Every June, Pride Month arrives to amplify the voices within the LGBTQIA+ community, bringing people together to celebrate queer stories. However, Pride shouldn’t be limited to a single day, week, or month. Showing queer Pride and support should happen year-round, and it’s paramount that we continue to share truths, celebrate one another, and educate ourselves beyond June.
For an abounding multitude in the queer community, feeling beautiful in our skin can be a lifelong journey. We’re often taught at a young age that being queer is unnatural and that we should mask the queer aspects of our identities. Some of us live so fearfully, in constant denial of our queerness. We often assimilate to what we assume society expects us to be. We modify how we talk, walk, and—unfortunately—who we surround ourselves with. Still, there is no correct way to express our queerness. There is so much diversity and multiformity within the queer community; we’re not just a monolithic rainbow, despite what most straight corporations try to dictate. It’s why there are so many letters and colors that represent us.
As a community, we constantly evolve, and so do the symbols we rally behind. In recent years, many have moved on from the Rainbow flag to a more inclusive iteration: The Progress Pride flag designed by Daniel Quasar. In 2018, Quasar added a five-colored chevron to the Rainbow flag to emphasize inclusion and progression within the queer community. The updated Progress Pride flag features black and brown stripes to represent marginalized queer communities of color and those living and passed from HIV/AIDS. The colors pink, light blue, and white signify the transgender community.
There isn’t one way to be queer and there isn’t one way to be beautiful. Queer beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Furthering the spirit of inclusion, in 2021, intersex columnist Valentino Veccihetti built on Quasar’s rendition by adding a purple circle atop a golden yellow triangle derived from the Intersex Pride flag to the left of the chevron. For the intersex community, the unbroken circle symbolizes wholeness as they continue to fight for bodily autonomy and genital integrity. Yellow and purple were chosen because they are not viewed historically as gendered, as blue and pink often are. Veccihetti’s flag was officially revealed by the Intersex Equality Rights UK advocacy group, and many have rallied behind it on social media. With the constant evolution of the queer spectrum, it’s no surprise that there are a plentiful amount of flags that the queer community connects with.
Like there isn’t one way to be queer, there isn’t one way to be beautiful, and queer beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Queer beauty can be tender but terrifying; it can be iconic and sometimes powerfully ugly. Queer beauty is innovative, it’s powerful, and it’s inherently political. It’s representation, authenticity, and creativity at its finest
To celebrate queer beauty, these beauty vanities representing different members of the queer community. Each has color palette inspired by the many stripes of various Pride flags, and all the featured beauty products are created by queer-owned brands. Ahead, some of our favorite community icons share their stories about queer life, expression, and beauty.
Inspired By: Transgender Flag
Nikita Dragun (she/her) is the CEO & founder of Dragun Beauty.
“I am from a small town and was one of the few people openly out. I was constantly seeking validation instead of self-acceptance. Once I accepted myself fully, nothing else mattered. If I could travel back in time, I would tell my past self, don’t give a fuck, because—ultimately—pride means standing in your truth no matter what anyone says.
“I’m so happy things are changing for the youth and that they can see people like myself—a proud trans woman—living in their truth because you don’t see it often. I didn’t necessarily ask to be a role model, but I think it’s important to showcase a trans success story. I am proud to be one of the first trans CEOs of a beauty company, a milestone I am proud of. At the same time, it’s disheartening to be considered in a group of firsts because there have been many trans people before me. Still, it’s important to live openly and proudly as an example to others.
“Beauty has always been about transformation for me. It was a survival tool for me to appear as my inner self during my transition. Beauty allows me to mold myself into the confident, gorgeous person that I’ve always wanted to be. I created Dragun Beauty to cater to my needs as a trans woman since the beauty industry didn’t meet them at the time. Now it’s blossomed into something that—helps not only trans people—but also helps cisgender people feel beautiful. I approach the process thoughtfully with my team to make the best products that serve a purpose outside of just trying to make sales. I aim to bridge the gap for people like myself in the beauty industry.”
Pride means standing in your truth no matter what anyone says.
Natasha Martin (she/her) is an ally and founder of Violet Tinder Studios. She is also the photographer for Pride Vanities
“My younger and only sibling is transgender. He was assigned female at birth and transitioned in his early 20s. From a very young age, he would talk to me secretly about knowing he was a boy. It always made sense to us, but we didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about it at the time. Not to mention, culturally, gender identity was not something commonly discussed. I am grateful my brother expressed his feelings to me because it gave me a better understanding of what others may go through navigating their gender identity.
“Despite our differences, I have always felt supportive and happy for my brother. Still, I am learning how to navigate other people’s reactions, especially family members who are not as fully supportive or accepting. I try to balance meeting people where they are and going off on anyone who doesn’t love and accept my little brother. Regardless, it’s important for allies and people, in general, to use their privilege to advocate for those without—in this case, members of the queer community. Culture change is usually slow and hard-fought, but if we can all continue to embrace queer people, we can show the world that it’s possible.
“With my children, it will be a lifelong process of letting them decide who they are, guiding them to be thoughtful and respectful of others and to expect that in return. I want to teach them that we are all evolving and growing. I want them to be confident enough to trust who they are and that I will love and support them unconditionally. I’d encourage other parents to focus on your love for your child and let them know the world may not always be warm and fuzzy, but that you are their home forever.”
Inspired By: Genderqueer Flag
Edward Yeung (they/them) is the CCO & co-founder of Crushed Tonic
“As early as I can remember, I have felt a crippling sense of gender dysphoria. Luckily, I grew up with my cousin Lesley (she/her), who was born four months before me and was a protective champion looking after me. As toddlers, we watched bootleg Sailor Moon video cassettes in Cantonese that our parents got from Hong Kong. The anime was surprisingly progressive for its time, with multiple queer characters. My favorite soldier in the show was Sailor Neptune, whom I gravitated toward due to her hyper-feminine looks and personality. Sailor Neptune was dating Sailor Uranus, who I now understand is non-binary.
“If you watched Sailor Moon and you’re confused by what I’m saying, it’s probably because the 90s English dubs passed off Haruka as a female tomboy and turned the romantic couple into close cousins. The show was so impactful in my life that it even landed me my first kiss in preschool; I was playing Sailor Moon at school with my friend Yilin (she/her), and she kissed me. Funnily enough, we were both roleplaying female characters.
“I always gravitated toward things that were considered traditionally feminine. I had a Holiday Celebration Barbie that I adored. Lesley, on the other hand, typically went for more masculine things like Hot Wheels and Tech Decks. Still, as a kid, I never saw anything wrong, and it wasn’t until I started getting bullied at our Lutheran private school that I questioned if I was unusual.
“After that, many times while growing up, I wished I had been born a girl. People told me that everything I liked was meant for girls, so I thought I was born in the wrong body. When I was seven-years-old, my parents revealed that I had a twin that died in the womb, which I absorbed. I remember thinking with pure naiveté that my twin must have been a girl, and that’s why sometimes I felt like one on the inside. Meanwhile, my mom was convinced I was transgender and tried her hardest to reject my femininity. This wasn’t easy because I idolized her and always tried to emulate her style and personality.
“Nowadays, I wear makeup almost every day and never leave the house without tinted sunscreen or a dab of highlighter. Throughout my journey, beauty has been a source of comfort, and I’ve even managed to make a fulfilling career as a visual creative. As an adult, I’ve been privileged enough to learn about what it means to be genderqueer or non-binary; that is how I identify. I’ve slowly become more comfortable with the masculine side of my personality and have even learned to love the body I was given.
Whether you’re a woman or a man—anything in between or none of it—we all have skin, and we all deserve to feel our best.
“I co-founded Crushed Tonic with my partner Sally to help folx feel their best in their skin. You can drink our collagen mixes to promote glowing skin, stronger hair and nails, healthy digestion, and decreased joint pain. When we first started branding, we noticed that other brands used light pink or pastel colors to target women of a certain age. We wanted to break down gender and age stereotypes by creating something sleek and sexy that anyone would like to show off. Most importantly, we wanted our brand to reject the gender binary propelled within the beauty industry by making a product that truly felt gender-neutral.
“Supplements shouldn’t be something you hide in your drawer, and you should want to proudly display them on your kitchen counter or desk at work. Whether you’re a woman, a man—anything in between or none of it—we all have skin and deserve to feel our best.”
Inspired By: Lesbian Flag
Colette McIntyre (she/her) is a writer, comedian, & creative based in Brooklyn, NY
“Pride means creating and defining queerness on your terms. It’s the beautiful act of taking back your power, asserting your agency, and making a life for yourself that is open and unafraid of going beyond society’s limits. It’s about seeing each other as we are—indefinable, radiant, and divine. It’s also about looking impossibly untouchably hot all of the time.
“Growing up queer in a small, conservative town meant being mired in confusion and self-contempt as I tried to figure out what wasn’t ‘right’ with me while never allowing myself to consider the increasingly obvious signs that I was just a baby dyke. I was self-aware all of the time, constantly running checks and scans on my behavior and appearance, trying to ensure nothing could be used against me in the court of law that was just a regular day in middle school. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t that great at assimilating: I was fat, poor, loud, and I had an incurable penchant for wearing men’s carpenter jeans and vintage vests, which—I assure you—wasn’t as cool in the early 2000s as it would be on TikTok now. I was on every bully’s radar immediately.
Painting myself every day became a protection ritual; it felt like putting on armor and getting ready to enter a world that actively wanted me to fade away.
“My queerness was off-limits for so long because my bullies were the first people who confirmed its existence. I was so furious and ashamed that they saw me and knew this intimate secret truth that even I didn’t know. I refused to let them be right about me. I refused to give anyone another weapon to reject or marginalize me. I pushed my queerness deep into storage somewhere and left it to grow dusty.
“For so long, I felt that traditional femininity was unavailable to me because of my queerness and my fatness. Instead, I constructed a language of beauty for myself that was grounded in strength, aggression, and almost antagonism. Makeup became a weapon. Painting myself every day became a protection ritual; it felt like putting on armor and getting ready to enter a world that actively wanted me to fade away. As a fat queer woman, people feel so entitled to your body. They treat it like a public good for their consumption and do not hesitate to let you know what they think about it. So I used beauty products and makeup to reclaim the narrative of my body. I forced people to see what I wanted them to see. It worked for a long time, and I felt powerful, untouchable, and brave.
“Recently I’ve begun to realize that, even in this, I was still ceding some control to the eyes perceiving me. I was reactive, forming myself in response to what I assumed others already thought or saw. And that’s ok—it was a great first line of defense. But as time went on, I felt entirely liberated by my community and other queer people who transform themselves anew each day and live out their sense of beauty.
“I’ve begun to explore my relationship with beauty, allowing myself to be soft and gravitate towards all the pretty things I always thought would look comical or grotesque on me. As I understand my queerness as constantly shifting and evolving, I’ve grown more comfortable with an aesthetic that is also doing the same. All rules are dumb, even the ones that I write for myself. So all that’s to say, I now own a lot of pastel ColourPop in addition to a shit ton of black lipstick—you can never take the goth out of the girl.”
Inspired By: Non-Binary Flag
Dev Doee (they/them) is the CCO of We Are Fluide
“Pride is an opportunity for me to look at all the work my Black and Brown queer and trans ancestors have done. I’m so proud of the Marsha P. Johnsons, Stormé DeLarveries, and Sylvia Riveras of the world who paved the way and made life much better for many of us. Pride is a chance to reflect on your community’s work and then pay it forward. If you have the privilege and safe space, I think it’s important to live openly queer even though it should be nobody’s business. It shows that you, too, can be proud of who you are.
“Beauty has been a great source of self-expression and exploration. It allowed me to dive into femininity that I shut out for so much of my life. I love having the ability to play with my expression and features. We Are Fluide is about making the most marginalized people feel seen, heard, and beautiful. From hiring a multitude of queer identities to uplifting models that aren’t typically in beauty marketing, I am doing the work to empower others every day. I strive to give others the freedom that I discovered through beauty.”
Eric Ellison (he/him/they/them) is a model, wardrobe stylist, and fashion producer based in Los Angeles, CA.
“Growing up, I was made fun of because I wasn’t your typical boy. I didn’t like video games; the only sport I enjoyed was track and field. Instead, I played with Barbie dolls and had mannequins on which I taught myself to do hair. At the time, I was unaware of what queer or gay meant. I thought I was like everyone else until I began to adhere to my peers’ constant efforts to make me feel different.
“While I don’t wear makeup, taking care of my skin, hair, and nails is an important part of my livelihood and makes me feel better because when I look good, I feel good. Beauty is creative and allows for so much depth and exploration, which I believe is similar to the queer mind.
“Pride is a representation of the community’s will to thrive. The first Pride was a protest for gay rights, which ultimately falls under civil rights. Knowing that our community has been one of the critical components of fighting for change within society gives me pride, especially as an African American gay man. Being able to see substantial change occur in my life is inspiring.
“My queer identity has helped me to approach things from a non-binary standpoint. I don’t style pieces for men with the mindset that anything is limited to men’s fashion. Clothes don’t have genders; this is something society just constructed to make the possibilities of clothing more digestible. A good fit is just that—regardless of who is wearing it. I like to have fun with clothes as fashion is a form of art, which is subjective. I encourage others to own their space and allow room to evolve. I am still learning about myself, and I don’t see that stopping soon.”
Inspired by: Pansexual Flag
Dominique Wynne (she/her) is an Associate Creative Director at Spotify
“Being pansexual is tough to navigate in the LGBTQIA+ community. Many people who identify as bisexual or pansexual are afraid to come out because they feel invalidated by their dating resume. Some might think: How many people have you had sexual experiences with who identify as X? Or If I’m truly queer, how could I possibly indulge in heteronormative relationships? Queer culture can be deeply rooted in those experiences, but knowing your identity has nothing to do with that.
“Holding less onto that resume and more onto my heart has made me confident in identifying as pansexual. I’m still working through the occasional doubt, and I’m already so worried about the perception of being pansexual in the queer community. Sometimes it feels like a club I don’t have access to.
“Every day, when I get ready to take on the world, I think about how I want to present myself. I identify as a femme person, but I’m always trying hard not to look too feminine. I love the color pink, but that’s a color you’ll never find in my closet. I don’t always wear lipstick. I’m starting to hate wearing dresses, and I graduated to jumpsuits because I felt like they were a suitable medium between looking femme and not. As I navigate my style, it’s hard because I’m relearning my rules as I create them.
Change in culture is usually slow and hard-fought, but if we can all continue to embrace queer people, we can show the world that it’s possible.
“As I grow into my identity as a pansexual person, I ride this line of liking everything and everyone but trying not to attach to one side. I’m most comfortable finding the right balance I’ve defined for myself. Do I feel more accepted by the queer community when I’m not dating men? Absolutely. Would I feel more comfortable in a dress or wearing pink if I had a shaved head? Probably, yes. Sometimes those outward perceptions directly correlate with how other pansexual people and I feel about their identity, sexuality, and expression. I have always sat somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.”
Inspired by: Progress Flag
Kim Chi (she/her) is a drag queen and the founder of KimChi Chic Beauty
“The first time I dressed in drag was on Halloween day, making me a Halloween queen. I was 25-years-old and did my first beat with drugstore makeup. I ended up getting booked for a show that same night. Call it destiny or coincidence, but that night I found my passion. Everyone has a different reason for pursuing drag; my motivation is to represent my culture and introduce diversity to this audience. I realized drag was the medium where I could combine my love and knowledge of art, painting, fashion, photography, and makeup.
“I believe your face is a canvas to create art. Whether subtle or out of this world, makeup can improve how you feel about yourself. With the right mug, I feel invincible. Makeup has helped me on a journey of self-discovery, which has led me to build KimChi Chic Beauty. I’ve always dreamed of introducing the world to fun products that won’t break the bank, and whether your aesthetic is neutral or rainbow, I’ve got something for you.
“My hard work would go in vain if I did not add an element of gratitude and acknowledgment to my passion for advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community. I am a huge supporter of The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth. If I could say anything to queer youth, it would be that you have your whole life to figure out your identity. Don’t worry about labeling yourself; instead, focus on having fun and experiencing a fulfilling life.”
Patrick Starrr (he/him) is the founder of ONE/SIZE
“I’m a gay, plus-size, makeup-wearing Filipino man. While I wouldn’t change a damn thing, getting here wasn’t always easy. Growing up gay, I struggled to make sense of my identity. It wasn’t until I discovered makeup that I could express myself, but I hid it at first. I would steal products in my mom’s makeup drawer and play with looks whenever possible. I started wearing makeup because I wanted to know how products worked and felt. My parents were confused and didn’t understand, but I’d tell them, hey, I’m wearing it because it’s a job and I can make money from this. Luckily, they’re my biggest supporters today.
Beauty is bigger than your appearance. It’s a movement in acceptance, kindness, and humanity.
“Makeup comes off, and it’s a choice that’s no different from choosing what we eat or wear. I believe that men in makeup who wear a full face are not requiring other men to step out in the same way. Instead, it shows it’s ok for men to wear a little (or a lot) of makeup. Men in makeup are starting to be accepted and respected, thanks to the power of social media.
“Before finding my voice, I felt unseen and unheard, which compelled me to create ONE/SIZE, a beauty brand that stands up for everyone. ONE/SIZE encourages you to be confident in your skin and live your best life. Sometimes it can suck shopping plus size clothing, but makeup is ONE/SIZE fits all.
“I often preach about self-love, self-care, and positivity, and I think many people don’t have that in their lives. It’s something you can’t purchase, but something many people want. So if I can get on my phone or computer and tell someone they’re worthy of those things, I’ve done my job. Yes, I am good at makeup, and I can look at someone and say they’d look great in a lash and brows, but to see beyond the surface in people is essential. Beauty is bigger than your appearance. It’s a movement in acceptance, kindness, and humanity.”