bolder the look. My mental health fluctuates quite frequently so what I wear all depends on that really.

Why do you think there’s been such an increase in popularity in experimentation of makeup and beauty over the last few years?
The rise of Instagram has definitely played a major part. There’s so much inspiration at your fingertips. And with YouTube tutorials anyone can learn and perfect techniques.  

How do you think makeup correlates with identity and/or individuality?
Makeup is unique to everyone, regardless if it’s the same look, it’ll always look different on someone else’s bone structure. It’s such an outward way of self‑expression and everybody uses it differently.
WEDNESDAY
Do you feel there has been a shift in the way beauty is perceived and thought of in the last five years?
I think that queer people are making more of a shift to let each other feel confident in expressing themselves out of the binary. There's still a long way to go for the rest of the world. Mostly I see cishet men being praised for wearing makeup and femme clothes, but this is all taken from queer culture. People in our community have been shamed for it for centuries, but its suddenly cool as soon as a cis male celebrity copies that aesthetic. I'm not completely pessimistic about the fact that it's going mainstream to present in a less binary fashion, it’s going to do us all good. But the credit will always remain with queer culture.

Why do you think there’s been such an increase in popularity in experimentation of make‑up and beauty over the last few years?
I think that there has been an increase in visibility for non‑binary people, the fashion world (in particular) has realized how fabulous we are. There are so many people educating about gender and the harm of the gender binary. Conversations are happening and people are starting to realize how much of a marketing scam gender is. We're showing people that you don't have to live in the box that is gender, and when you let people out of that box, why would they go back in?

What inspires your makeup look?
I love watching makeup artists on Instagram and TikTok and I've grown to really respect what artists do to create a unique look. From them I have learned how to do the more technical application and then I try to push it from there. In general, if I see anything artistic, I want to give it a go to see if I can put my own unique spin on it. Sometimes just seeing an abundance of color in a product will inspire me to come up with something new.

How important is makeup to you?
Makeup is really important in general. It's such a brilliant way to explore gender and queerness. Pushing aesthetics has always been a really human thing. We want to explore being different, alien, angelic, romantic and makeup I think is an extension of that.
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