The editorial makeup artist on the importance of representation, embracing her bare face, and taking inspiration from the beauty of Black women.
- Written by:
- LENA RAFF
In celebration of diversity, individuality, love, gender expansiveness, self-expression, and Pride, VIOLET GREY spotlights the LGBTQIA+ creatives and activists who inspire us.
Raisa Flowers isn’t afraid to color outside the lines, literally. The sought-after makeup artist is known for imaginative beauty looks for clients such as fashion designer LaQuan Smith and famous faces Precious Lee and Joan Smalls. Growing up as a Black, queer woman with tattoos and piercings, Flowers didn’t see people who looked like her in the media, and lacking that representation, didn’t see herself as beautiful. In conversation with VIOLET GREY, Flowers reflects on the change she has seen in the industry since she was a child, and calls out the areas where there is still progress to be made.
VIOLET GREY: How would you describe your relationship to beauty products and the idea of beauty growing up?
RAISA FLOWERS: My relationship to beauty products is a very serious one! I love beauty in a lot of forms: makeup, skin care, nails, and fragrances. My mom raised us to always look good, smell good, and be super clean, so at a young age I was already introduced to perfume, makeup, body- and self-care. I had a perm because there was the idea that I had to straighten my hair so it would be “manageable”. Growing up, there wasn’t much representation of people who looked like me so I didn’t really know if I was beautiful. I had buck teeth, I was tall, and I was bigger than everyone, so my idea of beauty was jaded. I was not seeing myself and it made me very self-conscious. Society really messed with my head as a child. I am glad I got out of that mentality.
VG: Did you always feel like you could fully express yourself? Style, gender expression, verbally, and otherwise?
RF: Yes and no. I have parents that let me do my thing but they were also judgmental, so it made things complicated. I definitely experimented, got tattoos, piercings, and started doing more creative makeup around the age of 16. I was secretive because Caribbean parents aren’t the easiest when it comes to sharing how you feel or what you like. I was in a space where I could be me style-wise, but I couldn’t speak to my queerness or how I really felt about things. It was interesting.
VG: Who are your beauty idols, and how have they impacted your self-expression?
RF: Black women, the way we can transform really means a lot to me. We are all different but we inspire a lot in the beauty industry and that fuels me to continue to be myself because I inspire others to do the same.
VG: Is beauty/makeup (or the absence of it) important to you for self-expression?
RF: How I use makeup to express myself is important to me. I am in this space right now where I am wearing more dark, moody makeup on my eyes because that is just how I am feeling. How I feel has a lot to do with how I want to be seen and show up in the world. Sometimes I don’t even want to wear makeup! I want to be bare-faced and embrace myself for how I look. That is one of my favorite things about myself as I have gotten older.
VG: How do you think representation and diversity have changed in the beauty industry since you were young?
RF: I think there could be more change but for the most part I do see a lot of people that look like me in beauty campaigns. When I was younger I didn’t know I was looking for that, but I feel so seen when I see a Black person with piercings or tattoos being represented. No matter how they identify, it does something to my inner child that makes me so emotional. Also seeing plus-size and fat people in beauty really makes me feel like I am seeing myself. It’s comforting.
VG: What do you think the beauty industry could do better?
RF: I think the beauty industry could hire more Black people and People Of Color. It is about time we see that representation in these companies, especially when they are marketing products. It could be helpful to see brands get insight from people with these experiences so that the products they are putting out actually work.
VG: What is the biggest challenge facing the LGBTQIA community today?
RF: I feel like things get a little blurry for representation and visibility for LGBTQIA people with darker skin during Pride month. The people that should be more visible are overshadowed by people who are more palatable to society. If you want to be inclusive, think about the people who are really fighting for their survival in this world—they are the ones who put their lives on the line for others. For example, a dark-skinned, Black, trans woman started the movement and put her life on the line. I would like to see more representations of those women and femmes.