Photo courtesy of Spencer Claus
Spencer Claus is widely known for his jaw-dropping makeup transformations. But he believes that some of the most beautiful transformations should come from within, by teaching queer kids that it’s more than okay to be different—it’s beautiful.
Has being a young public figure helped you in your life in dealing with your own journey and finding your voice? In what ways has your experience helped others?
I never thought about my journey as something that I had to “deal” with. My self-discovery has been a relatively easy process because there was never any “thing” or any type of person that I refused to be, you know? I’ve been extremely privileged in that I grew up with fantastically supportive parents, so I was never taught that there was any wrong way to live a healthy life. I hope that my experience has shown others that there are times when being queer and being “other” is difficult, even with support and especially without, and that it’s okay to be open and talk about those times. But it’s also okay to address some of those times with humor and with levity—if we take everything too seriously, we will all go absolutely insane. But there has to be a balance. In its most basic sense, as a boy who wears makeup and as a male makeup artist, I hope that I can show other boys or other people who are masc-identifying that makeup can be whatever you want it to be because its art and art has never been and will never be gendered. The bottom line is that I want people to see that things are hard but things will be okay. I say that from a place of privilege, but there will always be places of support and others who know what you’re experiencing.
Is there anything you’d want to change about the way media and internet fame is structured for queer youth? Why or why not?
So much of internet fame that’s structured for queer youth is based on attractiveness. If you look closely, you’ll see that every famous queer youth is conventionally attractive and that few are known for their intelligence or wit or what have you. That is not to say that conventionally attractive people cannot also be smart or funny, but that the queer prioritizes physical attractiveness over intelligence. For trans men and women, it seems like things are about passing for cisgender. For gay men, it’s about being slim and muscular, having a six-pack, and having a decent jawline. And lesbians basically have to look like Ruby Rose. For all of these groups of people, it’s also about being white. I can only speak from experience for gay men, but I’ve observed the expectations enforced upon other types of queer folk, especially queer POC. We need to teach queer kids, just like we do to non-queer kids, that it’s okay to look different and that you’re still beautiful even if you don’t fall under the umbrella of conventional attractiveness. People, especially queer people with large platforms, need to give larger voices to queer kids who aren’t “hot” but who are smart, funny, and who are going to bring more than simply aesthetic pleasure to the queer community.
Given the rise of social media over the course of the past few years, how has using platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube helped or hindered your own personal journey?
Social media has been a really big part of my life for the last few years, and it has done nothing but bring me phenomenal opportunities in not only my field of work but also opportunities to connect with more queer people online and in person, who want to share their queer experiences. At makeup conventions, I’ve met boys in makeup who tell me that it was seeing my tweets and seeing me on Instagram that inspired them to wear makeup—those moments are kind of mind-blowing to me. I never thought that I would have that kind of impact on my peers. Platforms like Twitter and Snapchat that facilitate conversations with followers and audiences are important in sharing these experiences and have been important for me in gaining a well-rounded view of the queer experience.
Do you believe that these platforms can provide safe spaces for queer youth? Why or why not?
Social media platforms can absolutely provide safe spaces for queer youth. When we see queer people with visibility, we see queer youth with more role models and with more references to discover more about who they are. The rise of queer people in social media has been fantastically helpful in giving queer youth a safe space to be themselves. However, it can also make things hard if all they see is the same type of queer person and then think that they don’t fit into that mold. The more diversity we can put into queer social media, the safer it’s gonna be for queer youth.
How has makeup changed the way you express yourself and potentially helped others find ways to express themselves?
Makeup is one of my favorite art forms because it allows for a deep physical transformation which I just personally find fascinating—how you can become one thing and then go back to your regular self in a matter of hours. In terms of gender and queerness, even though makeup isn’t inherently gendered, it’s become a great vehicle for masc-identifying people to express femininity. I hope that it has shown others that makeup isn’t just cosmetics, it’s art and that art has no bounds.