Collage by Danielle Moalem


12 Beauty Secrets We Learned From Drag Queens

How to look (and be) fabulous

Ah… flawless, long-lasting, sweatproof makeup. While the idea of this may seem like something of a fantasy that only exists in our dreams, believe it or not, it can be achieved. And, who would know how better than a drag queen?

Think about it: the harsh club lights, the dancing, the singing; it takes some serious time and skill to keep that perfect mug intact. Being that summer’s “warmth” (aka sweltering heat)—along with its many long nights and dance parties—is upon us, we just had to know how they do it.

We reached out to seven drag queen extraordinaires to dish to us how they achieve absolute flawlessness. From local stars to RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants, read on to get tips and hacks for perfecting your own look, on or off the stage.

Warning: Glue sticks may or may not be involved.

Kim ChiRuPaul's Drag Race: Season 8 contestant Kim Chi lent us her beauty shopping expertise, revealing when it’s necessary to spend big, and when it's not.

In terms of cosmetics, designer isn’t always the way to go. “Price doesn’t always mean pigment,” she says. “There are so many different kinds of makeup available at varying prices, but just because your palette costs a lot doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll apply smoothly or vibrant and bright. Before you buy, swatch it on your skin and see how the product looks against your complexion. Sometimes, a cheap eye shadow will work just as well as an expensive designer one.” Her favorite pigment-packed line to snag on the cheap? Sugarpill Cosmetics.

If you are going to invest, go for your application tools over the actual cosmetics. “Invest in nicer brushes—expensive products don’t mean anything if they’re not applied properly. Experiment with brushes and get comfortable with which one does what."

Lastly, she swears by naturally priming your face rather than using primer. “Moisturizing and cleaning the face really well before application is important,” she says. “Starting off your makeup application with a well-exfoliated and hydrated face will work better than any primer you’ll ever use. It’ll also even your complexion and make everything look so much smoother.”

Shea Coulee RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 9 contestant Shea Coulee shared with us her favorite beauty tips and hacks for women of color.

Shea wants you to embrace the tones that you may normally shy away from. “Don’t be afraid to embrace darker, cooler tones for your contour,” she says. “When it comes to applying them, more is more—just don’t forget to blend.”

Another unexpected shade that she feels women with darker skin tones should embrace? Orange! “The best color for any occasion is orange—whether it’s for your lips, eyes, or blush—because it warms the skin and has a flattering effect.”

Ruby RooBrooklyn’s Ruby Roo has her own motto when it comes to her beauty routine: “Make a mess, then clean it up.” She keeps in mind that it’s practically impossible to achieve perfection in the first go-around (“No one is perfect!”), so she waits until the very end to clean it all up.

“Don’t worry about achieving a perfect line, brow line, or eye crease line when applying the first layer of makeup,” she says. “Once you have the right amount of pigment intensity or basic shape you want, take a thin angle brush and go back to create that symmetry. Use your base foundation to smooth those lines and achieve the angles you’re looking for.” While most say never to put a cream on top of a cream that’s already been set with powder, she swears this trick is worth breaking the rules for.

Muffy When it comes to New York’s Muffy, you’ll never catch her applying her makeup in a traditional way. That said, two of her beauty tips incorporate everyday beauty products you likely already own, though in different ways than you’d expect.

If you’re looking to create extra-luscious lips, turn to your brightest highlighter as your secret weapon. “Apply to the center of your lips to make them appear poutier and plumped,” she says. “This is a Muffy secret and staple to my makeup routine.”

Feeling tired? When it comes to the eyes, Muffy looks back to the secrets of the mods for inspiration, using a white cream liner under the eyes to make them appear more open while brightening the face. “This trend was most popular in the 1960s in Great Britain a la Twiggy, but Muffy has taken it to the extreme! Adding a false eyelash under the white always adds a nice finishing touch, as well.”

Ruby FoxNew York City’s Ruby Fox knows a thing or two about looking good in sweltering summer temperatures, so she shared her tips on keeping makeup flawless, despite the hot, hot heat.

When it comes to a base that will outlast your heatstroke, she opts for breaking the rules of powder and foundation application. “Apply translucent powder all over your face before your liquid foundation, and then again after,” she says. “This will give you sweatproof, long-lasting makeup.”

And just like sweat and humidity can wreak havoc on your hair, it can do the same to your brows—especially those of the bushier type. “Suffering from an unruly brow? Go for the glue stick,” she says. “Use upward motions to feather on a thin layer of glue onto your brow, then use a spooly to brush the product out and shape the brow to the desired shape. You now have a foolproof hold for all of those pesky hairs.”

AquariaAccording to NYC's Aquaria, knowing your face is one of the most important aspects of perfecting your getup. “Doing makeup, especially for drag, is all about being aware of the geography and angles of your face,” she says. “Try out new shapes for different looks and find out what best suits your mug. No face is ‘correct,’ but when you figure out how to emphasize and celebrate your own features with makeup, it will show.”

Knowing your face also means not having to follow the latest beauty craze or trend if you’re not comfortable with it. “If someone tells you what something is supposed to look like or to follow a specific trend but it looks silly on you, you don’t have to do it.”

Trixie MattelAnd finally, RuPaul's Drag Race: Season 7 contestant Trixie Mattel keeps it short and sweet, telling it like it is: “If you can’t stop crying while putting on your makeup, have a drink.”

Done, and done.