The following feature appears in the April 2016 issue of NYLON.
From international Myspace fame to building his own beauty empire with a cult-worthy cosmetics line and a burgeoning YouTube channel, Jeffree Star spills his secrets to Internet immortality.
When did you start wearing makeup?
When I was 12 years old. My mom had this big makeup tower in her bathroom that I would play with. I’ll never forget the first thing I picked out. It was this red shadow that I put on my eyes and thought looked really cool. I kept that secret until 10th grade, and then I started wearing makeup to school. I used to be really shy, and I think something happened in my brain where I was like, “All right, I don’t care anymore. I’m just going to be myself.” So I went to school wearing eyeliner and eye shadow and they called my mom, telling her it was a distraction. My mom fought the school and I got to wear makeup every day.
Who or what inspired your beauty looks back then?
I loved fashion magazines. I would see ads for Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton with models in avant-garde makeup looks, so I started recreating them—which of course back then was an awful recreation, but I tried. There weren’t any crazy makeup icons for me though. I didn’t even know about guys wearing makeup, like David Bowie and Boy George. When I was really young I wasn’t into that—I was into Britney Spears.
Let’s talk about Myspace, the Vans Warped Tour, and your music career.
“We Want Cunt” was the first song I ever recorded. I leave that stuff on iTunes because there are so many new fans and we’re in a whole different “Instagram generation” now. It’s funny because it feels like yesterday I was doing all that, but it was almost 10 years ago. In 2007 I put out an EP of songs I made—I was rapping and talking really filthy and all of a sudden it had 100 million plays on Myspace. I never dreamt of being a pop star or being on stage—makeup was always my true passion. Then I was doing the Vans Warped Tour and it just spiraled into something I never imagined. The makeup took a backseat for like, seven years, but now I’m getting back to my real true love.
That’s so interesting because I feel like you’ve always existed online in a really strong way.
It’s crazy. I call myself—I’m not old or anything—but I call myself the “Internet dinosaur” [laughs], because I’ve always adapted and morphed myself with the times. I can’t believe I just turned 30. I feel like I was just 19, singing “We Want Cunt” on Myspace.
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Why did you start doing makeup tutorials on YouTube?
I held out for a really long time—I could have been doing this shit way back in the day, you know? But I never wanted to give away my techniques or my secrets, and I wanted to keep myself a mystery. But I’m not insecure about that anymore—I’m doing videos and having fun with it. And no hate to anyone else, but all these big YouTubers do the same shit: glowy, bronzy, boring makeup, and I’m like, “Can we have something else, please?” So I’m stepping in. I only started posting videos in December of last year and my channel has blown up.
Why did you start your own makeup line?
It all stems from being unhappy. My music career had a lot of ups and downs, and it was really hard for anyone to take me seriously because I started out very electro and festive with my lyrics, so when I tried to be more serious people weren’t accepting. Long story short, my second album never came out. Then I said, “OK, either I continue this journey and go broke, or I take my life savings and start a makeup line.” So I risked it all. I made three liquid lip colors that I launched in November 2014 on Black Friday. I knew I wanted to do lips, because it’s my favorite thing, and at that time I was obsessed with liquid lipstick. But formulas from other brands sucked—they were too dry, too patchy, they crumbled up and looked horrible after an hour—so it took me six months in makeup labs to perfect my formula. I think that’s what’s gotten me so far so quickly, because the formula speaks for itself. We’ve never advertised anywhere, never had a commercial—it’s all word of mouth.
What inspired you to make the other unconventional colors you offer?
I asked myself, “What is lacking in this industry?” A lot of brands do the same boring-ass names, like dusty brown, or whatever. I wanted to be creative, and it comes from writing poetry and songs for a living, so it’s easy for me to come up with quirky, funny names that also match my personality. I created a white lipstick—no one had ever made a liquid-to-matte white color before—and I didn’t make it for everyone to walk around with whiteout lips, I made it for artists to mix with other shades. I’m trying to be a little more unconventional and do stuff that other people aren’t doing. But what I’ve noticed is that people are really all about nudes and dark reds, so I’m definitely going to fill that void, expand, and put out more colors this year to make everyone happy—but I’m also going to serve some weird shit, too. I’m going to be the first brand to ever make a neon yellow liquid lipstick, which will come out this summer. No one knows that, by the way, so there’s a little exclusive.
I love that!
Another funny tidbit is that recently Courtney Love, whom I named my lipstick Celebrity Skin after, DM’d me on Instagram asking for lipsticks and I about fucking died. At first, I was like, “Who’s trying to fuck with me now, is this some 15-year-old trying to play with my heart?” But I clicked it and it was a verified account and the message said, “Hey you, love what you’re doing. Would love to try your lipsticks.” And I was fucking screaming for an hour. We sent her the lipsticks immediately, and I was like, “Yasssss.”
You’re also expanding from liquid lipsticks, right?
Yeah! We have highlighters, and my first-ever eye shadow palette coming out, which I named after my first album, Beauty Killer. And then I have stick lipsticks coming, too.
Do you have plans for other stuff, too, like skincare? You have the best skin.
Yes! Skin care is so important and I’m the craziest person about it. I want to make my own moisturizer and foundation—I want to have a full line. When it comes to my skin, it’s a lot more complicated than I think people realize. Of course, there’s genetics, but there are five tips I live by: One, I’m never in the sun. And then we’re going to shock people with No. 2—I’ve never tried alcohol before. Three, I love beauty sleep, I think it's really important. Four, I’ve been using expensive skin-care products since I was 15. And last, five, when I go outside or whenever I’ve been in the car ever since I got my permit, I always wear sunglasses. Everyone squints when they drive, but I’ve never squinted since I always have huge sunglasses on. The bitch is 30 years old and there are no crow’s-feet or fine lines around these eyes. It’s a hardcore regimen, but image and beauty is my entire career—it’s how I make my money, so I take good care of my face.
What was your first tattoo?
My first tattoo ever was the C-word on my ankles—go big or go home [laughs]. That was my nickname back in the day. Before Myspace there was a website called Face the Jury, which was an image site where you judged people. You put up a picture and people would rate you from one to 10—so shallow. I hopped on there running my mouth to everybody and my name was Cunt. I called myself that because people were so judgmental about a guy in makeup, so I was like, “I’m calling myself the most offensive word ever." I got it on both ankles so no matter where I was walking you could see it. My mom about shit herself.