A vegan drag queen’s journey to conscious cosmetics

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Drag queen Honey LaBronx shares her first experiences with make-up and journey to veganismThe Vegan Society Conscious Choices graphic featuring drag queen Honey La Bronx

The first time I ever walked down the street as drag queen Honey LaBronx, I asked a friend for help when it came to applying my make-up. Prior to this, I knew nothing about make-up or the art of drag, aside from what I had learned from two decades of doing make-up for theatre. For example, I had the skills to transform my 30-year-old face into that of a 50-year-old man and I loved this power to change my appearance, but I knew nothing about how to use make-up to appear feminine.

Thankfully, that day my friend Alex Michaels, known today as Alexis Michelle from RuPaul’s Drag Race and All-Stars, was happy to transform me into Honey as a favour.

First memories of cosmetics

Back in the 80s, I had an older teenage sister who was living the fantasy of hair spraying her bangs, going to the mall and dressing like Molly Ringwald. I didn’t know what this was, but I wanted to be a part of it somehow. When I was older and starting to experiment with my self-expression, I would play with my mom’s make-up when the chance presented itself. It’s funny to think of all the times my mom came home and I would hear her shout my name. She wouldn’t yell for either of my two sisters, it was always “Benny! Were you going through my make-up?”

The start of my drag career

I tried to pay attention to what Alex was teaching me as he painted my face, but it was more of a makeover than a tutorial. I later had him write a long list of the essential products for a basic drag face, and even after I had acquired all the products, I needed to call him the first few times to walk me through all the steps.

With Alex’s help, I had made my first drag appearance in October of 2009. I’d been vegetarian for five months and intended to go fully vegan. “Just not yet…” I told myself. In the meantime, I was already listening to Food for Thought, a wonderful podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. So, while I was still allowing myself eggs and dairy, I was absorbing as much knowledge as I could to help make the transition easier.

My gut reaction to veganism had initially been “Oh, I could never do that...” But if there’s anything I’ve learned from over a decade in drag, it’s that there is no such thing as impossible.

Vegan make-up

By June of 2012, I had been doing drag nearly three years and had already started both a podcast and a cooking show on YouTube. I attended a vegan event in SoHo called “The Seed” where my friend Mo Elliot was giving a talk on vegan and cruelty-free make-up. I learned so much that day – from potential non-vegan ingredients that are included in some make-up products (such as carmine, otherwise known as cochineal, a red colouring extracted from insects), to animal hair in make-up brushes, and the complex nature of animal testing.

For over a decade now, I’ve been wanting to put together some kind of a vegan drag make-up tutorial but the truth is, there are many better make-up artists out there. But when I have tried to think how I might distil a decade of vegan drag knowledge, I not only want to recommend products that work, but in a perfect world, I want to know I am recommending products that people can afford.

Making conscious drag make-up accessible

Drag make-up more closely resembles theatrical make-up than over-the-counter cosmetics. When I’m on tour, I can’t always go to speciality theatrical make-up suppliers and as a result I’ve become rather passionate about getting as much make-up as possible from my nearest pharmacy. When I do find a company whose cosmetics work well for drag and also meet my ethical standards, I will usually try to buy whatever I can from them.

Honey La Bronx headshot (credit Davide Laffe)

Photo credit: Davide Laffe

Conscious choices

When I first went vegan, I never would have imagined I would apply the same principles to my skincare and cosmetics as I do to my dietary choices. But today, especially as someone who uses drag as an artistic medium to get the public to engage with issues like animal rights, I draw strength from knowing that I am being ethically consistent.

Before I became vegan, I don’t think I could have told you what it meant to be “ethically consistent”, but today I am very grateful that this is my guiding principle in life. I always say: How you do anything is how you do everything. If I am choosing consciously and compassionately when selecting a product, I am more likely to keep that same open mind the next time I stumble across an issue I don’t know enough about.

My biggest tip for people wanting to make more conscious choices would be to educate yourself. Find out what’s going into the products you use, and how they are made. Talk to your friends and family about the issues you care about and help them to make decisions that are kinder to animals too. It’s so much easier when we can support each other!

We all know how satisfying it feels to know that just by making the right choice three times a day, we can contribute to a healthier, less violent world. It’s even more satisfying to know that following these values in every aspect of your life helps make the world kinder and more inclusive for everyone, non-human animals and humans alike.

By Honey LaBronx, the Vegan Drag Queen. Find Honey at @HoneyLaBronx on social media. 

For more information please visit the Conscious Choices campaign page. Follow The Vegan Society on FacebookInstagram and X and use the hashtag #ConsciousChoices to join the conversation!

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