"Beauty isn't binary." —YouTuber Brendan Jordan on how makeup gives you the freedom to be your most authentic self

Brendan Jordan

I was only 3 years old when I started sneaking into my mom’s makeup drawer. I’d sift through sparkly eyeshadow palettes, bold blushes and glimmering glosses—basically the dream.

If you know me now, this isn’t particularly shocking. Beauty and makeup are pretty big parts of my life today. But back then? It was one of the many parts of myself I kept completely secret.

As someone who was born male, it felt “wrong” to want to try out a cat-eye or apply a red lip. I put the word “wrong” in quotes because, of course, it wasn’t wrong.

But that’s what I felt society was telling me at the time: Boys weren’t “supposed to” wear makeup or try on dresses or play princess games. These messages didn’t stop me from being interested in “girly” things, but they did make me feel ashamed of who I was.

Embracing who I am

I’ll never forget the moment I realized just how important makeup was in my own self-expression. It was New Year’s, seven years ago. I went to a Sephora with a group of my friends, and they were like, “Brendan, put some eyeliner on!” Those five words changed my life.

When the Sephora staffer put the eyeliner on me, it sparked the beginning of my makeup journey: the one I could finally unapologetically and authentically share with the world.

Around the time I started openly wearing makeup, a lot of people (especially people I knew within the queer community) thought I was trans, but that didn’t feel quite right. I didn’t hate my masculinity, I just preferred to have my femininity at the forefront. To me, both of them coexisting is a very beautiful thing—and that realization is how I discovered my nonbinary-ness. It was because of my love for makeup that I was able to understand and embrace my gender identity.

A transformation

With makeup, I’m able to transform my face and release my femininity. A different side of me comes out when I have makeup on—the simple act of creating something out of nothing on my own face is so therapeutic. There are infinite ways to express how I feel (which can change a lot depending on the day).

I can do something simple and just focus on my eyes and leave the rest of my face barely touched or I can do something full-blown, like drag style, where I’m completely made up and transformed.

There’s a common misconception that makeup is for covering up, but I’ve honestly never really used it that way. I use makeup for creation and self-expression, not to hide.

And when I don’t want to wear makeup? I simply don’t. In the words of Lady Gaga, I have never used it to hide, I’ve used it to scream.

A bond over beauty

Since I started wearing makeup seven years ago, brands have begun to celebrate all sorts of beauty and identities. The message is there: Beauty isn’t binary. There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to wear makeup—and there are no “right” or “wrong” kinds of people to wear it. Anyone who feels inspired to experiment with makeup belongs in the beauty community.

I’m happy to be a part of that community and to bond with other people over the power of makeup—including my own family, who supports my journey.

I wish I could go back in time and tell little Brendan, “Don’t worry, because one day your mom is going to be sneaking into your makeup and borrowing it. And it’s all going to be OK.”

THE BEAUTY PRODUCTS I can’t live without...
Ofc, we had to take a peek into Brendan's makeup bag

Huda Beauty #Faux-Filter Luminous Matte Liquid Foundation, $40,
Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $39,

NYX Cosmetics The Brow Glue, $8,
BPerfect Manifest Aspire Palette, $31,
Haus Laboratories Eye-Dentify Gel Kohl Eyeliner, $18,

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our April/May 2022 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.


by As told to Kayleigh Roberts | 4/25/2022