As the inevitable pendulum continues to swing from politically hopeful to dire and back again, there's no question that the way we choose to look, act, or represent ourselves follows suit. After the 2016 election, women began cutting their hair to rebel the oppressive nature of our vice and current president. "Changing our appearance is a proactive measure when other aspects of our life feel beyond our control," explains Vivian Diller, PhD.
Similarly, we've seen a common theme pop up in all of this: an interest in space and the stars—both as a way of piquing our spirituality and altering our presentation.
Millennials have looked to astrology more than ever to better instill some sort of faith more so than organized religion. Interestingly (and perhaps unsurprisingly), the last time astrology was as widely popular was the '60s and '70s—a time when political unrest was just as prevalent. We're all looking for signs from the stars—a way to ground ourselves when everything else feels out of control.
"I've seen women in their 20s really get into learning their whole charts [this year]: moon signs, rising signs, all of it. I'm really impressed by the high-level cosmic conversations I hear young women having," Tali Edut, one-half of the AstroTwins, told Refinery29. "The 2016 election was a mindfuck for many people, like, how is this actually happening?"
Edut continues. "But it's not like this is the only reason. Young people are facing a challenging economy, unaffordable higher education, and the stress of bullying, social media, and an uncertain future about the environmental state of the planet. Astrology and spiritual practices are incredibly grounding in the face of this."
Galaxy-inspired makeup is everywhere, flying off the shelves minutes after their initial drop. The explanation was so poignantly addressed in a piece about David Bowie's obsession with space. "Impersonating an alien," Jody Rosen wrote for Billboard, "he spoke to the alienated, to those who, by dint of sexual preference or adolescent confusion or fabulous hair and makeup and clothes, felt like they had tumbled to Earth from a distant planet."
Naturally, titles like "Space Oddity", "Moonage Daydream," "Starman," "Life on Mars?" "Hallo Spaceboy," "Dancing Out in Space," and "Born in a UFO" prove that outer space was a prolific part of his work. But it was more the idea of outcasts or rather "aliens," he devoted his words and unmistakable tunes to—the marginalized, misrepresented population he felt so closely a part of.
Rihanna, a Barbadian immigrant, helps represent those forgotten as well. Her Fenty Beauty line offers a Galaxy Collection—a glinty eye shadow palette, star-lit lipsticks, and shimmer liners all meant to inspire an unconventional, "out of this world" beauty look. Her line's inclusiveness was practically unprecedented—with viral reviews of her foundation from women spanning the spectrum of race and skin concerns. Fenty has positioned itself as a friend and an ally for when no other makeup brand understands your needs. With that, it makes sense that cosmic shimmer is part of the equation.
"Glitter isn't only about euphoria and performance," Laura Dorwart wrote in an essay earlier this year. "It's also deeply tied to protest and defiance. For decades, glitter has been used by queer activists fighting for LGBTQ rights." She speaks of the magic of glitter, comparing its effect on her to "a sort of witchcraft, a kind of breathless ecstasy."
Beauty industry heavy-hitter Pat McGrath also launched a collection of makeup meant for the subversive. With each release comes new quotes from McGrath about provocation, relinquishing caution, and doing whatever you please. She suggests you apply each formula with your fingers rather than the traditional brush.
It goes without saying that the majority of her products are megawatt metallics, transfixing, celestial-inspired glitters, and holographic gels. She even hosted a party during NYFW dubbed the "Mothership Ball" to highlight drag queens and other muses—allowing for an opulent, fun space for those who in other years may have been labeled outcasts or misfits.
And that's not all. Brands like Rituel de Fille launched Rare Light Luminizer ($29) in shades Lunaris and Solaris and Milk Makeup offers a Holographic Stick in Mars ($28). While bigger, mainstream brands have joined in with BH Cosmetics Galaxy Chic Baked Eye Shadow Palette ($16), Urban Decay Moondust Palette ($49), and Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow ($24).
In the end, my argument is this: We've been put in a position by those leading our country (both now and in decades prior) that leave us feeling without control over legislation. So much so that we relinquish faith to what the moon and stars have planned for us, adorn our faces like aliens, and come together for comfort. With that, comes activism by way of protest and rebellion by way of makeup.
Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so... welcome to The Flipside (as in the flip side of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society's definition of "beauty." Here, you'll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we'd love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation, too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because here, on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.