Oliver Helm applying make-up to a model.

Males in Make-up: Challenging Gender Norms and Following Their Passion

18 January 2021

North Notts College Media Make-up students at Retford Post-16 Centre are breaking down barriers and showing that make-up isn’t defined by gender, but by creativity, enthusiasm and a love of the art.

Across the range of Media Make-up courses offered in Retford, there are five young men, Oliver Helm, Lucas Rodgers, Harry Wells, Kristian Mead and Matthew Brammer, who are all carving their own path towards a career working in the make-up industry.

Each of them became interested in make-up for different reasons, from using make-up to help their own confidence and expressing themselves to aspiring to be like renowned make-up artists such as Mario Dedivanovic and influencers like James Charles and getting creative following YouTube tutorials on how to create prosthetics.

Matthew Brammer, who studies Level 1 Hair and Make-up, started experimenting with make-up to express his feelings as well as creativity.

Matthew said: “My start in make-up was inspired by me not having much confidence in myself. I started by experimenting with my mum’s make-up. I’ve become much more confident in my ability and have tailored my artistry to my individual style. I’d say my signature look is spooky and gothic, a bit weird but also glamorous.

“One day I’d love to work alongside Crystal and Aiden Zane who are both drag performers with a similar style to me.”

The make-up industry is seen as a predominantly feminine industry, it hasn’t always been that way. Men wearing make-up dates as far back as the Ancient Egyptians, and wearing make-up was common in England up to the Elizabethan period. In recent years male make-up has had something of a revival. John Lewis recently announced that it is opening a permanent make-up counter for men, after seeing a significant increase in demand, something that Level 2 Hair and Media Make-up student Kristian Mead was pleased to see as it ties in with his future career aims.

Kristian said: “I’m thinking about gaining experience on make-up counters but would also be interested in working in Special FX make-up in movies. Studying Make-up has given me the opportunity to explore my creativity. I take what we learn in College and put my own spin on it to create a unique look.”

Level 3 Media Make-up student Harry Wells’ interest in make-up began within prosthetics.

Harry said: “I’m fortunate that my parents are really accepting of my choices and allow me to express myself. My path would 100% be different if they hadn’t been so accepting. Without them, I’d probably be following a very different route, but I am so much happier doing this. I’ve been really lucky that friends and family have been so supportive of me.

“I started watching tutorials on YouTube and I asked my parents to buy me some liquid latex. I got into the beauty side because it interlinks so much with Special FX – it’s really hard to avoid because you still need to know things like colour theory.

“YouTube and Instagram are massive sources of inspiration. The YouTube scene is massive, it’s really helped my make-up skills because there are so many technique videos for both beauty and special FX.”

The importance of using social media is something that tutors at the College regularly instil in their students.

Level 4 HNC Performing Arts: Specialist Media Make-up student Oliver Helm is one student who uses Instagram to promote his work and has also created a dedicated website to showcase his portfolio and gain clients.

Oliver said: “I do a lot of social media, I have a dedicated make-up page on Instagram. I share general looks and I’ll tag brands and hashtags and try and generate as much reach as possible.

“I see make-up and social media as a creative outlet. I did a year of A-Levels in Graphic Design, Art and Photography, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I decided to drop it and come to Retford Post-16 Centre and pursue make-up.”

Level 2 Hair and Media Make-up student Lucas Rodgers has already grown a massive following on TikTok with almost 900,000 followers and on Instagram where he has almost 25,000 followers.

Lucas said: “My interest in make-up started as a fan. I watched other people and thought ‘I want to do that’. I wanted a platform that shows that it’s OK to express yourself – I started putting content out and people enjoyed it. There’s a whole community online; I’ve met so many amazing people, who have become friends, all through having a presence on social media.

Lucas continued: “It’s great to see more males doing make-up; it’s progression. Oliver and Harry mentioned that they didn’t think there would be any other lads – there are five us now and I think that shows people are being more accepting. It’s good that lads feel they can express themselves and wear make-up.

“My advice to other lads with an interest in make-up is to just go for it. It’s your life, you don’t want to look back in ten years and think ‘I wish I’d done it’.”

North Notts College Senior Curriculum Team Leader Karen Connole has taught all of the students.

Karen said: “I think it’s fantastic that we have a group of lads on our courses. I think media make-up offers such rich career choices from working as Make-up Artists to creating prosthetics for stage and screen, it is an industry that shouldn’t be defined by gender.

“There are so many amazing male Make-up Artists that have had such an impact on the industry. It would be incredible if one of these talented young men could follow in their footsteps.”


Find out more about our Media Make-up Courses.

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