My mom's never gone a day of her life without makeup; it's a shocker I didn't come out of her womb applying placenta fluid as lip gloss and an amniotic-fluid-and-blood combo as bronzer—all while doing a little song-and-dance number complete with tiny jazz hands.
I left her side and headed over to the first-ever “Makeup for the Masses” on Saturday, a four-hour transformation class taught by drag queens Justin Parker, aka Disco Dollie; Louis Orozco, aka Lady O; and the grand dame of El Cajon Boulevard, Jesse Greika, aka Glitz Glam.
“Oooh! I'm loving the 'stache,” Greika said as he greeted me, referring to my gruff. “You know? The butch-queen look is very in right now.”
The opposite of a stale learning Annex classroom, the class was conducted in a meeting room above Lips restaurant, where many a catfight—and a tuck—has occurred.
“A lot of people have approached us asking how we do things,” Greika said about how the workshop got started. “So, we decided to share our magic with the masses, so to speak.”
Waiting for the rest of the classmates to arrive, I took in the sights in the cheetah-print-carpeted, sui generis hall. Disco balls and feather boas hung from the ceiling, and like a queer version of a Hard Rock Café, framed memorabilia and encased belongings from great queens past and present hung from shimmery walls. Items like a Pink Flamingos VHS sleeve autographed by Divine, alongside a soiled girdle and a box of Preparation H suppositories belonging to Miss Lady Bunny, were elevated to relic status.
Considered the court jesters of the LGBT kingdom, drag queens had long faced discrimination within the community, but that all changed in the summer of 1969, when the Stonewall Riots—which put gay rights on the political map—were incited and led by a group of queens.Recently, RuPaul—who famously said, “We all came into this world naked. The rest is all drag”— has led a renaissance of sorts thanks to two successful reality series and put the art of drag back in the pop-culture landscape.
Drag queens have expanded my own vocabulary by adding terms like “gurrl,” “sickening,” “huntie” and “spilling the T” to my mind's Urban Dictionary, and for that I'm thankful.
Steadily, a diverse group of students—composed of service members and retirees and everyone in between made its way in, and the divas began sharing the tricks of the trade, from the eyebrows down.
“Brush in and dab,” Glitz Glam said, applying Spirit Gum liquid adhesive to cover up her brows. “Keep on working it in till it's nice and tacky,” she continued.
“Like you?” Dollie responded.
Other insider tips included applying a dab of orange clown paint to minimize the appearance of a 5 o'clock shadow and being wary of discount makeup brands.
“Cover Girl does not cover boys, I always say,” Dollie said. Glam took the Home Depot approach: “Just like when you're building a house, you need a good foundation, honey.”
Being the less severe, more naturally ladylike or “fishy” gal of the group, Lady O instructed the queens in training—which included three biological women, on the wonders of the smokey eye and proper face contouring.
“Straight girls love seeing a different way of doing makeup,” O said. “Like me, they enjoy picking up little tricks here and there.”
“This is the least glamorous part of the transformation process, I assure you,” Dollie said as she distributed Tupperware lids so attendees could fan themselves between steps.
Suggestions for achieving “cheeks for days,” how to score those coveted “cock-sucking lips” and the importance of properly recycling used undergarments followed.
“Always think of your face as your second crotch,” Dollie pointed out, grabbing an old pair of pantyhose and using them as a headband, for what she called “an instant, almost-pain-free facelift.”
Another important beauty lesson? In Glam's opinion, symmetry is overrated.
“Eyebrows are cousins, not twins, so they don't need to be identical; no one's are,” she said. “Well, maybe except for Linda Evangelista—that bitch!”
Wide-eyed, the students took note.
“Beauty hurts; high-drama hurts even more, I guess,” one of the natural women shared.
That's a feeling that a limping Disco Dollie is all too familiar with, as she recently gouged her inner thigh during a Labor Day performance.
“There's this bit I do where I take a metal grinder to a codpiece, causing sparks to fly all over the place. I was a little drunk, so the results were less than stellar,” she explained, lifting her shorts and showing me her battle scar.
“I've got a matching one on the other leg,” she added with a laugh. “What can I say? I did two shows that night.”
The session concluded with some final words of advice from Glitz Glam on how to hide imperfections that appear along the way: “When in doubt, just glitter that shit out.”
Something tells me a career shift might be in store. Move over Mom, there's a new glamazon in town.