Her eyelashes fluttered as the glue-primed, false-demi lashes made contact with the line of her eye. She held her eyes shut as the glue adhered the false lashes to her own.
“How does that feel?” asked Kat Armstrong, a master aesthetician from Ulta Beauty in Newport.
“They honestly feel pretty good,” said Eden Flowers, a second-year zoology and biology student at the University of Cincinnati.
Armstrong was not satisfied. She took her glue and lightly tapped the artificial lash into the corner between Flowers' real lash and her tear duct.
This perfection didn’t go unaccompanied — three rows of students sat behind them, took notes and asked questions. This wasn’t occurring at a salon, but at the LGBTQ Center on UC’s uptown campus.
Periodically, as Armstrong worked, people from the crowd asked her about the best ways to apply eyeliner or create a cut-crease — a technique used to define the eye crease by “cutting” across it with concealer and covering the crease with a shimmer or contrasting eyeshadow.
The makeup tutorial was part of the center’s “Glam Without Guilt” series — a week of queer visibility and body positivity from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1.
A week of experimentation
There were too many questions asked during the tutorial to count. But that’s precisely why Jackson Rains, a graduate social work student-in-residence at the LGBTQ Center, brought Armstrong to campus.
Rains recalled the phase that girls endure during their early teens when it’s expected that their makeup won’t be perfect. He said in college, however, there are certain professional expectations that may limit the same sort of experimentation. He decided to invite Armstrong in hopes that she would make the process of applying makeup seem less daunting for students and encourage them to outwardly show who they are.
“I think it’s a good way to be visibly queer,” Rains said. “Like, everyone can see me — I’m super gay — and you should see me, because it makes people more accepting, at least I hope.”
Outwardly showing his inner personality has not always been easy for Rains. He remembers playing dress up as a child. His babysitter once reprimanded him for choosing a silver dress.
“I felt so guilty, but it was just me wanting to have fun and be myself,” he said.
Letting go of the status-quo
Makeup can be a powerful guide on the path to mental and physical well-being. Flowers found that makeup was a tool for discovery — she started to wear makeup when she transitioned in high school.
“There was a lot of guilt growing up in a patriarchal society,” Flowers said. “People view men with feminine qualities as a bad thing.”
It was hard at first for Flowers to hide her feminine side. After a partner encouraged her to try on a dress for the first time, it got a little easier.
“There is just this awful double standard,” Flowers said.
Women can wear men’s clothes, that’s just fashion — but when a man wears women’s clothes, it’s often a different story. This societal double-standard caused significant guilt for Flowers at the beginning of her transition, but she let go of gender roles and became who she is today.
She has her glam without any guilt.
To bind, or not to bind
At another event, Jackson invited chiropractor Alec Tucker to talk about safe binding, the process doctors use to create a flat chest by flattening breast tissue. This wasn’t Jackson’s idea, though — fourth-year entrepreneurship and marketing student Elliot Draznin, who identifies as non-binary and prefers gender-neutral pronouns, asked for Tucker to come in.
“Body positivity is one thing, but you have to make sure you are safe and healthy in whatever positivity you are putting forth,” Draznin said. “There are not a lot of discussions out there of how you do this [binding] safely, and this is how you can teach others about how to do it.”
When Draznin first got a binder, they did not know much about the process or the possible health effects. Draznin relied on advice from friends who had already seen the trial-and-error process and understood the implications. Wearing a binder for too long can cause serious health problems — some potentially fatal.
“From day to day you just do it [binding], because otherwise, you would feel deeply uncomfortable and you would not be able to live your life in a happy or healthy way,” Draznin said. “It’s a balance between the mental health and the physical health.”