Perhaps you’ve seen this photo, or at least something like it, at least once in the past week or so.
That, peoples, is an 8-year-old boy by the name of Ethan, and one day last week, he and his mother walked into a MAC Cosmetics store with a simple request: Ethan wanted to learn how to do makeup, just like in the instructional videos he’s seen on YouTube.
Ethan’s request floored the makeup artist they spoke with, Joey Killmeyer, who told the Huffington Post, “He reminded me of myself at that age. It touched my heart that I was able to help him learn what he wanted to know.” Joey obliged the request, of course, first by painting one-half of Ethan’s face, than guiding Ethan on how to apply it on the unfinished half.
A couple of other comments from that HuffPost article: Ethan’s mom stated that she hopes society can break out of those hidebound gender roles; allowing Ethan to learn makeup is one way for him to break that binary and find a way of self-expression, in addition to just being a kid. Indeed, the article indicates that Ethan has thought about doing makeup on others, believing that being his own guinea pig is an easy way to learn.
Whatever the reasoning, it is indeed great to see such an impressionable lad seeking that way to express himself, as well as learn something new. Hopefully, his trip to MAC will inspire him to consider a career in beauty, or at least inspire him to find new ways to become well-rounded and express his ambitions further, wherever those ambitions may take him.
I kept thinking about Ethan’s story most of the day today after learning about the passing of another certain gender bender and well-rounded person. I seriously think we wouldn’t be hearing of stories such as Ethan’s if this person hadn’t had shattered the gender binary first:
Oh, sure, David Bowie did have some efforts of note prior to Ziggy Stardust. But when he unleashed Ziggy on the world in the early 1970s, it was nothing short of groundbreaking. There was Ziggy, fully regaled in bright hair, heavy makeup, flamboyant clothes and dresses.
When Ziggy beamed down from wherever planet he came from, he wasn’t just making a statement at the time, he was forecasting the future: Sexual and gender identities would be fluid, and it would be okay to express that fluidity. Needless to say, such thoughts were not normal in the somewhat-freewheeling-yet-still-conservative 1970s. But Ziggy’s time on Earth and its lingering effects proved this indelible fact: It was okay to express yourself any way you wanted to do so. You wanted to be and look flamboyant? Fine. You weren’t sure if you were a boy or a girl? It’s okay. You’re thinking you’re attracted to men when you’re expected to be courting women (or vice versa)? That’s okay, too. You wanted to put tradition in a whirl? Go right ahead. Be as different and as weird as you wanted to be, as long as you felt comfortable enough to be you.
While David Bowie taught us Earthlings those lessons about being ourselves while being Ziggy Stardust, I think there was another lesson, albeit one that was perhaps not as obvious, that he taught the world: It’s okay to evolve. Sure enough, he would do a lot of other things after Ziggy beamed back home. He would produce. He would appear on the silver screen. He would appear on stage (as was The Elephant Man, no less). He stood up against racial inequality in American entertainment, including the lack of diversity on MTV (even daring to address the matter to MTV’s face, no less).
And, of course, David Bowie would continue to record and release new music. Heck, he just released a new album a couple of days before he died. I admit as a kid of the 80s, I’m partial to his work from the middle of that decade, most notably songs like “Let’s Dance,” “Modern Love,” and (“Daah dahh dat! Dah dat!”) “Blue Jean.” Of course, maturity has allowed me — and all of us — to appreciate his work as a whole, as well as the influence that will last well beyond his passing. (Really, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Young Americans” at least once in your life. Even my fuddy-duddy uncle was tapping his fingers to it when he first heard it, and he hated rock music.)
When looking up some links for this post, I came across this list of notable David Bowie quotes. No, no, they’re interview quotes, not song lyrics. One of those quotes that really hit me was this one from 1971, in which he talked about his stage performances (or “theatrical experiences” for him and his audience). “I don’t want to climb out of my fantasies in order to go up onstage, he said; “I want to take them on stage with me.”
I like to think that’s an apropos thought for all of us. Sure, not all of us can sing like Bowie did (I know I certainly can’t), and some of us aren’t comfortable being all flamboyant (and that’s okay). But I imagine all of us have some variety of fantasies in our minds. Sure, they may not all be the Ziggy Stardust type of fantasies (and that’s okay), but they’re probably the types of fantasies that would make our lives better if they came into fruition. Your fantasy could be finding a better job, or finding that one true love, or even going someplace exotic (that is, if you haven’t found or done all those already). Heck, your fantasy could be like young Ethan’s at the top of this post: Just learning how to do makeup.
So, as we continue performing on the big stage that is our lives, it wouldn’t hurt to take those fantasies with us. And before we exit off that stage, make an effort to add flesh to those fantasies. David Bowie sure did, and his awesome, wide-ranging life and career certainly proved it.