TRUE COLORS: Self-expression through makeup By Lauren Caldwell and Xaria Lubensky


Alex Kung, who identifies as non-binary, is a senior at Lowell. He began wearing makeup in March of last year. Starting with just his eyes, Kung progressed into other areas of makeup as time passed. Wearing makeup makes him appear more feminine, which he prefers to looking masculine, Kung said.

All photos of Kung are by Xaria Lubensky

Why do you like using makeup?

Makeup to me is a fun way that I can express myself and make people see me in a different way than what I would normally look like. I feel more liberated and free when I use makeup and it really has become one of the other ways I express my emotions and my thoughts.

What was your parent’s reaction to you wearing makeup?

My mom never really said anything about it but she is supportive of it. My dad doesn’t personally like me using makeup but he won’t try and stop me or say anything because he doesn’t want to interfere with my expression or possibly insult my identity.

How do people react to your make up?

Generally, I think the responses have been pretty positive, there have been some people who insult me for it but I tend to shrug off their comments because they generally are like that where they mostly voice their negative comments rather than support.

Has wearing makeup helped you express yourself?

Makeup is one of the ways I express my identity and my emotions through colors and shapes along with textures and finishes. I usually change the colors I use or the shape I apply them in depending on my mood or my feelings for the day or week. Makeup has also helped me feel more comfortable because I feel that I get closer to looking how I want to look rather than what I am naturally given.

How has wearing makeup impacted your gender expression?

My gender identity is sort of changing at the moment. I am currently between non-binary and transgender so I am not sure where I place currently, but makeup has helped me appear more feminine which I personally like rather than appearing masculine as that is just not how I want to look.

Would you say that Lowell is an inviting environment for people who don't identify as female to wear make up?

I think Lowell is accepting of it and is fine but I think this is more because the people who may have a problem with it don’t want to say anything because of how liberal the city and school is.

Are there places that you haven’t felt comfortable wearing makeup?

I don’t really feel comfortable wearing makeup around my family or when I am in areas that I am not familiar with. My family won’t attack me for wearing makeup but I am not really close with them so my comfort with being more open around them is not that high. Other areas that I try to avoid wearing makeup in is places that may be less accepting or when I am in an area that could be more dangerous.

What would you say to someone who doesn't identify as female who wants to get into wearing makeup?

I would say start with something small and easy like eyeliner or eyebrows. I found it easier to start with small steps and see how I liked the appearance of it on me before I moved onto another step such as foundation or concealer. I think the biggest part is being afraid of backlash from those around you and that was one of my concerns when I first started, but I also didn’t want to feel like I was stuck looking a way I didn’t want to which is why I first started makeup. I also think that if you tried makeup before and didn’t do that well you should keep trying because I sucked at first but slowly improved.

Who or what are you inspired by?

I’m not sure who or what inspired me but as of now, I would say my inspiration is Jeffree Star because he helped carve the path for more acceptance of guys wearing makeup and even though I might not be a guy he still helped challenge these gender stereotypes and expectations.

Kung wears shades Night Creature and VR pink on the lid, layered with Xtreme Black on top, and Asteral Ghost Orchid on the inner corners from his favorite palette, the Pat McGrath Mothership III Subversive palette.


Senior Yehor Parkhomenko started experimenting with makeup in his sophomore year, and now he’s “addicted” to it. Yehor enjoys the artistic elements of makeup and views it as an art form, much like painting. He loves doing makeup for other people and seeing their reactions to their new glam looks. He feels that anyone questioning whether they want to try using makeup should try it out and see how they feel with it on.

All photos of Parkhomenko are by Lauren Caldwell

How does wearing makeup make you feel?

I don't necessarily wear makeup a lot. It's more the concepts and formulas and the idea of doing makeup. I really like doing makeup on people, that's really fun. It's kind of like an art form for me like painting a canvas. I've always loved drawing and painting since I was little and makeup is like a new path down that same direction where I could put makeup on someone and create a look that is unique to me.

What was your parent’s reaction to you wearing makeup?

Well, my mom doesn't know that I wear makeup. I haven't come out to her yet but everyone else in my life knows that I'm gay. It's kind of difficult to come out to her considering we are Ukrainian-Russian and there's a lot of sh*t that goes down with that. I'll probably come out to her sooner or later.

How do people react to your makeup?

We live in SF so people are pretty supportive. I don't really wear makeup that often on my own but I love doing makeup on people and they love the looks I do so it’s kind of a confidence boost to know that I can be a somewhat good makeup artist.

How has makeup affected your gender expression?

It hasn’t really impacted my gender expression I just use it as another form of art to express my creativity.

What would you say to someone who doesn’t identify as female but wants to get into makeup?

If you’re into it, or if you are questioning it, don’t think it’s right, or [think you would] get too much crap for wearing it, I would say just try it and see how you feel.

Is there anything about the culture at Lowell that makes it harder for more guys to get into makeup?

I’ve had strange and dis-attached experiences at Lowell, but I think with our society in general, we are a hyper masculine patriarchy. If you don’t follow the societal norms for being a man, you are called unmanly, un-masculine, feminine, which somehow is a sign of weakness- which personally, is complete bullsh*t.

Are there any places you don’t feel comfortable wearing makeup?

At this school I do feel like people will judge me pretty hard. I’m already super insecure so gonna around wearing makeup will just give them another outlet to attack. Especially in their heads. It's almost as if the non verbal is the worst of it all.

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