Authenticity, uniqueness and talent: Gay male beauty influencers in post-queer, postfeminist Instagram beauty culture

Shirley Xue Chen, Akane Kanai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The emblematic rise of the female Instagram influencer has been understood as exemplifying shifts in postfeminist and neoliberal frameworks of femininity. Yet, the central place of gay men in postfeminist beauty culture and its intersection with ‘post-queer’ culture have so far escaped considered attention. In this article, we examine the performance of femininity by four of the top gay male influencers in Instagram beauty culture, Jeffree Star, James Charles, Bretman Rock and Patrick Starrr, whose followings make them as or even more popular than their most high-profile female counterparts. These influencers are notable for their visibility, fame and authority in beauty culture on Instagram, a space populated primarily by girls and women, with its focus on the application of makeup. We explore how the production of femininity by these gay male beauty influencers demonstrates a key, yet relatively unexplored relationship between postfeminist conditions of visibility and the mainstreaming of queer male identities, suggesting that this cultural space of shifting power relations positions a privileged subset of gay men as equal, if not more compelling, in fulfilling contradictory postfeminist demands of authenticity, individuality and femininity.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Beauty
  • gay male influencers
  • Instagram
  • post-queer
  • postfeminism

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