From Emma Watson winning MTV's first gender-neutral award to male beauty bloggers to gender fluid muses, here's how the media and beauty brands are looking beyond sex

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Is the media beginning to make positive strides in challenging stereotypical gender roles? Thanks to a range of increasingly inclusive beauty campaigns, the male beauty blogging boom and Emma Watson winning the first gender-neutral MTV TV & Movie Award for Beauty and the Beast, the answer encouragingly points to yes.

While men wearing makeup isn’t anything new (the likes of David Bowie and Jared Leto all provide ample makeup masterclass inspiration for instance), its prevalence looks set to make the leap from screen to mainstream, with beauty brands becoming increasingly more aware that the shift in gender barriers (with regards to both sexes), is something they need to both cater for and celebrate.

According to Mintel’s latest beauty retailing report , “Consumers are moving away from traditional gender stereotypes, in part driven by the increased visibility of gender diversity. As such, the traditional gender boundaries associated with fashion and beauty trends are becoming progressively blurred.” In terms of its advice for beauty brands, it recommends a more inclusive stance to take into account the increased demand for specialist and informed beauty advice: “With young men being the most likely to agree that they value the advice of beauty bloggers more than store staff (47% of male 16-24s), UK retailers could benefit from diversifying their brand collaborators to capitalise on the rising male beauty trend, the promotion of gender diversity and the influence of social media celebrities.” The world of male beauty blogging is booming, with the internet’s most viewed racking up a growing number of subscribers and beauty deals in the past year. Last October, 17-year-old makeup artist and YouTube star James Charles was announced as CoverGirl’s first male spokesperson in the States and in January, Maybelline also announced its first-ever male ambassador - Manny Gutierrez - to star in the brand’s Big Shot Mascara campaign in the US. “Honestly I couldn't be more honored [or] thrilled!,” Gutierrez said on his Instagram, “Thank you to Maybelline for taking a chance on me!” With over 3.5 million Instagram followers and 2.8 million subscribers on YouTube, his social media star is unquestionably set to go intergalactic.

Are UK brands also adopting a more gender-neutral platform with their beauty launches too? Encouragingly, yes. MAC has long celebrated inclusivity and diversity. Counting a 15-piece collection with Caitlyn Jenner, a collaboration with socialites the Brant Brothers last August and an upcoming VIVA GLAM campaign starring Taraji P. Henson and actor, singer and activist Jussie Smollett (on counter from the 16th of August), the makeup powerhouse continues to be a leader in championing all ages, races and sexes.

For all the young boys out there, feeling the way I did, for them to see me in a makeup campaign could be the light they need to see change

From a  budget beauty  perspective, L’Oreal Paris has made significant strides in this regard too courtesy of its True Match campaign. Conscious to showcase beauty in as inclusive a way as possible, one of the campaign’s stars, makeup artist The Plastic Boy (aka Gary Thompson), hopes his casting will help inspire others who perhaps have felt isolated by beauty brands in the past. “Previously looking at makeup campaigns, I never ever saw a guy, so for them to make me one of the first was such an exciting moment for me,” he told us. “For all the young boys out there, feeling the way I did, for them to see me in a makeup campaign could be the light they need to see change.”

Has Gary seen an increase in demand for male makeup advice first-hand among his audience? “I checked my viewers the other day and my male viewers had gone up by 30%,” he commented, with an interest in more natural makeup tutorials on the rise. “I do find now that men will request me to do natural healthy makeup tutorials or a natural full coverage nighttime look,” he says, (we’d definitely watch those).

Building on its more inclusive messaging, male beauty vlogger The Beauty Boy, (aka Jake-Jamie) has also just been announced as L’Oreal Paris’ new spokesmodel for the brand’s Total Cover Foundation and Total Cover Concealer Palette. Featuring alongside The X Factor’s Louisa Johnson and digital influencers Kaushal Beauty , Patricia Bright , Rady and Jamie Genevieve, he’ll appear in campaign imagery across Superdrug and Boots stores nationwide - a partnership that correlates perfectly with his work in the past to make makeup genderless. “I dedicated every spare second I had to raising awareness in the hope that one day future generations could grow up freely in a world whereby makeup could be enjoyed by all sexes without question or judgement.” He recollects: “I clearly remember standing in the makeup aisle at Boots, being surrounded by advertisements featuring only women and initially this made me feel wrong and ashamed of myself for even entertaining the idea of using cosmetics to boost my own self-esteem. Very quickly I realised that I wasn't alone and that I wanted and needed to make a change to the industry.”

In terms of the future, L’Oreal Paris is looking to increase its diversity further. According to Adrien Koskas, L’Oreal Paris General Manager, “We are very aware that the cosmetics market is growing and that more guys are using makeup and starting makeup blogs. The True Match campaign showed we are listening to everybody and is a declaration of equality and diversity.”

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The models making waves...

With the increasing focus on diversity in the world of makeup, the same can also be said for hair care too. One recent press release that caught our eye in this regard came from Redken which announced “gender fluid model, Sara Cummings, as a new brand muse.” Speaking about the collaboration, Redken commented: “We have observed an increased demand for beauty products that transcend gender. Hairstylists and clients alike are looking for products that give them the power to express themselves through their hair and their style.” They added “At Redken, we don’t believe in labels or limits. One of the things we love about Sara is that her look defies definition. She can wear any style from feminine to masculine, casual to glamorous, and she still looks uniquely herself.”

For Sara, more genderless focussed beauty campaigns serves as a positive move towards progress. “It is a step in the right direction I think to cast androgynous/non-binary models as long as it's respectful and not exploitative,” she tells us. “The idea of a severe gender divide is a limitation to the progression of our species in my opinion. I'm happy to represent this community of people that subscribe to that philosophy with a brand that embraces our perspective.”

It’s an ethos that has also been echoed on the catwalk too, with renowned hair stylist and Wella Professionals Global Creative Director of Care & Styling, Eugene Souleiman citing “unisex singularity” as his inspiration at Jeremy Scott AW17. “There were so many different textures of hair to play with, so I channelled Jim Morrison’s hydrated tight disco curls, and then did Elvis-meets-Liberace hair, and then whipped up hippy vibes-meets-Vegas glamour,” he commented. “Sometimes the hair was voluminous, sometimes in a ponytail, or textured in a pink crop or a brushed-out afro. It was about having fun and being playful.”

He added, “A look that was a personal favourite of mine was one that’s a take on Angie Bowie from the seventies and eighties with her gorgeous off-kilter, voluminous hair. Very coiffed up top, but then quite textured through the back, and finished with a cheeky braided rat-tail.”

“The finished look had one foot in masculinity and one foot in femininity recalling young Americans and Bowie. Not androgynous, not feminine, not masculine – but unisex.”

What more can be done in terms of representation?

The industry is definitely heading in the right direction when it comes to ensuring all doors of the beauty industry are open to everyone and all in all, it seems to be a really encouraging time. Regardless of race, age and sex, we can all inspire one another.

There are still areas for improvement though, especially when it comes to transgender beauty. “The industry needs more men wearing makeup and transgender people also,” says The Plastic Boy aka Gary Thompson. “And, I think it still needs a diverse range of people from every background - it’s 2017, let’s make it happen!” Hear, hear. And with French Vogue featuring transgender model, Valentina Sampaio on its April cover, (a first for the magazine) and TV show Billions casting Asia Kate Dillon as its first non-binary-gender character (believed to be a first for mainstream television), here’s hoping further branches of the media follow suit.

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