The YouTuber and beauty icon discusses lockdown, Lunar Beauty’s newest launch, and life after make-up
Back in February, YouTuber and beauty icon Manny MUA visited the Dazed offices while in London for VidCon. We hugged (how novel!), gossiped about the best gay clubs, and I (terribly) applied make-up on Instagram Live while asking Manny questions sourced from our followers.
Fast forward to now and the world is in a very different place. The past few months of the pandemic has seen the world ground to a halt. Quarantining at home, we’ve felt equal parts anxious and bold, but also creative and inspired. For Manny, this comes in the form of Lunar Beauty’s latest launch, the Moon Prism Blush palette and gloss collection. “I’m so excited to dive into a new category for Lunar,” Manny says. “I do my very best to come up with original concepts, packaging, and designs because I want my customer to know I put as much work into the art as the formula.”
Comprising six shades, suitable for all skin tones, the palette is accompanied by a range of glosses – all of which are tested by the YouTuber himself, “I’m so involved, I create the concept, develop the product, and test it constantly. All finished products are approved by me!”
Like everyone, Manny is looking ahead to a life after COVID-19, more specifically, “Going to the gym and going on dates,” he jokes. While beauty might not be the top of everyone’s agenda, for many it’s the escape they need and he recognises that. “I do think beauty is important, but I think it’s more important to make sure you’re happy, safe, and able to get the things you truly need,” he muses. “Make-up will always be there, so take care of yourself first, and if you’ve got some extra coin to splurge on yourself, get some make-up!”
Here, we speak with the YouTuber about beauty drama, representation in the industry, and how he’d like to see it change for the better.
Do you wear make-up every day?
Manny MUA: I don’t, I only wear make-up for work. It’s really my MUA presence, I do things when I’m Manny MUA and I need to be there for an event, but if not, then I’m not glam – just like RuPaul.
Do you see it as work?
Manny MUA: I do, this is my full-time job and it’s a full-time career – it’s what I do for a living. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve been doing it for so long, I’ve been able to separate my work life from real life. I need to treat it as such because I wouldn’t be able to have a normal life otherwise and I’d just be ‘on’ at all times. I used to be like that in the past, but as I’ve gotten older, I don’t want to focus on it that much because I’ll miss out on real life experiences.
I read that you first got into wearing make-up by watching your mother apply it, how does it feel to have something so personal become your career?
Manny MUA: It’s really crazy, because I started doing make-up as just an artistic outlet for myself. It wasn’t like me trying to look like a woman, I never will because I have facial hair – I’m not trying to do that. I was trying to do it because I thought it was such a fun art form and I enjoyed the glam, the transformation. Getting to take something you were inspired by and loved and then to be able to turn it into a career is everyone’s dream.
What were some of the difficulties you faced when you knew beauty was the career you wanted to pursue?
Manny MUA: It was hard for my family to accept that this was what I wanted to do. I was going to school full-time and wanted to be a plastic surgeon, I was on a different path completely, and my parents were proud of that. It was such a 180, they were like, ‘what the fuck, you’re going to ruin your whole life!’ It took them a while to understand that this was my passion and them recognising that was the hardest part.
I knew I could succeed in it because I know what I’m passionate about, but even six years ago in beauty, it was a lot harder to get opportunities from brands for men. There were only a couple of us. It’s much better now there are so many boys in beauty.
How does it feel to be an inspiration to boys and male-presenting people out there?
Manny MUA: It’s insane to me! I’m just doing it because I love it and because I’m being my most authentic self. I’m helping others live their most authentic lives. It took me so long to wrap my head around the fact that me just being me helped other people being them.
“It’s much better now there are so many boys in beauty and I’m helping others live their most authentic lives. It took me so long to wrap my head around the fact that me just being me helped other people being them” – Manny MUA
Your brand Lunar Beauty launched just over two years ago, what made you want to start it?
Manny MUA: My baby, my child! It started with my first palette ‘Life’s A Drag’ – my make-up journey started with drag, so I remember thinking that if I ever came out with a brand, I would create a product that would pay homage to my drag roots. But also, sometimes life is a drag! I have my parents work on the brand full-time as well, and it’s so fun to have them involved in Lunar Beauty.
I wonder what you think of celebrities, YouTubers, and influencers moving into beauty, because it seems like an easy sell, but then the quality just isn’t there.
Manny MUA: The huge difference for me is that I created my brand because I wanted to make products that I thought would be amazing and worked. It’s about creating products that are finely packaged, aren’t too expensive, and are fairly priced. I’m not going to charge you $80 for a palette, Lunar Beauty is cheaper because it’s made in the US and I’m doing my best to make products that are cost-efficient. I always test it out on myself, so I’m using products I love and that way I know people that follow me and trust me will love it too.
Speaking of your fan base, what are your interactions with them like? Are they always crazy?
Manny MUA: Oh my God, it’s so fun. I love being in a big crowd of followers that are cheering me on. It’s such a unique and weird experience to be in a crowd of people who are screaming your name and are excited to meet you. It’s like, why are you excited to meet me? I’m just a chill ass dude who is on YouTube and I don’t think I’ll ever understand it properly, but they feel like they have a personal connection with me, just as much as I do with them. It’s so different when it’s a person watching you, they know so much about your life and I’ll never know as much about theirs as they do mine, but they feel like we’re friends and I want them to feel like we’re connected. I wouldn’t be able to have the life that I have without these people.
How have you seen the beauty industry change throughout the years?
Manny MUA: There’s a lot more acceptance of men and women, especially women of colour. The trans community is being represented more, which is great, but it obviously comes with some backlash here and there. Nowadays, there’s a lot more negativity online. 10 years ago, the presence online was different and people didn’t know what was appropriate, but now that they do, it’s gotten a lot more aggressive. I understand people believing in a view, but being so hateful and a keyboard warrior isn’t the way. People don’t want to listen to anyone else’s opinion, they just want to shove their own opinion down everyone’s throats.
Do you find it difficult navigating that?
Manny MUA: I do. You almost want to say a lot, but you also don’t want to say anything at the same time because you don’t want to offend anybody, hurt their feelings, or have them hate you for your opinion. Sometimes it feels like I might as well not say anything at all in case it isn’t well received. Everyone has their opinions, but that doesn’t mean you have to share them all the time.
The beauty industry definitely feels like drama has become the main focus rather than creativity, would you agree?
Manny MUA: Absolutely! It feels like that’s what it is like for most communities, drama runs everything. That’s what makes people seen, if they’re involved in a drama, it’s where all the outlets go. They don’t go for positivity or good stories, they are going for drama. Creators are always going to create what their followers want, so if their followers want drama, the creators will probably be more dramatic. I wish it was more about growth, positivity, learning, understanding, and less about the negativity on social media. It’s the beauty world, but it tends to be an ugly place sometimes.
“I wish beauty was more about growth, positivity, learning, understanding, and less about the negativity on social media. It’s the beauty world, but it tends to be an ugly place sometimes” – Manny MUA
What do you want to see more of in the beauty industry?
Manny MUA: I want to see more acceptance. Being a boy in beauty has gotten so much better, but it’s still a journey. Even walking down the street, people stare at me and I get weird looks, I would love for that to go away. I would also love recognition for people in other communities, I’d love for African-American boys to get the same recognition that a white boy would get. It’s really hard and it’s not fair for every community. I want it to be very equal for everyone of all genders and races.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Manny MUA: I’m excited to continue to grow my brand. I continue to work on Lunar Beauty every single day, it’s my passion, and it’s something I love so much and I want to continue to grow, create new different products that people will like to see from me.
For me, I want to grow as a creator – I want to take some acting classes, I want to do things that scare me a little bit more than being complacent, because I feel like, if you’re not growing, you’re dying in a way. If you’re not moving, you’re falling back, and I want to continue to move forward, learn and grow, and try things that I wouldn’t have tried before. Experiences are how you grow.