Sephora Is Doing Something Beautiful for Its Trans Customers

Because *everyone* deserves to look and feel gorgeous

Sephora transgender makeup classes: An image of a Sephora employee applying makeup on a trans woman who is smiling

(Courtesy of Sephora)

Janelle Rae first started learning and experimenting with makeup when she was around 14, five years before she officially began transitioning. Her mom didn’t wear any makeup aside from lipstick and her sister was a tomboy, so Rae turned to YouTube for tips and tricks on how to get that flawless finish.

“I had probably the worst acne in my entire high school so my skin was my biggest insecurity,” says Rae, now 23. “I would watch Youtube videos on how to cover up acne and would wear foundation and concealer to school as ‘a boy’ in 2011-2012 before it was acceptable, even popular!”

Rae says that, at the time, she was so driven to cover up her acne and scars that she didn’t realize her use of foundation and concealer was actually dulling her complexion. “I wish I knew how to balance a full coverage look without looking like a spackled egg,” she says.

Sephora helps customers with makeup quandaries like these all the time, but now the store is taking things one step further to help ensure that all their customers can feel beautiful inside and out.

The retail chain recently announced that it will soon offer makeup lessons specifically for individuals who identify as transgender or non-binary. The “Bold Beauty for the Transgender Community” workshops will be 90-minute tutorials led by Sephora staff—some of who are transgender or non-binary themselves. And just like J.Lo’s love, these makeup tutorials won’t cost a thing.

“At Sephora, we believe beauty is yours to define, and ours to celebrate,” Corrie Conrad, the company’s head of social impact and sustainability, said in a press release. “We are honoured to be a beacon of support and a part of each beauty journey through our new class offering.”

Rae says that she would be hesitant to take off her makeup in a public space, and if these Sephora workshops had existed back when she was first learning about makeup, she would have probably signed up. These types of tailored tutorials can be particularly helpful since, as Rae notes, trans women face certain unique challenges when it comes to makeup.

“At the time I started transitioning, contouring was blowing up thanks to Kim K, but contouring to feminize a masculine face is so different,” says Rae, who now runs a makeup vlog on YouTube. “I studied the differences between classically masculine and feminine faces and determined how I could play with light to soften my features, like adding plumpness to the cheeks, softening the jawline, and shortening the forehead.”

In addition to learning how to perfect a look that felt right for her, Rae says that makeup can be essential for trans women and non-binary individuals to cover certain aspects of masculinity that cis women may not think about.

“One thing cis women usually don’t have to do, which is vital for trans girls, is beard cover! Even being freshly shaved, the dark pigments in hair can still show through skin,” says Rae. “Foundation won’t cover the darkness unless you put a peach or orange colour corrector underneath. I never go outside or start filming a makeup tutorial without colour corrector and foundation!”

These are the types of topics Sephora hopes to cover with its workshops for trans and non-binary customers. The tutorials are only offered in U.S. stores for now, but we’re seriously hoping that it comes to Canada soon. In the meantime, Canadians can tune in to Sephora Stands’ YouTube channel, where the makeup outlet will be posting multiple how-to video tutorials led by Transgender Sephora Beauty Advisors.

The participants in Sephora’s promo video talk about how makeup can help build their confidence, and that is true for Rae as well.

“Makeup is my war paint,” she says. “Being in my position, makeup isn’t just something I put on to enhance my features, I put it on so I can face the day ahead of me.”


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