When people who don't know me see my painted nails or my big lacquered lashes, they often ask, "So do you perform?" meaning, do I do drag. The answer is always no. God forbid I'd be a guy who wears makeup just because he likes it. But I guess that's another article entirely.
I know a ton of guys who do drag, and it is a completely different world, one that's completely over my head. I have enough trouble doing a smokey eye and here they are creating a perfect, exaggerated cut crease with one hand while the other is wielding a blowdryer, with a lit cigarette hanging from their mouth.
Miss Fame, or by day, Kurtis Dam-Mikkelsen, is a makeup artist, model, and drag queen who you may know from last season of RuPaul's Drag Race. He's known as much for his work in front of the camera as he is behind it. Of any of the queens currently in the spotlight, he's known for creating flawless beauty looks, many that teeter on being out of this world works of art. He transforms himself not just into a woman but into something almost otherworldly.
He's taking his show on the road on a nationwide makeup tour to show just how he creates his iconic Miss Fame look. Even though the drag scene isn't really my thing, I did catch Fame's entire season of Drag Race because it featured Trixie Mattel, a queen from my neck of the woods, so I was familiar with Fame and how great he is with beauty — both drag and every day. I couldn't resist seeing him transform a model in front of my eyes and see if there was anything that could be translated into every day beauty tips, no wig required.
I wasn't sure what to expect for the four hour class. Repeat: four hour class. I was looking forward to it, sure, but also sort of dreading it because I'm a millennial and can't sit still for an hour without stimulation or whatever it is you people say about us.
From the very start, Kurtis was so entertaining and engaging that the class absolutely flew by. I knew we were in for a ride when, as he started applying makeup, he told us "Don't be afraid to ask questions! Not just about makeup, about anything. After all, we're going to be here for four hours."
It. Was. On.
As he painted, he told us about how he got his start working as a makeup artist for MAC and freelancing on the side, how he was quickly fired for always being a little late to work because he was always coming from other jobs, and how on the day after he got canned by MAC, he got a call to do makeup for Snookie and J-WOW (throwback) and MTV hired him. He was doing drag on the side and, after a while, got more bookings both for beauty and for Miss Fame.
Here are the five useful tricks, tips, and beauty hacks I learned from Miss Fame:
MAC Paint Pots as Eyeshadow Primer
I love a cream eyeshadow because I hate eyeshadow in general, and I hate powders. Creams are a great way to get the most impact out of the least amount of work. I'm not doing anything crazy with these, I just like to black out the sockets, blend them out a bit to make it look like I spent some time on it and call it a damn day.
BUT whether you're going for a smoky eye, or a glitter lid, or any sort of intentional eye look, using the paint pot as a base is great because the cream shadow will act as a pigmented primer to help lock down whatever you put on top of it. Fame used Soft Ochre which is the go-to shade for a priming base, but MAC has a nice range of light to deep beiges and cool tones for any eye you can imagine.
Black Lash Glue as Glitter Adhesive
Drag and glitter basically go hand in hand. We all know the perils of using glitter, and getting it off is an entirely different story (have you ever tried a glitter beard? I never will again).
Glitter is a bitch to work with, but can look amazing when it's executed well, and when it stays in place. To avoid glitter fallout throughout the night, forget glitter adhesives, Miss Fame reaches for lash glue. As he says, nothing holds like it.
You have to work fast, applying the glue to the lid, and then layering glitter over it. Once you think you've got everything right where you want it, keep your eyes shut for a minute or two, allowing the glue to set without getting jammed up in your mobile lid. Fame said he always uses lash glue in black to glue on lashes, but clear would work for the lids, too, if the shadow under it is lighter.
Use Brushes in Descending Sizes for Detailed Eye Work
This one may seem a little obvious, but for someone like me that steers clear of eye shadow, a little reminder never hurt. Miss Fame's eyes are always works of art. Even if they look simple, nothing ever is.
We've talked about the importance of a good brush set before, and if you're investing in shadow palettes, you'd be wise to get yourself a few different brushes to go along with them. Fame pointed out that trying to blend a detailed smokey eye with just one brush can often lead to a blob of color in the center of the lid, knocking out all of your hard work.
Start with three or four brushes in sizes that descend down and you'll see that it makes all the difference. Sigma's blending brushes are my favorite for quality and value. They feel so nice on your eyes and make smoking out your eye enjoyable, as long as you're not stressed the fuck out like I always am.
Cutting and Applying Your Falsies
Drag queens are known for their mastery of stacking falsies by the twos and threes. I think Fame said that Bianca Del Rio might stack up to ten at one time. While that may not be realistic for every day, there is something we can learn even when wearing just one set.
When it comes to falsies, I usually opt for individuals. They're more time consuming, requiring more precision and a steady hand, but the final product is always worth it. There's a time and a place for a traditional band of false lashes, though.
I trust you know that we should all be cutting down the band of our falsies before applying, as they're usually too long to look natural on an eyelid as a whole. I usually cut about a quarter of them off, and then match it up to the outer corner of my lid, leaving my baby lashes bare near my inner corner, where they're shorter anyway.
Fame touched on that method, but said that he always cuts the band down the middle, so they lay against your eye more naturally and you'll get less pulling during wear or lifting from each corner.
I've said before that whether I'm wearing a full face or nothing at all, I will always dust my face with a powder before leaving my apartment to set whatever I'm wearing and help control oil throughout the day. Kurtis used a ton of loose powders, both pigmented and translucent to set products as he went along, but the one thing that stuck out to me.
He said that he powders the whole face pretty heavily, but uses less on the parts of the face where he applied highlighter, cheek bones, etc. Throughout the night when your oil has started to kick in, the makeup begins to look like actual skin, and having less on the high points of the face makes them have a (more) natural, dewy glow.