14 Latinx People On What Winged Eyeliner Means To Them
The look is massively popular today, but stigma still follows some Latinx people who choose to opt in.
If you Google “Latina-inspired beauty,” a photo of Kylie Jenner will appear about halfway down the first page. It’s a Pinterest post showing an image of Kylie’s overdrawn lips coated in a thick brown lipstick, bronzed cheekbones, thick faux-lashes, and a distinctive winged eyeliner atop shimmery eyeshadow to complete the look. While Kylie herself is not of Latinx heritage, her makeup look is reminiscent of beauty trends associated with Latinx people, and the Google hit of Kylie herself is surrounded by photos of Latinx makeup artists, models, actors, and pop stars, each donning a similar beauty look — nearly all of them with their eyes perfectly outlined and extended with the flick of a liquid eyeliner brush.
It’s this distinctive look that has become a defining beauty characteristic for the Latinx community. While winged eyeliner has origins dating back to ancient Egypt, Reina Rebelde founder Regina Merson tells Nylon that it’s a beauty look that has been embraced across multiple cultures over the centuries. “With such broad appeal, every decade and cultural group has put its own twist on it, which makes it so fun,” she says. “For the Latinx community, it is unapologetically feminine and seductive, not to mention expressive and shows a level of confidence that is addicting.”
But winged liner is more than just a beauty staple for the Latinx community. In many cases, the bold eye look has been used as a political statement. “Our Rebel Eye Definer Liquid in Zapatista was inspired by the female Zapatista fighters, an indigenous rebel group in Chiapas, Mexico that has been fighting for indigenous rights. They are known to wear masks and only show their eyes with a bold black eyeliner,” Merson explains.
Winged liner in the Latinx community has also been a defining marker for people, particularly women, who moved to South Los Angeles in the late 1950s.
“The winged eye is shared by two iconic subcultures within the Latinx community: ‘cholas’ and ‘rockabillies,'” Nydia Cisneros, founder and creative director of cosmetics brand Cholas x Chulas, tells Nylon. “The winged eye evolved from what was already influenced in classic Mexican films of its golden area to what women later saw in American beauty throughout the ‘60s. The chola winged eye is a hybrid of two cultures.”
She notes that some people credit the winged-eye look to las rucas and veteranas in the '90s. “The winged eye is iconic because it’s shared by a more significant population and rich history,” Cisneros says. “Latinx beauty is bold. We love the extreme, and accentuating our eyes with a fabulous stoke of back ink in creating a winged eye gives us flight.”
As Cisneros explains, the more inclusive and playful the beauty industry becomes, the easier it will be to break free of the stereotypes that older generations in the Latinx community faced. “At this point, the chola winged eye has made its way down the catwalk and [appeared] in Vogue,” Cisneros notes.
And she’s not wrong — winged liner has become a massively popular look in this decade. Latinx celebrities like Selena Gomez are teaching people how to properly perfect their cat eyes on Vogue.com and non-Latinx celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Lana Del Rey have embraced the “chola glam” look. But, as winged liner becomes more culturally acceptable as a beauty look among Latinx and non-Latinx people alike, there is still some stigma that follows Latinx people who choose to wear the bold beauty look.
Below, 14 Latinx people tell Nylon what winged eyeliner means to them and how their beauty routines have been impacted by the generations-long social stereotypes that follow the beauty look.
Kathleenlights, beauty influencer and founder of Lights Lacquer & Lights Label
While beauty influencer and cosmetics founder Kathleenlights says she was terrible at applying winged eyeliner at the beginning, it’s quickly become a staple part of her beauty routine — one she says she can’t live without. But the Cuban-American YouTuber notes that the look — and makeup in general — does not define her. “I define myself, and that goes [for] the various looks, including winged eyeliner, that I wear that make me feel empowered and comfortable in my own skin,” she tells Nylon. “I think a few years back, the Latinx community may have been perceived differently for wearing winged eyeliner... but, I like to think we’ve moved past this as a society.” For her, winged eyeliner is a classic look for all women. “Makeup, not just winged eyeliner, should empower women. [It should also] inspire them to make bold moves in their life and go after the things they want with confidence and fearlessness. That’s what it does for me.”
Jessica Chia, Beauty Editor
Unlike other Latinx people who wear winged liner on the top of their lashes, beauty editor Jessica Chia has a unique way of applying the delicate eye look — she applies it on her lower lash line, a trick she learned from watching her Puerto Rican-Mexican mother apply the product when she was younger. While she wanted to look as “glamorous” as her mother and copy her unique wing application, Chia says her relationship with winged liner has been anything but linear.
“For a long time, my thick winged lower liner was as much a part of my face as my nose, or eyebrows; I didn’t go anywhere without it,” she tells Nylon. “Through my early 20s, I started to realize I used it as a crutch to feel attractive and wanted to wear it less, but I didn’t really get comfortable with not wearing liner until my late 20s, when I was just more comfortable in my own skin.” She says she’s always been conscious to the way Latinx people are perceived when they wear winged eyeliner, especially when it’s exaggerated. “I think there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding that look (sometimes derogatorily called chola), that were sexualized but not respected. I definitely think that is a reason I did my liner differently.”
Edölia Stroud, Photographer
Photographer Edölia Stroud says she has a lot to learn when it comes to makeup, but when it comes to winged liner, it’s a staple beauty moment that has a way of bringing together a whole look. While she’s never experienced anything negative while wearing a strong winged-eyeliner look, Stroud says stereotypes and preconceived notions wouldn’t prevent her from rocking the look. “As a Latinx person, I always utilized winged eyeliner as a creative outlet to represent and express myself as the artist I am,” Stroud tells Nylon. “The stereotypes that surround Latinas and winged eyeliner don't celebrate the beauty in the makeup itself, it is used to provide a label that either sexualizes or dehumanizes the person wearing the liner like being perceived as ‘exotic’ instead of just seen as a beautiful person. Makeup in itself is fun, the stereotypes take the joy from that idea and turns it into something it is not.”
For DioMara, winged eyeliner is a way to add personality to her overall look and accentuate her Black Panamanian features. Unfortunately, wearing her makeup in this specific manner has led DioMara to experience “fetishization” of her appearance. “When I tell people I'm Panamanian they like to put me in the ‘exotic’ category and wearing my makeup in certain ways just adds to this adverse reaction,” she tells Nylon.
“I believe Latinx people are still perceived to be one thing in the high-end beauty world. I do believe winged eyeliner, for others, adds to the ‘exotic’ and ‘spicy’ they try to group us under. I rebuke it though. It's such a multilayered convo of how Eurocentric beauty standards have created this high end perversion of what Latinx humans are to be.” DioMara notes that Black Latinx people are not a subgroup, but well-ingrained into what “Latinidad” is. For her, winged liner was a crutch — until she learned not to be dependent on a singular beauty product to define her self-worth. “My face is beautiful with nothing at all and undoing and reinstating my own beauty standards independent of what society tells us contributed to me getting here. Beauty standards for Latinx people are pretty narrow so to relearn under the concept of us being extremely diverse was imperative for me.”
Arielle Egozi, writer and Creative Director at Cinco
Although Arielle Egozi says winged eyeliner doesn’t define her as a person, she started wearing the angular beauty look when she first moved to New York City and saw that she was one of very few Latinx people in the corporate spaces she was occupying. “I started wearing winged eyeliner. I started wearing big hoops. I started putting on red lipstick. If there wasn't going to be someone to represent the pieces of my identity and culture that so many share, but so few get to see, then I would do it in the ways I had access to,” she tells Nylon. “Leaning into the stereotypes already placed on my identities, making them mine and owning them for myself, makes me feel powerful. If I own them, they no longer define me, I get to define them. If they are mine, I get to play with them and turn them into what I want.”
Nena Moreno, Retro Lifestyle Influencer
Nena Moreno’s relationship with winged eyeliner began at a young age as she watched films from the Golden Era of Latin American cinema with her family. “Winged eyeliner brings me memories of my first glimpse as a child of how we can express ourselves with something that seems so simple but yet so impactful,” she tells Nylon. In addition to films, Moreno remembered learning more about her culture, specifically the history of the Pachucas.
“[These] Mexican-American women questioned the status quo and challenged the conventional norms of feminine beauty. They wore striking and unique makeup, hair, and fashion — naturally, as a teenager, my first thought was I need to learn how to do my eyeliner like them.”
Leslie Valdivia, Co-Founder Of Vive Cosmetics
It’s winged liner or no liner at all for Leslie Valdivia, an eyeliner aficionado that’s been wearing the signature cat eye since middle school. For her, liner made her feel like a cool girl — until she got her first corporate job. “When I worked a corporate job, I did feel there was an unwritten rule about winged liner not being professional or appropriate to wear in an office,” Valdivia tells Nylon. “I feel there will always be the ‘chola’ stereotype when we think about eyeliner and our community, but I think instead of seeing that as a negative, we can say our culture has influenced so many trends and beauty looks around the world.” She notes that Latina women, and women in general, are often not taken seriously when they wear a full beat to work, but she says that shouldn’t matter because makeup doesn’t decrease a person’s ability to do a job and get stuff done.
Kay-Lani, Makeup Artist And Beauty Influencer
Queen of cat eyes and ultra-bold eyeliner looks, Kay-Lani says winged liner instantly gives a look of strength to one’s face. “Wing[ed] linger makes me feel fierce,” she tells Nylon. “As a Latina, we are known for being fierce, strong, powerful women. The makeup just adds that extra touch.” After seeing a friend of hers rock the winged look, Kay-Lani says she’s become “inseparable” to the makeup trend. She does believe that, as a member of the Latinx community and with her massive platform, winged eyeliner has become something that has defined her and her career as a MUA. “I’ve had people refer to me as the queen of winged liner ... a lot of my most viral looks are based around a winged liner, so it seems to define me more than I thought.” While she doesn’t mind if people associate winged liner with being Latinx, she doesn’t want people to associate winged liner with unprofessionalism and hopes that, in the future, people are able to wear the look in a corporate setting without negativity.
Regina Merson, Founder Of Reina Rebelde
Cosmetics powerhouse Regina Merson remembers admiring the dramatic winged eyeliner actresses on her telenovelas as a child. It made them look fierce — something Merson would spend decades trying to replicate, perfecting her technique with hundreds of applications. “I always say that my wing reflects my state of mind that day — some days are amazing and on point and others are a total mess,” she tells Nylon. “Secretly, the unpredictability of the outcome and the fact that I am constantly striving to improve my technique is what makes my personal relationship with winged eyeliner so dynamic. Attempts at the elusive set of matching wings can make or break me and how I feel about my look that day.”
Highly personal, Merson says winged eyeliner is “unapologetically feminine and seductive” and gives one “a level of confidence that is downright addictive.” For Merson, winged liner defines her as an unapologetic Latina, someone that’s not afraid to rock a bold look and uses makeup as a form of self-care and creativity. “Something like winged eyeliner needs to work for me and how empowered and polished I want to feel that day. It is one of my favorite rituals and I suspect other members of the Latinx community feel the same way.”
Audree Kate Lopez, Fashion Stylist And Editor
For fashion stylist and editor Audree Kate Lopez, winged eyeliner wasn’t something she readily accepted as a part of her beauty routine. “For a long time I had almost steered away from wearing anything too ‘Latina’ when I was younger like winged eyeliner, gold jewelry, or hoop earrings,” Lopez tells Nylon. “Growing up I used to hear that I didn't look ‘Latina’ enough because I was half-Mexican. In high school I really embraced my heritage as a Latinx person and wore winged eyeliner on a regular basis and am now so proud I am Latina.” Now, Lopez says she feels powerful when she wears winged liner and has embraced the beauty look wholeheartedly, citing makeup as a huge component of what defines her as a Latina.
Sasha B., Artist And Content Curator
Sasha B. experienced different levels of judgement from people when she first started wearing eyeliner. Although she wasn’t allowed to wear winged liner until she was in her late teen years, she says winged eyeliner is a staple in her family’s beauty repertoire. “Once I started wearing winged eyeliner, I felt empowered and beautiful,” she tells Nylon.
On days when I wore winged eyeliner paired with a bold lip ... I was unstoppable.” It’s this very empowerment that Sasha describes as being seen as negative by people who are not within the Latinx community. “I remember being told that people were ‘scared of me’ because of how I used to wear my makeup when in reality I just wanted to express myself and connect with my family through its traditions in regards to how we wore our makeup,” she said. “There's a culture behind that particular style of makeup, but for others outside of the community, there are stereotypes, appropriation and a general judgement that intersects with racism.”
Tayva Martinez, Photographer
Growing up, Tayva Martinez remembered seeing Latinx people in her community wearing the sharp-tipped liner — she felt the beauty look was distinctly Latinx, a part of their identity. Though she naturally gravitated towards winged eyeliner, she says wearing the look in a small town was a huge fashion statement. “I always got called a ‘chola’ or ‘scary,’ she tells Nylon. “I was also on a list of known gang members for six years of my life. It wasn’t due to anything I had done, I didn’t have a criminal record. I was solely pegged as being in a gang due to the way I dressed. My makeup was always considered extreme by others, as was my studded leather clothing and motorcycle boots.” That didn’t stop Martinez from rocking the look. In fact, she’s made wingtips her signature look since she was 13. “I have tried to steer away from it, and it just doesn’t look right. I feel like I’m carrying on the tradition of my aunts, cousins and family friends who wore it in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” she explains.
Natalia Durazo, Co-Founder Of Sweet Street Cosmetics
For Natalia Durazo, wearing winged liner felt like joining a sisterhood — a right of passage she learned from her mother. “I remember being 13 years old and harassing my mom to show me how to do my wing like hers,” Durazo tells Nylon. “I literally couldn’t wait to get to school the next day to be part of the unofficial Wing Queen Club with my homegirls.” While Durazo says wings are the beauty norm nowadays, she believes there was definitely a period of time where a wing was associated specifically with a “chola, which wasn’t as widely accepted and normalized as it is today.” She remembers being stereotypes as a teen for wearing winged liner, but it never discouraged her from wearing them.
“My wing is definitely part of my daily rituals and my identity. I still feel as proud today to wear a long sharp wing as I was when I was 13 years old,” she says. “I’m actually proud when people associate a wing with Latinas because I feel like it’s such a sacred generational and cultural thing. Despite a wing being a normal style most makeup girls (regardless of ethnic background) have in their toolbox, there still may be some association with the neighborhood when Latinx people wear a wing, but honestly I hope there is because I’m definitely proud of where I come from and don’t mind everybody knowing it.”
Nydia Cisneros, Founder and Creative Director of Cholas x Chulas
A lifelong wing wearer, it took Nydia Cisneros a lot of makeup remover to perfect the challenging eye look. Eventually, her love of both storytelling and beauty led her to found “a brand that encompassed the folklore of Latinx,” she tells Nylon. Cited as the inspiration for Euphoria’s head makeup artist, the unique beauty look Cisneros’s helped create is now coined #euphoria beauty, a term she says she’s both “annoyed and honored” by. “There is so much more in Latinx beauty,” she says of wings defining who she is. “Smashing beauty forms and storytelling with makeup connects me with our Latinx community. Also the giving zero f*cks attitude.” Noting the particular challenge in perfecting a winged-eye look, Cisneros says Cholas x Chulas created a new product called Rims that are easy pieces of hardware that can be applied and used as both eyeliner and eyebrows.