Pride Month: Of men and the rainbow hues of make-up. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, June 19 : For gay activist and make-up and beauty enthusiast, Sanyam Sharma, makeup has always been a form of self-expression. Speaking on the practice of men experimenting with beauty products, he says that slowly things are changing, more and more creators are venturing and embracing the concept of "guy beauty".

IANSlife speaks to Sanyam Sharma, who is also the marketing manager at Blued, a community fostering relationships for the LGBTQ community and a platform for the community members to meet like-minded people and lead a life of their choice.

Q: Men and makeup is still a taboo in India. Can you tell us about how you got started with makeup and beauty? A: Make-up and grooming is a concept that has always been gender-inclusive even though it is not believed so by many yet. For millennia, stretching from 4000 BCE through the 18th century, men traditionally used makeup in myriad ways. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that makeup was pushed to one end of the gender spectrum and by the 20th century, makeup was seen as a women's only cosmetic. Slowly things are changing, more and more creators are venturing and embracing the concept of guy beauty. For me, makeup has always been a form of self-expression. I chose to experiment with makeup about six to seven years ago. I firmly believe makeup is not only about grooming but also a great creativity enhancer, for me the process of creating different looks is nothing but therapeutic.

Q: What has been the range of reactions you got for makeup experimentation videos? A: As a part of the LGBTQ community, societal discrimination is something that doesn't surprise me anymore, while India has progressed legally but a mindset change is something that still needs to happen. Till date, there's a certain section of the society that looks down upon us for merely existing let alone experimenting with makeup. There have been times that I too have faced backlash but what gives me immense hope is that there is a certain section that appreciates what I do and create, irrespective of my gender. We as a society need to work towards perception change and I am glad that through my role at Blued India, I get a chance to be at the forefront of this change. Through our various initiatives such as on ground associations with colleges and radio shows, we're working towards making India an inclusive society.

Q; What are your thoughts on media representation of gender diversity? A: Indian media especially new age media has been very supportive and has always come to the forefront when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community. From urging legal bodies to take the right steps to celebrating pride month with extreme enthusiasm, Indian media channels have done a phenomenal job in helping us pass on the message of 'Love is love'. Even in terms of gender diversity, the media landscape is changing. Simple things like adding pronouns, building gender inclusive workplaces and encouraging unbiased treatment for all, we're slowly taking steps to build a better and more inclusive India, we're just getting started! Q: While community support is a basic human need, this need is even more pronounced for someone with a non-heteronormative identity. Do you agree? A: With the backlash and injustice the community has faced on an ongoing basis, societal support becomes more pronounced for all, because acceptance is a basic human right and every individual should have the security and joy of being accepted irrespective of their gender/sexual orientation.

Q:Tell us about Blued.

A: Blued is a community fostering relationships for the LGBTQ community and a platform for the community members to meet like-minded people and lead a life of their choice. Even in 2021, a very small proportion of the population accepts the LGBTQI community wholeheartedly. The main reason for the same being the societal stigma that exists and moreover the lack of conversations in the deeper pockets of India. Through its various initiatives, Blued has gone one step ahead to reach out to the community, create a safe-space for all those trying to come out of the closet and meet like-minded people.

Recently, in a first of its kind partnership, Blued India partnered with IIT Delhi to build a community dedicated to LGBTQ , through this they worked on campaigns to spread awareness about LGBTQ rights. This first of its kind partnerships opened up conversations around the community, led to acceptance and a feeling of oneness. To tell you a little about our other initiatives -- To reach out to local India, BLUED India collaborated with RED FM to reach out to an audience belonging to all sections of society and hosted the first ever podcast specially dedicated to the LGBTQI community. Covering a wide range of topics such as same sex marriages, being a gay lawyer in India to being gay in Bollywood, this podcast successfully takes the messaging of 'love is love' a notch higher. We also collaborated with some key faces in our community for an #AntiBullying campaign. This was the first of its kind effort by a dating app. We created a video showcasing what the community goes through on a regular basis and how each one of us can support each other and speak up against bullying.

Q: Finally, what do you think has been the pandemic's impact on the community, specifically, creators, changemakers and artists? A: While the pandemic has been a rough phase for all of us mentally but at the same time I feel that this phase has helped us reconnect with our lost passions and rekindle creativity to a great extent. Many creators have gone ahead to create and experiment with their genres and present top notch content. Be in infotainment or entertainment, creators have definitely taken a front seat in keeping their audiences engaged with some great content pieces.

As far as the community is concerned, the pandemic was rough for a lot of people as they were forced to go back home where they might/ might not have been completely accepted in terms of their sexual orientation. Being confined made it worse for many, however at Blued India we did some great activities to create a safe space where our community can come and interact with each other. Through our app, we invited community creators to come forward and interact with the community on some great live sessions. We also initiated fun makeup and dance challenges to keep our audience entertained while we all navigated through this rough phase.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

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