This Toronto Teen’s Glam Grad Photo Went Viral—Here's What He Has to Say About It

"I love the Kim Kardashian vibe. I consider it my natural look"

Etobicoke, Ont. resident Kevin Kodra woke up earlier this week to find his high school graduation photo—for which he posed for in full-on KKW-inspired glam—had gone viral, trending on Twitter and catching the eye of media outlets from Teen Vogue to The Daily Mail. Colour us intrigued. We managed to get the 18-year-old beauty influencer on the phone in the midst of a *very* busy day to talk about everything from his crazy-impressive resume to how he handles haters to his #1 beauty inspiration (a fellow Canadian!).

Tell me about yourself, beyond what the world already knows about you on Instagram.

I started doing makeup three or four years ago and then started my Instagram about two years ago, when I was in grade 10 [at Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke]. It was crazy, because my first video post got so many likes overnight. From there, I started making connections and reaching out to companies—I ended up working with M.A.C, Anastasia Beverly Hills and TooFaced Cosmetics. Which is crazy, because I’m still in high school! I have this kind of double life. This latest post went viral on my eighteenth birthday, so it was basically the best present ever.

What inspired the look for your senior photo?

I thought I should do what makes me feel the best in my own skin, because your grad photo is your final goodbye to high school and you have to make it good. For me, this was the look. I love the Kim Kardashian vibe: very glam, very bronze-y, very glowy. That’s what makes me feel the most comfortable and glam. I consider it my natural look, but for others, it’s nowhere near natural…[laughs]. But I don’t have the time to do it before school every day. A full face takes me a good two hours—and I don’t want to wake up at 6:00 a.m.

Why do you think your picture went viral so fast?

The contrast of a bearded man wearing a full face of makeup is what I think really caught attention. Seeing a yearbook photo of a man in full glam isn’t new, it’s happened before. But the fact that there’s so much contrast between masculine and feminine got people talking.

I want to go between and have that happy middle of masculine and feminine. Some days, I’ll be looking like a mess, with my beard crazy, wearing sweatpants. Other days I’ll be in full glam with my hair done, sometimes I’ll wear heels. It’s just about doing what feels right for me.

A portrait of teen makeup artist Kevin Kodra in full highlighter

(Photograph: Courtesy Kevin Kodra)

Why do you think people automatically drew comparisons between you and James Charles?

James [an American beauty influencer who made history when he was named CovergGirl’s first male spokesperson] and I are two completely different people. It’s not fair to either of us to be compared to each other so I wanted to address it. Right now my Twitter is blowing up and everyone is talking about James and it sucks that people have to go there, because I don’t want him to think I’m trying to sway his image. He’s doing him, I’m doing me.

[Editor’s note: shortly after our interview, James showed Kevin some love on Twitter today and Kevin returned it.]

You have a filter on your Instagram comments so that you don’t see certain words, but how do you deal with the trolls who do show up on your page?

It doesn’t hurt—it’s actually funny to me. My clapbacks might go a little far sometimes, but it’s just entertainment. It is true that one hate comment can sometimes overpower a thousand loving comments. But the loving comments will always be there—the hateful comments, you can just hit delete.

Who inspires you to live your best life?

One of my biggest inspirations who pushed me to do makeup is Gigi Gorgeous. I’ve met her and she’s the sweetest person. I’d found out Gigi was also from Toronto and I was like, “I went to the same school you did and I know your brother!” She was like, “This is so cool that you’re doing what I was doing when I was a kid and coming from the same place.” I told her that she’s really pushed me to be myself. Although she’s in a different category, what she’s done for the community is so effective.

Also, men in makeup like Manny MUA and Patrick Starr who started this path for us, they’ve really helped us.

And Mario Dedivanovics, KKW’s makeup artist. It’s very cool to see an Albanian male in the cosmetics industry working with the Kardashians and Jenners.

A photo of Kevin Kodra, the teen whose grad photo went viral, in a glow highlighter look

(Photo: Courtesy Kevin Kodra)

What are your plans for the summer?

Right now, it’s prom and wedding season, so I’m totally booked with clients and my email is blowing up with requests. I’m also trying to decide between going to Ryerson University for media production or to York University for media arts.

What would you say to someone who is afraid to be their authentic selves in front of the camera?

Whether you’re in high school or elementary school, or wherever you are in life—it doesn’t matter where you are. What you do matters. So do what makes you feel most happy! If you get backlash, use that to build your thicker skin and lean on your support system. My experience with being who I am hasn’t always been the most positive, but I built it to become positive. Stand your ground.

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