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Kerry Yamaucci's Makeup Tips Will Help You Live Your Femme Fantasy

Kerry Yamaucci's Makeup Tips Will Help You Live Your Femme Fantasy

Kerry Yamaucci's Makeup Tips Will Help You Live Your Femme Fantasy

Kerry Yamaucci—trans woman, drag performer, and MAC Cosmetics makeup artist—sat down to talk with us about her transition, her life in makeup artistry, and tips about how to queer up our own looks.


Photo: @yamaucci (Instagram)

I first met Kerry Yamaucci at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. My closest friend, photographer Manu Keams, was in Kerry's French class, and they asked me to help film a class project. If memory serves, there were pink and turquoise wigs, 6-inch heels and twerking involved. Lots of twerking.

While in Flagstaff and before her transition, Kerry started doing drag under the stage name Yuko with a group of queens who regularly held shows at The Orpheum. They called themselves the Pretty Pretty Princesses, and I fell in with them at 17 years old after being invited to one of their parties during Flagstaff's Pride in the Pines. 


#TheFishyFour #Yuko #TeamYuko #drag #dragqueen #dragempress #Flagstaff

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Kerry currently lives in Portland and works as a MAC Cosmetics artist during the day. At night, she performs at Portland's nightclubs, serving fresh fish to the hungry customers of the city's drag scene. Her performance, presence and artistry have grown tremendously over the years, and I'm absolutely stunned every time I see a new look of hers go up on Instagram.


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It was in Stumptown that she decided to begin her transition, and she completed a year of her hormone replacement therapy almost five months ago. She's one of the bravest women I know, and it's a privilege to be able to shower her with love over Snapchat whenever I get on the app.


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I had the chance to catch up with her recently and asked her about tips she had on makeup, what she'd learned as a drag queen, trans woman, and makeup artist living in one of the most liberal cities in the U.S., and what makeup has to do with today's political climate.

PRIDE: When did you first start to bend the binary?

Yamaucci: I think it was when I was 19. My main objective with makeup and costume was almost emulating Marilyn Manson, like on my terms, but sometimes a little bit more femme or sometimes a little bit more spooky. But it was always seeking the shock factor. Taking it to the ten was the main objective.

PRIDE: How did makeup affect your sense of self during that period?

Yamaucci: Pre-transition, it really made me more aware that I was really almost mercilessly femme, and instead of trying to reject it, coming to terms with it and flirting with it. And that was really empowering. It was a struggle sometimes because I was in Arizona, so there were weird looks every once in a while, but it was still a very affirming thing—going out to parties and people living for the look, just because it was something different, something weird. It made me very aware and very accepting of myself.

PRIDE: Did anyone ever confront you because of that?

Yamaucci: There were a couple of times that people would give me weird looks, like shopping or walking around campus. I think the only time anyone ever really did anything, I was at a party. It was a friend’s going-away party, and I had a little bit more clownish makeup going on, but it was like out and bougie for Flagstaff. I was outside smoking a cigarette with my friend when someone came up and punched me in the face.

That was the first time it was like a make it or break it moment for me. I was scared, so I was like, “Should I stop doing it?” But at the same time, like, fuck people like that. I took the keep-it-going, do-it-harder route, and I think that’s what amplified it to performing as a drag queen.

PRIDE: I remember that, and I remember being super pissed on your behalf. What happened? Did the guy end up getting found out? Did you press charges?

Yamaucci: I think he was found, but he ended up moving to Texas after. So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t really have any drive to pursue him legally or go to the police or anything. I don’t know why, I just didn’t feel like going through that process. I think it was also not being completely out to my family as gay even at that point yet, so I didn’t want to make a whole scene. I did want my story to be known to people, I just didn’t want to bring it into the spotlight that way.

PRIDE: Tell me a little about the feeling of being onstage.

Yamaucci: The feeling of being onstage in drag is crazy. It’s empowering, for one. Looking to an auditorium full of people screaming for you for the first time—like screaming for you, so excited to see what you’re going to do—and then impressing them with like femme, or a look or humor. It feels like when you’re onstage you can do no wrong. It’s a very, very powerful position to be in.

PRIDE: Give me an example of a time you wielded that power.

Yamaucci: One time, I was so sick...I was becoming more known in the Flagstaff drag community. Of course, in drag you get really sweaty, and I remember when I started the show I smelled terrible. I remember looking at someone in front of me and being like, “Oh my god, I smell so bad. Do you want to smell me?” And I literally like forced my hand in my armpit and put it in this person’s face, and they smelled me! And I kind of ridiculed them for it. Like, “I can’t believe you just smelled me! That’s disgusting right now.” I just turned it into a joke.

Going back again to the “I can do no wrong” idea—it’s like, yes, I was smelly as hell, but the show is still going on; you all paid $10 to come see me. I guess the other thing is, as a woman or someone presenting female, there’s pressure to be clean and cute all the time. But it’s like, no. I smell. This is a real thing about me. Just being unrelenting at times, and how real and how human and how non-femme you can act I guess.


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PRIDE: Has there ever been any tension from audience members directed at you as a trans drag performer?

Yamaucci: No, I mean I’ve never had any competition or tension. If anything, it’s been a more internal struggle with me, where usually if I tell someone I’m a drag queen, they’ll assume I’m male. And usually it’s just men personifying women who are queens. But that’s my one insecurity, so when I tell someone I’m a drag queen, I try to allude to the fact that I’m still a woman. Actually, no one’s ever thrown shade or given me shit for being a trans-woman drag queen.


I like to let my nippies out when it's nippy out #ARTFACE #CRITICALMASCARA : @mel_christy_nw

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PRIDE: That’s amazing. Do you think that has anything to do with being in Portland?

Yamaucci: I think so. I think the Portland drag scene is very nurturing and accepting of all life. It’s like, as long as you turn out a fierce look or a fierce show, then you can show that you have some power or something to give to the drag community.

PRIDE: Tell me a little about the period in your life leading up to your transition.

Yamaucci: It felt like drag wasn’t cutting it for me, where presenting as female was no longer a show. I kind of felt happiest and I felt comfortable whenever people would see me and treat me as a woman. I was really taken back, digesting it and figuring out what to do with it. Like I’ve always known that I could never grow old as a man. That was something I could never permit myself to do.

So my choices essentially boiled down to transitioning and going through that arduous process for myself, or coming to a point in my life where I’m older, as a man, and honestly probably taking my own life and committing suicide. So I know I was doing the best thing I can for me.

PRIDE: What parts of your transition have been the most enriching?

Yamaucci: Looking at old photos of me in drag, where it’s like, yes I have a lot of makeup, lots of costuming and pads on, I could almost forecast what I would look like after transitioning. Seeing that image come more to life. Or people using the correct pronouns without me having to say anything. Complete strangers call me, like, young lady or something like that. Those, I would say, are the most enriching, most fulfilling aspects of my transition thus far.

And of course it doesn’t hurt when people call me pretty, so...


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PRIDE: Are there any trans media figures you’ve found strength in? 

Yamaucci: I watch Carmen Carrera daily, and I get my life from her. I know she’s much further along in her transition than I am, but it’s just like an "aspiring for the future" kind of thing. Plus she’s just gorgeous. As passing and stealth as she can be, she never is quiet about her being trans. And that’s what I love about her the most.

PRIDE: When did you decide to become a professional makeup artist?

Yamaucci: That one came out of not being able to find a job using my marketing and French degree. Any interview that I would get, in retrospect, it’s just like, “God, that would be a terrible job! I don’t want to do that.” So it was, like, “Well I do like makeup pretty hardcore.” So I figured there was an opportunity to make money with it, so I tried it out. I got a freelance position and loved it, so I tried for a resident, permanent artist position and got it. I still love it, and I can see myself sticking with it indefinitely.

PRIDE: How have your coworkers at MAC been during your transition?

Yamaucci: They’ve all been really affirming! There have been a couple of people, freelancers, who come in and don’t know me, and they maybe slip up on pronouns. There’s never usually a question of, like, “Why?” or “Really?” People are almost always super respectful. And when they do slip up, they own up to it, which is what I value the most in my workplace.

There was this one freelancer who...She’s a bit more mature, and I almost was afraid that she kind of looked down on me for being trans. She would always slip up. Once, she was talking to a customer and she was like, “Oh, this is Kerry. He…” And then she’ll say, “Crap! She is going to ring you up.” And her correcting herself was the most validating thing. It made it easier to forgive her, compared to her just being like, “He…” and then just being like, “Oh shoot, I messed it up.” Well, cool, now this customer just sees me as he, and having to live with that. But it’s like, no, this person really does clean up their own mess, which is the best thing they could do.

PRIDE: Do you ever get customers who come in trying to queer up their look? And if they’re kind of nervous, what do you say to them?

Yamaucci: Usually, it’s like greeting them like you would any customer. And usually I’ll try to vibe, like, “Oh, this person does feel uncomfortable.” And I can understand where their discomfort comes from. So I try—as much as I have my own fear of power—to dispel that fear, that discomfort, that feeling that they don’t belong. But, yeah! It’s really just about servicing the hell out of everyone.

PRIDE: Have you ever had any queer clients who've maybe needed some special attention? 

Yamaucci: There was this one lady who came in. She was looking around the store, pretty nervous, confused, and just felt out of place. I approached her and was like, “Hey, is there anything I can help you find?” And she was kind of standoffish, so I let her do her own thing but always was present, like, “Let me know if you need anything.”

She came out to me. She was like, “Hey, so I’m transgender,” and kind of put herself on the line asking for help when she needed it. And I came up to her and was like, “Oh yeah! I’m transgender as well. I’m here to help. I’m here to listen.” I was there to help her with all of her makeup needs as well as her emotional needs. 

PRIDE: How can makeup be political?

Yamaucci: Especially for those people that society thinks shouldn’t wear makeup—like men, for example—putting it on is an act of resistance. You can either feel terror from it or you can feel power from it. Just accepting that it’s a powerful statement to be putting on makeup, whether it’s a little bit of bronzer or a full-on smoky eye, it’s all political, because as a male—or even being read as more masculine—you can bend the binary to your own will. 


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PRIDE: Speaking of politics, if you could say one thing to President-Elect Donald Trump, what would it be?

Yamaucci: Part of me wants to turn it into something campy, like, “If you hate queers so much, why do you want to fuck me so bad?” I really don’t know, though. I like to think that I’d have it in me to make a civil statement, because like a lot of people are fueled by rage with him, which is completely understandable. I don’t know, though...I might have to stick with, “If you hate me so much, why do you want to fuck me so bad?” I honestly can’t think of anything else to say to a yam-in-a-wig.


My toilet ft. all-star asswipe @realdonaldtrump

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PRIDE: For those of us new to makeup, when we see queer faces done up in amazing contour and all the brilliant artistry of drag, and subsequently attempt to dive in at a point a little too deep, a crooked eyebrow or a botched lip can be pretty discouraging. Do you have any advice for those just starting out?

Yamaucci: Don’t try to emulate the cis-hetero makeup aesthetic, because it’s...I think it’s kind of toxic to throw that standard onto yourself if you don’t fit in that cookie-cutter mold. Never try to emulate it perfectly. You can try, definitely, but realize that queering makeup is an act of social resistance.

My best tip is feel your femme fantasy. Even in dancing, my best tip is feel your femme fantasy. Say you put your lip on and it’s a little crooked. Rock it out! You’re still doing it, you’re still rocking it, you’re still wearing it, and anyone who wants to clock you is going to. So pay them no mind.

Click through to see Kerry's Makeup Tips >>

Kerry Yamaucci's Makeup Tips:



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"I like to center a look around either my lips or my eyes. If you’re just starting out in makeup, make your lips a statement. A soft, mauvey pink is great for a soccer mom, but you want a hot pink. You want a neon purple. Something loud—and you don’t have to necessarily be a loud person to wear that look. It just has to make you feel good. No matter what you do, it has to make you feel good, or empowered… It has to make you feel something. The color, the impact, the statement of it all should give you feeling more than something on your lips."



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"Another thing I’ve really been liking more when I’m more bare-faced and kind of want to pop one single feature is cheeks. Using blush is almost the most simple thing to do. I think creme blushes, not powder, are a little easier to work with your skin. It’s easier to blend, buff out or intensify to your liking. Never be afraid to use a little blush—or a lot of blush."



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"The way I approach brows is by how much intensity you want to add to your brow. In social media—I’m sure you’ve seen it — there’s like the coined 'Instagram brow,' where you fill that baby in with a gel product, very thick with it, and then carve it out with concealer. And while it’s fierce and stunning, it can almost be too much, especially if you do too much or if the brows aren’t the statement piece. Again, going back to runway makeup, using a simple comb-through brow gel, which is almost like a mascara for your brows, is a really good option as well. Grooming your brows—plucking, waxing, whatever—to your liking is probably one of the most important things, I think. There are somedays, where I will fill in my brows, but like today I have literally nothing in my brow added, and I love it."



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"Lashes are another place where you can have a big impact. I’ve used a liquid lipstick on a mascara spoolie to make red lashes before. Or, you know, curling your lashes. It’s really about understanding the parameters of your natural lash. So if you have a curly lash, work it out. If you have a straighter lash, and you can curl it, curl it. Understand that maybe a lash you see on Instagram isn’t going to be your lash. It happens. Sometimes you gotta wear a false lash, too. 

Nyx has these awesome, neon-pastel mascaras that I love, and they stay on really well. So that might be something to check out as well."



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"Lids are a little bit tougher, because you have to consider your eye-shape, and how much real estate you have there. Start off with matte eyeshadows. I wish someone told me that when I first started drag, that using matte shadows really helps with transform the shape, shading, depth and dimension on the eyes. And then using shimmer shadows almost conservatively. But if we’re talking more queering up a look, don’t be afraid to be loud on the eyes if you’re going to go subtle on the other features."



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"Nails, I think, are an easier thing to keep up. If you put the paint on, it’ll last you a week. Acrylic nails are super fun. You can buy them for cheap on Amazon, or you can go get them professionally done and secured on a little bit better. Again, it’s one of those things, like with lashes, you can go au naturale or you can get falsies and look amazing, as well. There’s almost unlimited opportunity with nails.

I know when I painted my nails before coming out as gay—I was painting it black to feel my goth fantasy—I felt self-conscious about it. But eventually you learn to work it out, so just keep at it. Don’t be afraid to do what you want with your nails, or your body for that matter. Do whatever you want!"


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"The rules we’re given for makeup is if you’re subtle on the eyes, be loud on the lip. If you’re subtle on the lip, be loud on the eyes—and if you’re not, find a balance between the two. But if you don’t want to find a balance, then fuck the balance, because in makeup there are no rules. There really shouldn’t be. I can give you a little tip, but if you do something and it makes you feel good, then you’ve met your goal."

Follow Kerry Yamaucci on Instagram @yamaucci.

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Ian Martella