The Queer Trendsetters Redefining Makeup On Instagram

This is a list of queer trendsetters who are not only creating art on the canvas of their bodies, but also expanding the limits of what makeup can do.

To paraphrase Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a generation that has learnt to love itself must be in want of an avenue of self-expression.” And what is a better way to speak your truth than by rejecting the patriarchal, heteronormative gaze? This is a list of queer trendsetters who are not only creating art on the canvas of their bodies, but also expanding the limits of what makeup can do. Fearless and gorgeous, every single one of them has turned their Instagram page into a safe and glamorous place where revolt and vogue walk hand in hand.

Ayush Rajani (@ayushrajani) he/him

A make-up artist for M.A.C, Ayush regularly pushes the envelope on how glitter can be featured in creative looks. Ayush inspires his followers to break free from the social norms that have been forced upon them, especially because he’s dealt with the same obstacles to exploring his self-expression in the past. In a recent Instagram post, he writes, “Growing up in a heteronormative environment my social conditioning tuned me into believing that as a man I could never wear makeup. At the age of 23, I could break out of it and set myself free from gender stereotypes.” Today, Ayush’s tutorials are helping his 12.2k followers see that not only can men wear makeup, but they can also rock the freshest looks on the block!

Avishka Pokhriyal (@avishkapokhriyal) they/she

As someone who started sharing makeup looks on Instagram only about a year ago, Avishka has a very fresh perspective on how they see the social media platform. While they are out and proud on Instagram, they don’t feel the need to conform to straight people’s version of ‘coming out’ in their offline life and instead assume everyone is ‘fruity’ until told otherwise! Avishka’s looks regularly focus on creative eye make-up, so their posts are the perfect inspiration for all eyeliner enthusiasts out there. While Avishka has a platform to share her creativity with the world, they also do not shy away from pointing out the negatives of social media. While a lot of Instagram accounts earn through collaborations, Avishka, like many other queer influencers, believes in examining the ethics of every association. They told Gaysi, “Especially during pride, it’s so easy to get sucked into the rainbow washed capitalistic version of it all. But every year I like to remember and hold space for the fact that pride was a revolution, a resistance, a protest built on the backs of our trans siblings of colour. And any celebration that loses sight of this, is not worth anyone’s time.”

Kaajee Rai @diva_rose21 (he/she/anything)

A genderless makeup artist from Delhi, Kaajee Rai is a favourite amongst brides and models alike. They were a huge Bollywood fanatic growing up, and the influence of all things drama and glamour are obvious in the gorgeous and filmy reels that they often shoot of their clients. Interestingly, they never set out to become a makeup artist, but came upon this profession while exploring the various career opportunities in the fashion industry while growing up. Kaajee very humbly attributes their success to the support of their family, but their 13k followers who see their behind-the-scenes work immediately know that it is their passion that has brought them this far. They have worked for big names like Fabindia, and was recently a part of the Lakme Fashion Week. However, they are quick to point out that their job is more than just all that glitters: “I studied makeup step by step to clear my doubts and finesse the art. It looks sexy, glamorous, and beautiful, but I need to work hard like you would for any profession.”

Shantanu Dhope @shantanudhope he/him

Whether you love bright shades or pastel palettes, Shantanu’s profile is the place to be for new makeup inspiration! Equally great at recreating famous looks and inventing new trends, Shantanu has a whopping 41k followers who religiously follow his tutorials. He recently made headlines for rocking Cosmopolitan’s digital cover and used this moment to shed light on the importance of representation. As he wrote on his Instagram account, “14 year old me would have been extremely validated if they had seen a queer individual who looked like me on the cover of a magazine. If you’re seeing this, your beauty is valid, your art is valid, your queerness is valid, your love for makeup is valid. Here’s to more queer representation”.

Shaurya Batra @omgshaur he/they

Another M.A.C. artist on the list, Shaurya is proof that dreams do come true. They worked day and night to fulfill their dream of becoming a makeup professional in Canada. They may live in Toronto, but their makeup looks inspire their followers all over the world. As the son of a makeup artist, Shaurya has always been a big believer in the power of this art. He writes in a recent post, “My makeup and sexuality are two different things but they both combined together define who I am.” One only needs to get a glimpse of Shaurya’s account to see the truth behind this statement, for the intertwining of their journey as a makeup artist and the way that they interact with the world is incredibly motivating to all up-and-coming queer makeup professionals.

Deep Pathare @justdeepdrama he/him

The winner of the Editor’s choice award in the ‘Emerging Beauty Influencer Male’ category at the Cosmopolitan Awards 2020-2021, Deep Pathare is definitely one to watch out for! His looks often play with different shades of pink but his versatility as an artist is obvious from his concept shoots. Deep believes that this career path gives him the opportunity to channel the creativity that has always been within him, and his 24.1K followers would definitely agree with that! However, this profession means more than awards and brand deals to Deep; he loves the way that it allows him to connect with others and himself. He told Gaysi, “Not only did I find a great set of friends and a fantastic community that supports and loves me unconditionally, but I also found myself. My voice, my presence and the freedom to truly be myself.”

Rohit @roro_love_makeup (they/them)

A make-up artist since 2012, Rohit has been interviewed by national magazines like Grazia, Homegrown, and MensXP. They started their Instagram account in 2017 and have been focused on making their profile a safe space where ‘everyone’s invited.’ From light makeup looks to dramatic and artistic explorations, they have done (and nailed) it all. However, they continue to see their online community as the biggest highlight of this journey. As they reflected while talking to Gaysi, “Makeup is a way of being, it doesn’t have gender – and with sharing my world, I realised I am not alone in this thought and empowering those who want to think beyond the box and just be. While India has a long way to go in accepting gender complexity, and my DMs sometimes are loaded with enquiries about my life choices, the love and acceptance from my own little community of 18k curiously colourful folks is really the best from backers who see me in all my tints and rouges.”

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The student that always has her hand up in class, and in life. Dreams of a world where there is an abundance of love and ice cream, minorities are not constantly expected to put in unequal emotional labour for everything, and kind people find each other despite all the noise.

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