CoverGirl’s new model pushes boundaries

James Charles is CoverGirl's first male model to headline a campaign.
James Charles is CoverGirl's first male model to headline a campaign.
James Charles is CoverGirl’s first male model to headline a campaign.

By Ollie Gratzinger | Staff Columnist

For the first time in almost 60 years, CoverGirl’s newest cover girl is, in fact, a boy.

According to The New York Times, 17-year-old James Charles has joined the celebrity ranks of Katy Perry, Pink and Zendaya as a model for the beauty company. He’s well known on Instagram, with a follower count exceeding 650,000; but soon, his incredible make-up skills will be showcased in a campaign for CoverGirl’s newest mascara called “So Lashy.”

This brings us as a society one step closer to full gender equality among all industries, fashion included.

Junior Kayla Casavant is the public relations and communications chair of Lambda, Duquesne’s Gay/Straight Alliance, and she thinks that James Charles is setting the stage for wider mainstream acceptance of gender nonconformity.

“I think it’s so incredible that he is breaking down gender barriers,” Casavant said. “It’s always made me so sad that our society tries to force people into boxes. People should be allowed to enjoy whatever they’d like regardless of their sex or gender. I personally don’t feel like I conform to societal expectations of women, and I’m very proud of that. I think our world could learn a lot from this young man. As soon as people find out the sex of a fetus they begin making assumptions about who that person will be. Not everybody is going to fit the mold, and that is absolutely beautiful.”

It’s true that society tends to color inside the lines of gender in terms of pinks and blues. Certain characteristics are attributed to boys, such as athleticism and logicality. Likewise, other characteristics, like beauty and emotionalism, are attributed to women. Not only is this an innately harmful stereotype, but it’s just plain inaccurate. The roles assigned to each gender are little more that the constructions of a society that expects too much: Women can be athletic and rational just as men can be emotional and beautiful.

Freshman Dominic Ceccarelli says that Charles — and everyone who dares to break the gender binary —are assets to the modern feminist movement.

“It’s so rad, and it’s great for feminism,” Ceccarelli said. “Guys being feminine is a huge step forward in femininity not being looked down upon. With it, we’re one step closer to a universal understanding of the true nature of gender.”

We live in a time during which the social norm is actively being questioned. Where once we might’ve seen a pull towards the traditional, we experience a push towards newness and unconventionality. It’s encouraged to question the established and demand answers. It’s encouraged to think outside of the pink-and-blue clad box and look around to note the existence of everything else.

This, whether it’s the result of social progression or something else entirely, is helping to eradicate those feelings of otherness and alienation. Perhaps now more than ever, men, women and those in between feel more comfortable to be their true selves, free from the expectant ties that once tethered them to roles they didn’t want to fill.

Freshman Lex Manker is among the many who had heard of James Charles before CoverGirl made his name known to makeup lovers everywhere.

“With the recent James Charles’ ‘CoverBoy’ phenomenon, he’s caused quite an uproar in the respects of equality,” Manker said. “However, if you are a makeup guru or follow some of YouTube or Instagram’s top beauty accounts, you already know exactly who James Charles is. He’s a renowned Instagram celeb, and he’s been making moves for gender equality for quite some time now. CoverGirl has finally given him the mass-media push that he needs to make all the moves he finds necessary. I think his cover is extreme impactful and should not be undermined. The importance of this is exponential as gender-neutral people can finally see that their acceptance has gone beyond the occasional Tumblr post or tweet. It’s international now. Of course, this is only the beginning of gender equality, but it’s definitely a good beginning.”

Hopefully, we’ll see more people like James Charles getting the attention that they deserve. Beyond that, though, the new media focus on gender neutrality could mean the world to young people — and older ones, too — who struggle with issues of gender identity or even just have interests that contradict what society has taught them they should like. The big message to be proclaimed here is one of acceptance and individuality, and it should be proclaimed loudly, proudly and without apology. Gender roles are relics of a time long passed, and soon, society is going to move beyond them, too. Equality, as we’ve learned, means equality for all and nothing less.

So boys, don’t be afraid to try some eyeliner or paint your nails. Find your shade of lipstick and take a selfie for Instagram, and most importantly — for men, women and all in between — never be afraid to be intrepidly, irrevocably you.