We owe drag queens a great deal for how we use makeup today—our sharp contours, snatched eyebrows, and overdrawn pouts are all thanks to the tricks professional makeup artists picked up along the way while working backstage for their shows and events. Yes, we may have toned down these techniques a fair amount compared to how the OG’s did it, but what we have taken has already altered our perception of makeup forever.
And with the latest seasons of Ru Paul’s Drag Race in full swing, we thought it would be a golden opportunity to look back on some of the resplendent queens of the past, who have given us some of the most iconic, glamorous, (and remarkably wearable) drag makeup looks that we’ve all tried to emulate at least once at home. So here’s to the queens who are still serving us looks that astonish, astound, and inspire—giving us the confidence to embrace our very own charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, wielded through the power of makeup.
Jaida Essence Hall
Dubbed as the “essence of beauty,” Jaida Essence Hall certainly lived up to her name as we swooned over her infinite array of flawless outfits and mesmerizing makeup looks every time she graced the stage. As a former pageant queen, Miss Jaida knew her way around a makeup brush and consistently served us effortlessly blown-out jewel toned smokey eyes that were perfectly paired with glossy, outlined lips in varying shades of rosewood, caramel, and peach. Coupled with an acute eye for detail and an extensive repertoire of creative talents, there’s no wonder at all that Jaida won the season twelve crown.
After slaying the game and coming through to take the crown, season seven was won over by the poised and timeless beauty, Violet Chachki. Brimming with confidence, sensuality, and sophistication, Violet was the epitome of burlesque glamour whose vintage aesthetic and itty-bitty waist rendered us speechless every time she strutted down that runway. Although perhaps a little catty at times, her signature feline flicks, crisp red vinyl lips, and sculpted cheekbones had us soon forgetting all about the catfights as we were transported into her unforgettable world of opulence, champagne, and ostrich feathers.
The season eleven sweetheart who may have caused us to shed a tear or two, but who more than made it up for it with her sickening looks fit for a princess—Plastique Tiara was the self-proclaimed “Asian Barbie” who dressed to impress in lace, diamonds, and of course, tiaras. Her signature look went against the grain of the overly transformative and theatrical drag, but instead bordered on ‘biological woman’ with seamlessly sculpted skin, diffused smokey eyes of taupe and champagne gold, and softly snatched hyper-realistic eyebrows. Now we can find her kicking up a storm (quite literally) on TikTok, showing us exactly how it’s done.
Although her time in the Ru Paul limelight may have been fleeting, our favourite broc-ally left her mark when it came to her edgy Brooklyn street style and dreamy makeup artistry. Playing with colour a little differently, Dahlia kept her makeup fresh and modern to match her outfits—think a wash of pastel blue across the lids to wear with her faded denim dress and jacket. This hazy-daze approach to her looks made her stand out amongst the other dolled up queens and transformed drag makeup into something wearable beyond the main stage—and her flawlessly blended contour and minimal eye makeup still continues to inspire us to this very day.
Known for her big hair and her even bigger stage presence, Alyssa Edwards stole the show during her time on the fifth season of Drag Race, earning her the well-deserved title of fan favourite. While dancing may have been Alyssa’s true claim to fame, we couldn’t help but be completely in awe of her divine makeup artistry that so resembled the late glamour icon, Marilyn Monroe. Rarely caught without a bold swipe of matte lipstick and a full, fluttery lash, it was only a matter of time before Alyssa paired up with Anastasia Beverly Hills circa 2019 to create her very own eyeshadow palette that saw us gagging for more.
Words by Vinona Baines