Photo by Kyle on Unsplash

Can men wear makeup? The short answer is yes.

But it might be intimidating to them when all they see are male celebrity makeup artists fully painted with bright eyeshadow, full lashes, and enough highlighter to block out the sun.

Fortunately, there are options for men who want to feel better about themselves in 2021 without looking like a well-blended stained-glass window. Maybe with enough confidence, it could lead to that if it’s in your heart, but most people would rather start out small.

Social media influencers are good at their jobs. They should be, as the makeup trade is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. With that kind of reach, you would think everyone would know the difference between Morphe and CVS. If you don’t, you’re not alone.

What better reason than a new year to try it all out? Especially for men who simply want to even out their tones or hide a blemish or look slightly refreshed after a rough year.

Gen Z kids already seem comfortable using their faces as a canvas, but there are men out there who want a simple “glow up” with natural colors, not an entire paint-by-numbers looking celebrity palette. They want to take baby steps.

We talked to the CEO of Alpha Male Cosmetics, Anttoni Lopez, about where curious men should start. He says he understands how some men want to look and feel good with makeup but are afraid of overdoing it or appearing too feminine.

“Alpha Male Cosmetics was created for these exact men who pose this question/concern,” he says. “Our line does not offer any female inspired/tailored products, i.e., eyeshadow, lashes, blush, etc.”

Anttoni Lopez of Alpha Male Cosmetics

His omission list reads like the gender-bending tools of the trade 40 years ago when pop musicians challenged masculinity. Boy George was probably the most controversial. When he came onto the scene with thick eyeliner, red lipstick, and blush, the world wondered about his masculinity.

In the ’90s, successful men were criticized for their skincare treatments and were coined “metrosexuals” — straight men who routinely used moisturizers and other expensive products on their faces and hair. They, too, were mocked for taking longer in the bathroom than women.

Social media started to take off in the latter part of the 2000s, and companies such as Facebook and YouTube became places to monetize big ideas. The MUA (Makeup Artist) celebrity was born.

Today successful makeup companies are started by influencers who end up making millions. It has become a high stakes environment complete with corporate espionage and cheaper black market knock-offs. With all of this bombarding your newsfeed, it’s easy to feel intimidated. You don’t want to look like Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. You just want to look good doing regular, everyday activities like grocery shopping or taking Instagram selfies with the family.

Lopez believes that men are afraid to use makeup for fear of being judged by their peers because the market is so hyper-focused on women.

“In addition, I believe the fear of the unknown also plays a part,” he adds. “A man with semi- to problematic-skin may want to feel more confident but doesn’t want his masculinity to be questioned — this is just a man that lacks self-confidence. When did we really begin to care what others had to say about us?”

For the answer, Lopez gives us a lesson in fashion history. “It was basically normal in the 1800s for men to not just wear makeup but wigs and shoes with heels. Crazy how the world has shifted over the centuries. I have to blame social media for the downturn in men’s self-esteem and confidence in more recent times. We live in a microwave society that is pushed by false lifestyles and visuals of what is accepted as beautiful. Alpha Male Cosmetics was made for men that stand out amongst the crowd, the men who are not afraid to stand up and be the Alpha regardless of his personal at-home grooming regimens.”

Lopez suggests beginners start with three basics: a BB cream (a tinted moisturizer), a hi-def concealer, and “our camera-ready primer is always a perfect addition to prepping the skin as it provides hydration and a smooth layer of protection.”

Three things seem manageable amid the gridlock of other commercial products shilled on social media. Lopez says there is no time like the new year to start your exploration into using makeup.

One thing that is most important on your journey is the right color; it must match your skin tone or come close to it. The same goes for concealer; the wrong color could out your secret.

Photo by Isabell Winter on Unsplash

Women aren’t the only ones who get dark circles under their eyes or acne scars, or breakouts. Men get these things too, and for some, it can affect their self-esteem.

With a little practice, anyone can perfect their look, whatever it might be. For people who are shy about shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, there is always the internet.

“If you are a man looking to try makeup for the first time, Congratulations!” says Lopez enthusiastically.

Behind his encouragement, there is also an empowering message. “You have just embarked on the beginning of a journey that may change your life forever. Remember that the makeup does not make you; you make the makeup! Never forget why you decided to try using cosmetics.”

He does warn that anyone with problematic skin, such as unhealed sores or inflammation, should hold off until they mend. And even then, he recommends consulting a dermatologist. But after that, the sky’s the limit. His website also makes tutorial videos to help you figure out how it all works. “Lastly, walk with your head held high; you just took the next step toward the rest of your life!”

Extreme makeup on men is a subculture that has its roots in the art of drag. As the public becomes more educated about the LGBTQ spectrum and rejects the heteronormative-fueled stigma of men using cosmetics, guys can slowly abandon their fears of drowning beneath a beauty blender.

There’s power in powder, and since 2021 might be the perfect time to start your “new year, new you” attitude, why not give in to curiosity? Who knows? You might become Lord of the Ring Light.

Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty

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Mjolnir

Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.


Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.