The Drag Queen Who’s Mastered The Dimensional

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The #ITGTopShelfie interview series focuses on the beauty routines of Into The Gloss’ lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Submit your own on Instagram—post your Top Shelfie (tag us @intothegloss!) and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie for a chance to be featured on ITG.

“My name is Naomi Smalls (@naomismalls), and I’m from Redlands, California. I grew up with 11 siblings, which was honestly great because I never had a moment where I felt lonely. My only real career aspirations were to be a socialite or Lady Gaga’s backup dancer, and since those were not in the cards, my mom pushed me into going to cosmetology school. I was totally unfamiliar with the beauty world, and being the only one in the class who had no experience with men’s or women’s hair was so frustrating. Then I saw my first drag show. As I watched, I thought, ‘How could I elevate this?’ Instead of being that girl in the corner talkin’ shit, I wanted to take it on myself. Thank God for YouTube and Manila Luzon videos—now there are so many drag tutorials, but at that time, it was very rare.

After I got pretty successful in amateur competitions, I applied to be on ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race.’ Everyone trying to be a successful drag queen should apply for ‘Drag Race’—you get an amazing platform, the opportunity to travel, and a chance to learn from so many queens. Since ‘Drag Race’ I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do. I talked to Cardi B for Cosmopolitan—that was so wild. I’m working on my own solo show, ‘The Smalls World Show,’ which has been a huge test of creative abilities. But my favorite project that I’ve worked on to date was my collaboration with Kim Chi Chic Beauty. That was the first time a drag queen had ever collaborated with another drag queen on a makeup collection, and it was awesome.

When I’m getting into drag, I honestly think more about the hair than the makeup. I don’t know if it’s because I used to do hair, or… maybe because hair is the easiest way to change a vibe completely. Most of my wigs were custom done by @gowigorgohome. It costs like $350 and requires a fitting, but Violet Chachki and Bianca del Rio taught me that going custom is worth it. If I’m doing my own hair for drag, Kenra Professional Platinum Finishing Spray 26 is glue in a can. A beauty hack that I learned from my pseudo-drag-mother, Roxxxy Andrews, is to use a shoulder pad underneath your wig to give your head an extra bump. Since a lot of us are dudes in wigs, that volume makes us seem more petite onstage. On my natural hair, I like to use the Redken Curvaceous Ringlet Anti-Frizz Perfecting Lotion and Full Swirl Curly and Wavy Hair Cream Serum. For a queen who has no curves! But Ampro Pro Styl is my go-to, which I think a lot of Black boys can relate to. It’s been in my life for so long.

My skincare routine for when I’m getting in drag is pretty minimal. Putting on too many lotions and potions before drag will make me shiny. I like to go hard with a really rough exfoliator, like the Frank Body Creamy Face Scrub, before I shave, and then I’ll just tone with the Beauty Water from Son & Park. I wish that I could say that drag makeup takes an hour or two, but I set aside four hours. Which is not to say that every second is spent doing makeup—I’m watching a show, getting in the zone, practicing my performance. My very first step is gluing my sideburns down with an Elmer’s Stick. If I can see my sideburns under a wig, I just lose the fantasy. I’ve been using MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation since high school, and it’s an amazing product to blend my hairline with my wigs. I’ve been concealing my brows with MAC’s Studio Finish Concealer since high school too, and draw them back on with Anastasia Dip Brow in Chocolate. I use Kevyn Aucoin’s Skin Enhancer in my highlight areas and Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Stick Foundation in the contour areas. Then I set all of my makeup with Kim Chi Chic Beauty’s Puff Puff Pass Powder in the shades Suntan and Banana, and add blush from the Kim Chi Chic Sunkissed In June palette. After that I do my very first layer of Morphe Continuous Setting Spray. Continuous mist doesn’t give you the disgusting droplets all over your face that some sprays do.

I pretty much only use Sugarpill and Kim Chi Chic eyeshadows, because they’re super pigmented, super velvety, and I get little to no fallout. I owe a lot of my face to Plastique Tiara, who taught me a lot about different shapes and techniques. I do eye makeup with a super precise crease, really graphic liner, and really chunky glitter. I have hooded eyes, and when I don’t give myself a crease I’ve noticed that my makeup doesn’t visually spark in the same way. Like so many queens that I know, I hold onto my lash strips until they’re pretty much falling apart. When I started off I’d stack like six pairs of black lashes, but with time I realized that putting a lot of black around my eyes made my already small eyes look smaller. I want to open them up as much as possible. Now I like to wear faux mink lashes from Velour, because I get that separation and fullness, but you can still see your hard work through them. When I was younger I’d cry if I put a lash on before the glue was dry and it ruined my entire eyeshadow. I definitely recommend Velour’s lash tweezer tool to help with that.

If you want a clean finish to your lip, you have to use lip liner! I’m obsessed with using two different shades to get the most dimension possible, because, especially with a nude lip, the color can get washed out on stage. I use MAC’s lip pencil in Cork around my lips, a darker nude like Chestnut in the corners, and then go back with Cork and fill in the center. That makes them look more open and pouty. Trader Joe’s chapstick is a desert island product for me—I buy them in bulk and probably have 20 of them at a time. It’s really important to only use chapstick after your lips are lined, because if you do it before the line won’t be clean. Right now I’m more into bullet lipsticks than liquids, because I actually like how they settle into lips. I think it looks a lot more real. I use Raw Seduction, which is a very pretty coral-nude from Nars, and follow it up with Glossier’s Clear Lip Gloss on the outer corners of my lips and Artist Couture Diamond Lip Tease in Climax in the center. The Artist Couture glosses are actually made by my friend Angel Merino, who used to perform at the first drag bar I ever went to.

I’ve been trying to get into the Kevvyn Aucoin supermodel matte look, but if I am wearing highlighter, I really like Kim Chi Chic Beauty’s Highest Point. It’s more coral-y so it blends in with my blush, and the glitter is not too overbearing. For my body, I love the Sol de Janeiro Glowmotions Glow Body Oil in Copacabana Bronze. It smells amazing. When I’m in drag I normally bathe in really feminine fragrances. Roxxxy Andrews and Kim Chi introduced me to Gucci Bloom, which is definitely my favorite. There is nothing fiercer than when a queen is onstage and you’re tipping them and you just get that huge sniff of their fragrance. It just kind of ties together the whole experience. When I’m out of drag, I mainly wear Glossier You. It was given to me by an old romance and even though we’re not romantically involved anymore, the scent stayed with me. I give it as presents because so many people compliment me on it.

When I’m not in drag—so when I’m Davis and not Naomi—my skincare routine looks pretty different. First of all, taking off my drag makeup is such a process. It’s like a pound of glue and stage paint! The Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil breaks up everything beforehand. I take the oil off with Neutrogena makeup wipes, because I think there are no better wipes out there. And after that I get in the shower. I still use some of the skincare products from my Into The Gloss interview four years ago, like the Philosophy Purity Made One Step Cleanser, for example. But now there are other things I’m obsessed with, like Glossier’s Solution. I used it once a day for a couple months, but now I use it every other day. I follow that up with serums: Tata Harper’s Rejuvenating Serum, and Glossier Super Bounce and Super Pure. Then I use the Farmacy Honey Grail Ultra Hydrating Face Oil. If I’m really on top of my game, the Cosrx Triple C Lightning Liquid is in the fridge. I get some hyperpigmentation from ingrowns, and that stuff really helps. I really like the little ball applicator on La Mer’s Eye Concentrate, and I keep that in my fridge too, next to Sunday Riley’s Tidal Water Cream. I put all of those on in one go when I walk into the kitchen. If I’m going on a date or I’m going to be on camera, I swear by the Boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask, which is always out of stock. Then I’ll use the Too Cool for School Egg Cream Beauty Mask before eye cream and moisturizer. At night, if I know I’m going to be up for a long time, I’ll definitely pile on the oils. I like the Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C Serum, Luna Retinol Oil, the Neogen Dermalogy White Truffle Oil Drop… And Laneige’s Water Sleeping Mask makes me look less drab in the morning, because I tend to wake up with puffy eyes.

I do wear makeup as a boy. If I’m going to see anybody, concealing under my eyes and doing my brows are the minimum. I haven’t found a concealer that looks more natural than Glossier Stretch Concealer, and I set it with Wowder. On my brows I use Boy Brow in Brown first, to comb through and perfect, and then Black on the tails to draw up the eye for more of a snatched look. The only thing that’s not Glossier is Dior’s Dreamskin Skin Perfector. It makes me look like I’m wearing a lot of skincare, but kind of dims down the shine. Especially if I’m going to be on camera, that is a must.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author





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