Male beauty vloggers who changed the shape of the world of beauty

The Crusaders of male beauty vloggers

12 minutes to read
Mehreen Sarfaraz

By creating content on social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter, beauty vloggers James Charles and Patrick Starrr have started to change the beauty world. How did they do it?

James Charles and Patrick Starrr: Male beauty bloggers

The makeup industry in the online and offline world world is something that has always been dominated by women. Women wearing makeup can be dated back hundreds of years. However, thanks to the evolution of technology and the rise of social network platforms, many men have started to apply makeup and have started to partake in the makeup industry.

Two of the men that started this are James Charles and Patrick Starrr. They are Crusaders among male beauty vloggers. According to Howard Becker the term 'Crusaders' refers to the "creators of rules" and they are also "interested in the content of the rules" (Becker, 1963, 147). Thus, they shape and make new rules. Furthermore, the creation of new rules leads to the formation of a new social group.

The Crusaders not only make new rules but also pave the way for others. This article aims to identify and analyze two of the main Crusaders, who popularized the idea of men wearing makeup in the 21st century: James Charles and Patrick Starrr. Additionally, these male beauty vloggers will be analyzed in respect to their influence in the online and offline world and how they achieved this by using of different social media platforms. 

A bit of history

These male beauty vloggers aren't the first men to wear makeup. In the past, drag bars were places where men would wear makeup, so they wouldn't come across someone who knew them. In the 20th century, makeup was something worn in privacy or by rockstars and famous artists such as Prince and David Bowie. Thanks to the evolution of technology, that has led to the creation of social media platforms, many men interested in makeup now have the possibility to share their interest with others and express themselves artistically on a larger scale. Platforms like Instagram and YouTube have led to the creation of a social group that has its own specific set of norms and rules.  

Many of these male beauty vloggers are changing gender norms. These men don't identify themselves as drag queens or performers who transform themselves with the use of makeup, but as men who are interested in makeup (Hess, 2016). Many of these men embrace their masculine features, such as beards. As Patrick Starrr says in one of his YouTube videos: "I am a man, I am a man in makeup. And I love makeup so much".  He also talks about how everyone should be free to express themselves as they please.

Even though this particular social group has started to become more and more popular over time, it is still not mainstream in today's society. These male beauty vloggers are seen as acting deviant, according to other people. This doesn't mean that male beauty vloggers are deviant, but that they are deviant in the eyes of people who are a part of what would be considered "normal"people. "Normal" in this sense means following the rules and norms of mainstream society that have been in place for centuries. As Becker says: "whether an act is deviant, then, depends on how other people react to it" (Becker, 1963, 11). Male beauty vloggers aren't safe from online harrassment. Many of their videors are reported, because they show a man wearing makeup (Hess, 2016). Being considered deviant from many people's perspective makes these vloggers outsiders. This, of course, depends on which perspective is being taken, because to the vloggers, the people who see them as deviant could be outsiders themselves.B  

Furthermore, as these men are Crusaders and some of the first people to become popular as makeup vloggers, they define most of the rules of this social group. Whatever they do becomes popular. This is largely because of the algorithms social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram employ. Male beauty vloggers keep doing what they do thanks to these platforms that allow them to keep having trending content and suggest their videos to people who have similar interests. This results in these vloggers becoming more and more popular, and thus having a much bigger following. This gives them the power to determine the rules in this social group. However, these male beauty vloggers also need to follow rules of YouTube and Instagram to remain popular. Ultimately, the real power lies with big companies like Instagram and YouTube, that have provided these people with a platform. 

James Charles influencing the mainstream media 

James Charles is one of the youngest male beauty vloggers. He is also one of the biggest male beauty artists out there today. He became tremendously popular a year ago at only seventeen years old, as he gained a huge following on Instagram and YouTube. With a whopping 2.5 million YouTube subscribers as well as 2.9 million Instagram followers. He made history and headlines in 2016, when he was announced as the first ever male spokesperson for CoverGirl and was featured on its cover.  

James Charles in the front cover of Covergirl magazine

Charles becoming a spokesperson for CoverGirl led to a lot of attention from mainstream media. Furthermore, it shows that he is indeed a crusader of male beauty vloggers. His being a spokesperson for the well-known makeup brand and appearing on the cover of the magazine shed light on and paved the way for other men who are interested in makeup, but feared being different. Charles was then invited to the Ellen DeGeneres show, where he shared how he landed on the cover of CoverGirl as well as his personal experience with telling his parents about his passion for makeup. He explained furtheron that this led to his parents speculating about his gender identity. They thought that he might be transgender. However, he clarified that he wasn't transgender and that this was just a form of self-expression for him (Jones, 2016). He further explained his struggles and said: "It has not been widely accepted in the past so it was definitely a learning process." (James Charles, 2016).

Beauty vloggers like James Charles have led mainstream media to questioning gender norms. Additionally, this shows how something that started out as being a form of self-expression for James Charles, has become a career. This has led him to become a pro in this particular social group. He has moved from one position in this social group to another, as the career of an outsider according to Becker "refers to the sequence from one position to another in a system" (Becker, 1963, 24).

Charles started out as a newbie who only applied 'natural' makeup. Within the beauty community, natural makeup requires having only a basic understanding of how to apply makeup. It’s just a starting point as to where you should apply what kind of product, such as concealer and highlighter. However, the more knowledge he gained, the more popular he became on social media. His technique started becoming his trademark, such as his intense focus on highlighting his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose. Thus, the more knowledge he gained through experience and experimentation, the more his positions changed in his career. This in turn led him to be an ambassador of a popular mainstream magazine and makeup brand. 

Patrick Starrr's breakthrough as a minority

"I feel like the minority of minorities- I'm gay, I'm plus-sized, I'm Filipino, I do makeup" said Patrick Simondac (Chan, 2017). Starrr started his YouTube channel in 2013 and now has 3.9 million Instagram followers and 3.2 million YouTube subscribers. He has played an integral role in the transformation of mainstream society's view on men wearing makeup. His love for makeup started in his teens and he learned quite early on how to apply 'good' makeup by practicing on his friends and family. He started wearing makeup in his twenties, but still kept it private and took a job as a makeup artist in a local salon. In his case, his parents wanted him to stop wearing makeup himself, as they wanted to protect him from people who look down upon men wearing makeup (Starrr, 2017). Thus, his parents saw what Patrick was doing as an act of deviance. 


He got a job offer from a makeup company that had theme days where the employees would dress up. He has shared an experience where he dressed up and wore very 'bold makeup' to work. However, the makeup company told him to take his makeup off. Starrr feels this probably had something to do with him being “a man wearing makeup’’ (Starrr, 2015; 2017). This is something that happened to Starrr five years ago. Only a few years ago therefore, he was seen as doing something that was unacceptable and deviant, for which he would've been deemed an outsider. Five years, later he is one of the most influential male beauty vloggers out there and has inspired millions of people, including boys and men, to be confident and wear makeup. His influence can be seen in the following comment on YouTube by an 11-year-old boy who has been inspired by him. 


Patrick Starrr's influence on a 11 year old boy

Starrr himself was discouraged to wear makeup when he was young. However, because of Crusaders like him, many young boys feel comfortable wearing makeup. This has created a niche culture for men who want to wear makeup. This niche culture is genderless, even though it mostly consists of males, and is gradually increasing in size, because of famous male beauty vloggers who are paving the way for other males to explore their interest in makeup. 


Furthermore, Starr's influence doesn't stop there. Thanks to platforms like YouTube and Instagram his popularity increased among different audiences and it led to him collaborating with one of the biggest makeup brands: M.A.C. He released his own custom collection of makeup; many of those products were sold out quickly. This shows that he is very popular with his fans indeed. Not only did he inspire men to wear makeup, he also inspires males of color who are interested in wearing makeup. As a Filipino-American male beauty vlogger himself, his representation is very crucial and inspiring for all men and boys.


Negative comments in the online world

As mentioned before, algorithms play a huge part in the lives of these Crusaders of the beauty world. YouTube and Instagram are their main platforms for expressing themselves. Algorithms prevent backlash from people which are not part of this group. This has everything to do with filter bubbles. Pariser (2011) defines the filter bubble as users getting less exposure to conflicting viewpoints and becoming isolated intellectualls in their own informational bubble. Thus, people who don't like this social group or culture will not come across it on social media, as the algorithm only shows this type of content to members of the group. 

However, as these male beauty vloggers gain more popularity and breakthrough on mainstream media, the easier it is for people who dislike the culture to find them. This, increases the amount of negative comments they receive on their YouTube videos and Instagram posts. Moreover, this also exposes them completely to other social groups and mainstream society to criticize, as they become micro-celebrities. Thus, controversial things that they may say - especially on social media - will rise as an opportunity for haters to criticize them, as well as lead to them losing actual fans. This happened to James Charels for example, when he became really popular after becoming the ambassador for CoverGirl. However, he tweeted a joke about Africa that led to an immense backlash from not only his haters, but his fans as well. 

James Charles ignorant tweet leading to his fan boycotting

The above tweet by one of Charles' fans is a good example of the kind of backlash he received. She states that she will stop supporting CoverGirl as long as James Charles is involved with their campaign. This doesn't just have an impact on him individually, but also impacts the whole male beauty vloggers group. Charles represents that group, so if he does something controversial people who weren't aware of the group's existence might generalize everyone in it. This could lead to people having negative view of the entire group.

This shows that increased awareness of a social group doesn't always mean that mainstream society will accept them. It can also lead to more hate being directed their way, as they are much easier to find. 

Crusaders of the makeup industry

The Crusaders of this particular social group have helped many males who felt left out of mainstream society to find a niche culture; a place where they would be accepted and where they could express themselves however they desire. James Charles making it onto mainstream media, by appearing on a popular magazine has helped with the growth of this social group. Males who weren't aware of these vloggers' YouTube channels and Instagram accounts now have someone representing them.


However, their uniqueness and talents have also played a huge role in making them famous and allowing them to be a part of mainstream media and culture. Furthermore, their popularity also influences many people to question gender norms.


However, with fame comes more exposure and this also means receiving more hate. The popularity of figures like James Charles and Patrick Starrr has also led people who dislike this subculture to find every reason to hate on. The way they express themselves is still something that is not entirely accepted in professional situations. It is still seen as inappropriate. However, the more mainstream these vloggers become, the more societal expectations will shift.



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