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Image / Beauty

‘Beauty knows no gender’: To all the men who helped me love beauty

by Holly O'Neill
20th Mar 2019

Today on, TV presenter, columnist, and all-round style expert Darren Kennedy is here to take the editor’s reigns. All day on our website and social media, you can catch Darren giving his perspective on beauty, fashion, lifestyle and more, as he takes on the new role of guest editor. Today. we’re talking about the men who made IMAGE Magazine Junior Beauty Editor Holly O’Neill love beauty. 

Earlier this year, make-up vlogger James Charles brought Birmingham to a standstill when 8,000 fans showed up to see him open a new Morphe store in a Birmingham shopping centre. Whilst reporting on the story, ITV News Central presenter Sameena Ali-Khan was complimented on her make-up by her co-presenter. She responded, “that’s because I take advice from a woman, not a man.”

Let’s unpack that.

Outside of a sophisticated multibillion-dollar industry of grooming from men, (with great new products available from Voya, Clinique, David Beckham’s House 99 and the new and gorgeous range Kennedy & Co from our guest editor, Darren Kennedy), men are now truly embracing the transformative power of make-up. Chanel have a new make-up range for men, for goodness sake, catering not to the men skilled enough already to cut a crease and do eyeliner without a mirror, but the men who are tiptoeing into the world of beauty with an appreciation for an imperceptible boost to their complexion.

Like it or not, men have shaped and grown this industry and are gloriously wearing make-up more and more, and have been for a long time. It makes me truly sad to think that some men will never experience breeze on their legs while they wear a skirt on a sunny day or the transformative power of red lipstick.

To sum it all up and quote Chanel, “beauty knows no gender.” Instead of spending the next few hundred words taking down Sameena Ali-Khan’s sexist, reductive and archaic comment, I’d like to write a love letter to the men who advised me, taught me, and made me love beauty.


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MAC’s Terry Barber, who imparted me with the knowledge that there is beauty in imperfection and to add something a little wrong, always, to my make-up; a ruffled brow, a messy liner, a blotted lip. Because of him, I picture an eyeshadow shade in every colour I see, be it shoelaces, tea or uncooked meat.

While we’re on Terry, lest we forget Frank Toscan and Frank Angelo, founders of MAC. You will always find milk, bread, Dairy Milk and MAC Studio Fix Fluid in my house, and I keep a MAC Stripdown lipliner in every one of my handbags. It’s worth noting that 7% of MAC’s clientele and 34% of their PRO Artist members are men.

Frédéric Malle and Luca Turin, who taught me that the best perfumes are rarely to be found in a department store and that life is too short for a signature scent; I am a different woman depending on the fragrance I have chosen that day.

Michael Doyle, a Peter Mark legend known well to those in the industry, who I watched, at eleven years old, with an open mouth as he twirled and tucked my auntie’s hair into an ethereal masterpiece for her wedding day.

The Dublin-born hairstylists Andrew Fitzsimons and Roy Leigh and Limerick-born Gareth Bromell; when I see their talents celebrated internationally across red carpets, celebrities and fashion shows, it makes me swoon with the kind of Irish pride I imagine others feel when Ireland win the Six Nations.

To Kevyn Aucoin, who enlightened the world to the knowledge that plucking all your brows out is a lifelong commitment and without whom we might never have Phibrows. Without him, I would also have gained many more hours sleep lost bidding for old magazines on eBay that he created looks for.

Tom Ford, who makes me feel like a Bond girl every time I take one of his beautifully packaged Boys and Girls lipsticks out of my bag. I often think about this quote from Tom Ford from an interview with GQ Australia; when asked, “didn’t you feel like a freak when you were growing up?”, he said, “I thought I was fabulous and everyone else was stupid.”

READ MORE: Meet the Irish celebrity hairstylist splitting his time between Hollywood and Limerick

My dad, who spent the last ten years mourning my natural hair shade of what he called ‘auburn’ and you and I would call ‘mousy brown’ after I used all my pocket money to bleach my hair at 15. When I went back to my natural shade a few months ago, not only did he a) not notice, but it was b) hideous. Thank you, dad, for convincing me that I am a natural blonde.

And finally, James Charles. By teaching 14 million subscribers of all genders to love make-up and express themselves as creatively as they wish, he has made me love beauty even more.

These are but a fraction, I’m sure, of the men who have influenced beauty in my life. Please, please, send me yours.

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