F*ck the Standard, Stand Out!

Make-up. As the origin of the word suggests, most people use cosmetics to make up for ‘flaws’. Be it blemishes, wrinkles, or their freckles. But make-up can do much more than making one blend in with societal standards of beauty.

Story by Franziska Kircher

Make-up can make you stand out. At least that is how Matt perceives its purpose. The 33- year-old uses the power of make-up to transform himself into his alter ego: Neon Noire. Matt has been interested in Drag for almost ten years, but never tried it himself until the pandemic started. “I’m a graphic designer by day and I studied art, so make-up was basically a new palette, a new medium to try out”, he says.

How does wearing make-up change anything about who I am?

However, it took him quite some time to pick up this new hobby. As a queer kid, Matt explains, it was not very easy to try this tempting art form, that make-up has always been for him. But as he got older and got more confident within himself, he started to care less what society might think. Still, he was a little nervous to tell his friends, when he first started Drag. He explains: “I was intimidated to tell them, but they were not surprised at all.” However, his friends were not the only ones being very supportive. Even in the Drag industry with a lot of experienced performers he received compliments from the very start, motivating him to stay on track and perfect his skills.

Creating different looks for his alter ego Neon, Matt feels empowered. “If I paint my face blue, it gives me this alien creature look”, he notes. Since he keeps his beard, he does not want to go feminine, but more theatrical. Creating a new look is like creating a new world for him and make-up is part of that wondrous transformation to Neon.

We’re all born naked, the rest is Drag.

Matt chose his stage name Neon Noire consciously. As a designer, he wanted the name to be a colour, he explains. “The colour neon came naturally to me, since it is the brightest one”, he says. Matt describes himself as quite out-going and “the brightest crayon in the box”. As his last name he chose Noire, which means black in French. “I like the contradiction between these two – the brightest and the darkest colour that there is”, he elaborates.

Even though his career in Drag is skyrocketing, Matt had and has to face some serious pushbacks from time to time. Going out as Matt, short hair, thick beard, large glasses, he has never had any problems. However, on the way to a show or a photoshoot in Amsterdam, already wearing make-up, strangers have offended him multiple times. “I’ve been insulted on the streets and taxi drivers have just driven off, refusing to pick me up”, he remembers. He feels like there is still the societal pressure to look a certain way – some are supposed to wear make-up and others are not allowed to. To Matt this does not make sense. “I mean this is so stupid. How does wearing make-up change anything about who I am?”, he wonders.

Matt with the make-up of his alter ego Neon Noire | Picture: Matt
Matt as he pursues his daily life | Picture: Matt

To overcome this societal expectation, Matt holds on to an old saying from the drag business: We’re all born naked, the rest is Drag. That means that beauty is whatever you want it to be, he explains. We’re all the same, yet so different. If he feels very masc (masculine) one day and the next day wants to go full-glam, that’s fine and that’s beautiful, Matt thinks. “Beauty is about feeling yourself and being unique”, he says. “I don’t think there is one standard. Switch it up and stand out.