Byrdie Boy is our series here to break outdated perceptions of men and beauty. We'll be highlighting the routines, product picks, and musings of cool guys with a unique POV, so our male and man-aligned readers can learn about skincare, makeup, and hair from a trusted, inclusive source. Benito Skinner, also known as Benny Drama, tells us about everything from home life to the cleanser he considered gatekeeping from the world.
Oftentimes, following an Instagram or TikTok personality means that you’re not just following them, but also their meteoric rise to multi-platform stardom. Ranging from podcasts on Patreon to heartfelt vlogs on Youtube, Internet celebs seem to do (and have) it all, with many moving onto lucrative ventures like big brand deals or their own companies, as they and their following grow. (Hello, favorites like Chamberlain Coffee, HUDA Beauty, and ONE-Size by Patrick Starr). But here's the thing—only a select few do it right.
Benito Skinner, AKA, Benny Drama, is certainly of that group. After beginning his career creating comedy sketches online, he gained traction with his zodiac-themed series on Instagram in late 2019, but, today, Skinner is a mainstream star through and through. He's appeared virtually everywhere, surfacing on The Drew Barrymore Show and The Kardashians, and his characters, like “Jenni” (a hairstylist and MUA who chronically overshares with her clients), have fronted major beauty campaigns with brands like MAC and LolaVie, Jennifer Aniston’s hair care line.
With probably at least a dozen or so projects in the works right now, Benito logged onto our Zoom call with surprisingly relaxed energy (and a charming Drew Barrymore Zoom backdrop to put me at ease). Read on for more from our chat, including the importance of a weekend pedicure and the power of '90s mom makeup.
Where do you find inspiration for your characters? Is there a little bit of Benito Skinner in each of them, or are they based on people you know?
"There are little pieces of me, but they mostly come from influences from the outside world that I'm soaking up, and that makes me laugh. Anyone who kind of rambles and has that slightly all-over-the-place energy is definitely me at times. I worked in an office for about two years right out of college, editing videos for a company. And I remember walking into work really late with a huge Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, and I was this Cooper intern character that came out later.
"I did have a really strange haircut once where the woman cutting my hair was telling me a few too many personal details that I, as a stranger, should not have known about her life. And I just thought, it's so weird—Although she was giving me a really not great haircut, I felt like safe in this woman's chair, and I didn't wanna leave *laughs*. The way that she was talking and chewing gum—that was fully Jenni.
"And then, of course, I'm influenced by the outside world. Sometimes, I'll be at a party, and someone says something, and I'll have to run to the bathroom to write it down. For instance, recently, someone told me that they don't sweat, and I'm just like, that's so weird—I'm putting that in a video. So, it will be just like tiny things like that."
What are some of your most memorable moments during your journey as a comedian?
"One of the main moments in my career that meant a lot to me was when I did a live standup show at Caroline’s in New York City. I just remember doing that first show, and it was so magical (I say magical, it sounds corny) to finally be in a room with people and hear real laughter. Before that, I had been cooped up in Brooklyn coffee shops for the past two years editing videos nonstop and not necessarily getting feedback from the internet. To be able to be in a room and feel the laughter, see what people were responding to, see that some of these characters meant a lot to people and are giving them peace, happiness, and laughter—that was really special.
"Also, this past May, I got to be in Chelsea Peretti's new movie called First Time Female Director, and that was truly a dream come true in every single way. I got to be with people that I've respected and loved my whole life, including Chelsea [Peretti] and Amy Poehler. That was a very 'pinch me' moment, and the young version of myself would've been like, oh my God, yes, b*tch.
"Jenni creating a lipstick with MAC also felt so meta. And I loved how people responded to it—they were like congrats, Jenni. It’s so fun for me to be able to play all these characters, but also see that they have their own little lives.
"And, finally, being on The Kardashians was really fun because it also felt so meta. I've never aimed to be a bully in my work. So, for people to understand I’m coming from a truly good place means a lot to me. I'm just, reacting to culture in a lot of ways by making things and pointing out things that I think are funny, strange, or weird in this time of the internet and in this very strange time on earth—that meant a lot that [my impressions] were received well."
I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but are there any major differences you think people would be shocked to know regarding your life at home versus your onscreen persona?
"I don't think I've actually ever been asked this. I think I'm much more relaxed than you’d expect. Now, I'm not chill, and I'm not trying to pretend that I'm chill—but at times, I definitely feel more introverted at home. I really do just love going to a movie with my boyfriend and being with a couple of close friends. I think a lot of my energy is put into my work, so at the end of a day of me on a set, I'm not doing a bit for all my friends and boyfriend. Sometimes I am. *laughs* But I just love turning off for a bit. Sometimes I feel like I have to be 'on' all the time, but my friends and family have made it very clear that I don't need to be with them.
"And then mostly I'm just like shopping online—honestly catch me at any point in the day, and I’m shopping online for like skincare or clothes. Like I'm on the SSENSE sale, I'm not at the club."
Speaking about shopping for beauty, what does your beauty process for your characters look like?
"In total it probably takes me a week or two to get everything together before I start shooting something. The wig is definitely my first step. A good example is the real estate character I recently did, Miss Deliverance Richards, or my bot commenter, Nina. I either scroll for a while online or go to a wig shop to think about what I haven't done yet, what could feel like a separate character, and what could be a different look on me.
"After the wig, I usually know what that character would do for their own makeup, like Deliverance Richards—I knew that she would have a cut crease with a false lash and a full, juicy nude lip *laughs* and full contour. I knew she'd have a really strong brow. I think I just draw from what I've seen—I was definitely influenced by Selling Sunset makeup, like full glam real estate agent makeup.
"And as far as the looks, one of my favorite parts is going shopping. I used to live by L Train Vintage in Bushwick, which is where I bought my Annie costume and some really bizarre gowns for my Gossip Girl videos that were like $10. Now, I, fortunately, have made some friends within the fashion space that will loan me pieces. In New York, I worked with Gabriel Held Vintage a lot, and he would let me run through his racks. In LA, I work with Lidow Archive, and going there is like playing dress-up."
What was your earliest beauty memory?
"My earliest beauty memory was with my godmother, Carmen Boyington, who I lost when I was in college. She was so supportive of me during my entire childhood, and I always had a really special connection with her. She would always tell me, ‘you should perform, you should be an actor;’ and I grew up in Boise, Idaho, where being an actor wasn’t really a thing. And she would always encourage me, like if I wanted to wear a skirt or paint my nails or do anything, really.
"I remember during Christmas she would get a red lipstick out and turn everyone into Rudolph. The color of the MAC lipstick I did reminds me of that color, a really creamy, pinky red. I loved it. I felt like even with that little circle on my nose, I felt like I was fully transformed. And she knew how much I loved it.
"And then watching my mom do her makeup—my mom's an eyeliner queen. If anyone watched their mom apply makeup in the nineties, you know how moms would just take a hot blue color and put it on their lower lash line. I'd just be like, yes, mom, turn it out, girl. So those are some of my first beauty memories, all from very powerful women who I feel protected me and inspired me in many, many ways."
There is something powerful about the nineties mom who did the most with their mainstay products.
"They turned it out. The Bobbi Brown; The MAC; The Clinique. Ugh, yes. My mom with that MAC Spice lip pencil—I was like, go. off."
Are there any beauty rituals or products that you can’t live without?
"I was gonna gatekeep this, but we live in a time where you just can’t gatekeep anymore. I feel like everyone who gets perioral dermatitis always finds one weird thing that will work. I've tried everything, and for some reason, there’s this one face wash called Spectro Jel ($18) that I use every day. It’s been pitched to me as the Canadian CeraVe, and I think it’s only on Amazon. For some reason, I don't know why, it got rid of my perioral dermatitis—It has changed the game for me, and I have, like, fifty bottles stocked for the rest of my life. So, I can't live without that.
"I can’t live without the Avene 50 Sunscreen ($34)—It's so good and creamy. And I love the Supergoop! Glowscreen ($36). I also love Shani Darden’s eye cream ($68); I feel like it’s the only eye cream that actually does something—that one, and the Allies of Skin eye cream ($83).
"But, yeah, if you told me to pick one thing, it’d have to be Spectro Jel—it truly changed my skin."
How do you keep calm and practice self-care?
"My self-care routine is how I calm down. I usually take a bath about four or five times a week with Epsom salt. I love to run, and I love going on walks while blasting music—I feel like that helps me think of ideas and channel some of my energy so that it feels a little bit less all over the place. I also find so much peace going to a movie or watching movies and TV (and not trash TV, I promise). I treat sitting down and enjoying that experience as less of like a guilty pleasure and more like something that I really love that’s actually helping me turn off.
"And I definitely get facials a lot. I get massages, lots of pedicures—if there's any excuse to do any of those things, I'll do them. Like if anyone even whispers them. You feel better, you radiate, you shine. And you can give more to people when you feel good. This world is f*cking scary. So, if you want to get a pedicure, go get that pedicure, baby."
What’s next for Benito Skinner?
"I’m really excited about a few projects I’m working on right now! One is my variety show special that I've been working on for like three years now, and I hope that people see that soon—I really love that project, it’s very neat and very dramatic. I’ve also been working on a pilot for the past three years as well, and I wish I could say more, I just know that I’ll get into trouble. Both are really personal projects that feel like they still have a lot of the energy that I brought to my work on the internet, but they feel a little more personal and definitely a bit more grounded.
"I'm also about to come back with a podcast with my best friend, Mary Beth Barone. We're really excited to relaunch a podcast—we're going to have so much fun with it, and I think people are gonna really enjoy this new iteration.
"But working in entertainment does feel like a marathon—I try to pace myself, and if something is inspiring me at that moment, I'll do it. So, I feel lucky that I have like all these different outlets, but yeah, I think those are like some, just a few things coming. Every time I say that, though, people are like, so no more videos? and I'm like, no, of course, there will be a lot of more lot more videos for sure. I definitely have a lot in the can right now that I'm working on, but I feel so lucky. I've been making videos for about six years now, and I still love doing it."