A quick scroll through the #MenInMakeup tag on Instagram will reveal over 215 thousand posts. David Lopez, a celebrity hairstylist who has worked with stars like Ashley Graham and Hailey Bieber, is a regular user of the tag for a good reason. Lopez, who has over 119 thousand followers on Instagram, uses his platform to degenderize the beauty space one painted face at a time.
On his feed, you'll usually see Lopez transforming in full glam, advocating for dress-wearing across genders, or educating people about his Latinx heritage. His hair tutorials are also unmatched. According to Lopez, his mission is to help all people feel good about themselves. However, embracing this goal hasn't always been easy.
Clad in a comfy hoodie featuring American drag queen Gigi Goode, Lopez told me on a Zoom chat that he hasn't always been this comfortable in his skin. "As a child, I remember being taught to keep my face clean, dress well, and that first impressions are everything," he says. "At a young age, you're very engrained in this performative aspect of yourself." Lopez, the child of Puerto Rican parents, recognizes that is a common ideal in many Latinx households, and it's what has ultimately shaped how he approaches his career in beauty.
"I lived a performative life being that perfect white-passing Latino," he says. "I have built a career out of that." Lopez says that his brand, David Lopez Hair, is a character of sorts, which upheld a polished image that "never rocked the boat" or whose appearance didn't offend anyone. But, according to Lopez, sustaining his image over the years became exhausting before stepping into his most authentic self.
Getting to a place of comfort and advocacy has been a long journey, according to Lopez. "My career is so closely tied to who I am and the value that I intrinsically place in myself," he explains. "This is why the two must be rooted in authenticity." Tapping into that has meant doing intense internal work, which Lopez says, isn't always pretty behind closed doors. "What you don't see is how hard and revealing it is to break down the internalized homophobia, misogyny, and racism we are conditioned to believe," he says. "I didn't acknowledge many parts of myself because I didn't want to be more different than I was already."
Lopez reached a massive turning point in his journey four years ago when he auditioned to be a groomer onset of a show. He didn't get the job but was left with encouraging words from a colleague. "I was told to have fun and be myself," he says. "That was the opposite of what I've heard for most of my career, which was 'be less gay and flamboyant.'"
I don't have to be this buttoned-up, corporate, white version of myself to be taken seriously.
Though he didn't get the job, Lopez was given the gift of introspection, which led him to acknowledge that the way he moved through the world wasn't who he truly was. "It forced me to accept that I can be flamboyant and be an authority," he says." I don't have to be this buttoned-up, corporate, white version of myself to be taken seriously."
Since that moment, Lopez ventured into grooming and makeup. On his Instagram, you'll see him rocking couture gowns and styling himself in wigs. Getting to that point hasn't come without a great deal of criticism from the public, but Lopez hopes that his content sparks meaningful conversations and fosters a safe environment for beauty lovers.
"I've gotten those comments, many of them from women, who say that men shouldn't wear makeup or dresses," Lopez says. "I also get DMs from cisgender, heteronormative men who tell me how much they've always wanted to wear makeup." Lopez tells me that many of his followers who don't feel confident enough to post their looks send them to him privately. "Those are important baby steps that foster community," he says. It's why you'll continue to see Lopez push for celebratory, expressive content for everyone. "I want to encourage people to feel good however they choose," Lopez says. "When you feel good, you're able to move through the world more confidently and comfortably, and we should all be able to do that."