@joellouzado: Shades of change

But despite his own comfort with makeup in an industry that is predominantly female and white, Louzado, who is Sri Lankan, is still an outlier, which is one of the motivating factors for his work. He points again to James Charles, a recently controversial influencer with over 15 million follower and brand deals and an estimated net worth of $12 million according to Celebrity Net Worth. “I wish that there was someone like him who was a person of colour,” Louzado says. “People like Jeffree Star and James Charles, they’re huge, but they’re white.” And that comes with certain privileges. “I feel like I’ve always been salty towards white men and makeup because there’s just so much more appreciation for it and so much more forgiveness for that.”

Louzado recalls a trending story about a 5-year-old Indian boy who wanted to wear lipstick. In solidarity, his family wore lipstick too. In response, Louzado says he tweeted photos of himself wearing makeup to the boy. “I was like, ‘please show him this,’ [because] I would have loved to see this when I was a kid.” They tweeted back, Louzado says, and were “really lovely about it.”  

“It’s those kind of interactions that make me feel like I’m doing something that matters. Even if it is just makeup on social media,” Louzado says. “I feel like because of my ethnic status, because of my gender, it just makes so much more of an impact.”

But providing that positivity can come at a cost, and not just monetarily, but mentally. Since he started posting beauty content in 2015, Louzado has gone back and forth with his online presence. Sometimes linked to his busy school schedule — he just graduated from York University with a degree in graphic design — but mostly linked to mental fatigue. 

In 2017, he took a few months off from creating content and posting regularly. Louzado found that he was constantly monitoring his posts.”If a photo didn’t get a certain amount of ‘likes’ in the first hour, I was really discouraged,” he says. “I feel like that negatively influenced the way that I created. I started to become so focused on likes.” And, for all the effort Louzado puts in to his makeup looks, sometimes up to 4 hours to create the look, then shoot and edit photos, he wasn’t seeing the engagement he wanted, or that the looks necessarily deserved. 

“It’s really discouraging,” Louzado says, “when you put so much effort into something and then you just see it flop over and over. Especially for something so mundane as Instagram. It makes me feel kind of stupid that I’m putting that much effort into something which people don’t even really take seriously.” 

Sometimes, the message can go just beyond selling ads or the medium itself. For aspiring beauty influencer Joel Louzado, wearing makeup wasn’t always a comfortable choice. The 22-year-old started experimenting with products after the end of high school in 2015, using concealer for corrective purposes before building up to using colour. “[I started wearing makeup] mostly because that was just when I had come out, so I was no longer kind of denying it,” he says. “I felt more open to express myself and to use makeup.” 

He started to really lean in to wearing makeup around the time other male beauty influencers like James Charles started to make it big. Charles, along with Instagram beauty guru Miles Jai, both wore makeup, but identified as male. “That was a completely new concept to me,” Louzado says. “In my head, makeup meant you wanted to be a woman, makeup meant you were trans—and that was not something I identified with and still isn’t really something that I see myself in right now.” 

“But the Internet was there to make me feel okay about it and encouraged me to pursue that side of me.”

Since starting to wear makeup in 2015, and posting everday makeup photos to his Instagram account, Louzado has organically built up a following of just under 2,000 followers, slowly experimenting with the style and severity of his looks as he’s become more comfortable with it. Recently, he’s been leaning in to another area of creative interest: art. His series in homage to famous artists like Salvador Dali and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as his Halloween series, featuring Louzado in varying Halloween looks, amassed thousands of likes and shares. “Halloween,” he says, “is my fucking month.”