Scroll To Top
Art

mattxiv Uses Instagram to Serve Looks—And Get Political

mattxiv Uses Instagram to Serve Looks—And Get Political

mattxiv Uses Instagram to Serve Looks—And Get Political

Artist and activist Matt Bernstein's makeup looks are stunning, but they also serve important, timely messages.

cornbreadsays

On an initial scroll through @mattxiv's Instagram page, your first thought might be something along the lines of, "Wow, his makeup is stunning."

But there's a lot more than meets the eye. Matt Bernstein, the man behind the page, is a self-proclaimed "proud fairy" living in New York City whose bold makeup and even bolder political statements have made him a powerful force online. 

And he's not just a look queen. Matt finds visual, oftentimes funny, and always educational ways to engage with news affecting the LGBTQ+ community. 

Take one of Matt's recent posts, for example, that references Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's recent transphobia. His face is beat with red, white, and blue makeup, with writing that reads, "Feminism without trans people is not feminism," emphasized by an eye-roll. And if you swipe to the left of the Instagram carousel, the next slide reads "What is a TERF and why should I care?" 

Depending on the day and his mood, you can swipe past Matt's initial statement photo to see hilarious memes, articles, educational resources, and sometimes all three in one post. He has garnered over 313,000 followers on Instagram with the format, a massive following of LGBTQ+ folks and allies who engage with his posts along with, of course, the critics who come along with any kind of visible platform.

PRIDE chats with Bernstein about the beginnings of his page, changing hearts and minds, and wielding his white male privilege for positive change in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

PRIDE: What was your upbringing like? 

Matt Bernstein: I grew up in a relatively conservative suburb in New Jersey. It’s the kind of place where you never see any queer adults because every queer person who grew up there left and never came back. I felt very alone for a long time. I spent years living in the depths of Tumblr and Kik talking to other closeted fourteen-year-olds because I was too scared to come out in real life. That was around seven years ago, when the early wave of LGBTQ+ YouTube stars were emerging. Tyler Oakley, Davey Wavey, Matthew Lush. I mean, it was a very different time on the internet, but I used to secretly watch those people like my sanity depended on it because I think in some ways, it did. 

How did you get involved in online activism?

For me, it started with in-person activism. I moved to New York City around three years ago and didn’t really know anyone or have any friends, so I started attending weekly LGBTQ+ activism meetings headed by my friend, Adam. We met at a synagogue in midtown every Wednesday night. I met people there who would become important in my personal life. Much of my early work in "activism"—before the makeup or art—came from documenting those experiences, protesting, and demonstrating around the city. The way I confront and engage with political ideas now has obviously changed significantly, but it still comes from a similar place. I want people to learn about and get concerned with the sociopolitical issues that aren’t talked about in schools.

Why is it important to you to be outspoken and political?

I think people on social media always say, "I have a platform and I want to use it to make a difference." That’s also true for me, but my desire to be outspoken cuts deeper. I know that, even in progressive spaces, I still benefit from being a white male. I’ve found that I can censor myself less than some of my less-privileged colleagues, so I want to use that privilege responsibly. Put simply, our world has a lot of shit in it, and the majority of people—especially in conservative spaces like where I grew up—want to gloss over it for the sake of avoiding taboos. I want to go against that. As long as people’s lives are on the line, we need to speak up about the realities of systemic bigotry and how it plagues us.

If you saw a page like yours when you were growing up, what would it have meant to you? 

I’m hoping that the baby gays who find me on social media feel a little less alone and a little more uplifted. Feeling unsafe in your own body and brain is something no kid should have to experience.

You're inspiring so many LGBTQ+ people around the world and I'm sure you've had some moving interactions. Can you share a story involving a follower that inspired you? 

Meeting people from social media in real life always makes my day—I can’t wait for that to happen more once we can, you know, start going outside and traveling again. Some people have gotten tattoos of my looks and quotes which is fucking crazy to me. And of course, there are the messages from people who said that I helped them find the strength to come out. It’s very surreal.

What can we all do to uplift the more marginalized members of our community? 

Like I mentioned, we need to be using our privilege, using our platforms, getting uncomfortable. The fight for LGBTQ+ freedom did not end with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling. We need to be addressing homelessness, poverty, and mental health rates within our community. Transgender women of color are being murdered in this country at a despicable pace. We need to be talking about the intersections of sexuality and gender and race and class, and the unique challenges faced by people who are marginalized by those intersections. We need to be investing in Black queer businesses. The list goes on! We just can’t get complicit.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Related Stories

Most Recent

Recommended Stories for You

author avatar

Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!