Linda Casillas used to wake up at 4 a.m. every day just to do her makeup in high school.
“I would wear a full face – fake eyelashes, contour, colorful eye shadow,” the third-year art history student said.
Now, Casillas says she usually keeps her makeup neutral, but still expresses her artistry through her Instagram page, which features bright color palettes and themed designs – including an outline of Royce Hall adorning her eye, rimmed with yellow and blue eye shadow at the bottom.
The first inkling of her passion arose in middle school, she said, when she began watching online tutorials and, being particularly insecure about her eyebrows, playing with makeup. Later in high school, Casillas joined a dance team and started investing more time into her craft, helping her teammates with their makeup and sharing her work on Instagram.
Casillas, along with other students, has contributed to a growing community of makeup artists at UCLA who display their vibrant creations online. Though each has their own story of developing their passion for their craft, Casillas cultivated her skills through an artistic background.
She attended an arts high school in the San Fernando Valley that focused on the visual arts. She said she found a link between the things she was learning in class and her newfound hobby.
“I started finding that there was a connection between painting and makeup artistry, so I tried to combine my love for both of them – trying to do creative looks on my face and using my face as a canvas instead,” she said.
Casillas typically gets the inspiration for her own looks from other makeup artists on Instagram such as James Charles and Nikkie de Jager, widely known as NikkieTutorials on social media. In addition to the passion they have for their artistry, Casillas appreciates how the beauty influencers can be both avant-garde and natural in their styles, she said. Currently, the beauty industry focuses more on skin care and a healthy complexion in lieu of more experimental makeup. And though Casillas is interested in adopting this trend, she said she still loves crafting bold looks, one of her favorites being a dark, Halloween look, complete with black lipstick and black glitter eye shadow.
Second-year biochemistry student Olivia Watters said she doesn’t think these vibrant designs will go out of style because she is consistently inspired by what people can do with makeup, be it a new technique or a crazy color scheme. Like Casillas, Watters said she doesn’t often wear the looks on her Instagram page, such as rainbow gradient eye shadow or black lipstick, on the day-to-day. However, she still showcases them for parties and donned them this summer while working at Ulta Beauty. She often would take pictures of her extravagant makeup in the car just before heading into work, a couple of which she posted on her page, she said.
“I personally will always have love for colorful looks,” Watters said. “I might not do them all the time, but I think people are fascinated by them. But the intimidation factor, and the fact that it’s not super normal to wear teal eye shadow on a normal basis just scares people, and that’s why people don’t really want to try it.”
Watters began watching beauty YouTubers like Jackie Aina during her sophomore year of high school and would use her paychecks to buy makeup and recreate their looks. The de-stressing activity soon became one she shared on Instagram. Though Watters doesn’t hesitate to go out sans makeup, she said it still serves as a remedy for times when she feels like she is in a rut.
“On this journey with makeup and my own journey towards self-confidence, makeup helped prop me up a little bit for me to be able to come into my own … now I’ll walk around without makeup. I don’t care, I still think I’m that chick but it just really helps me sometimes get out of a rut if I’m feeling sad.” Watters said.
Serena Truong, president of Beauty and Cosmetics at UCLA, used to have a negative perception of makeup, thinking people who chose to wear it were too focused on their looks. However, the third-year sociology student realized makeup had a therapeutic effect in addition to a transformational quality and liked the idea of using it as an expressive and artistic way of presenting oneself. Though she usually reserves makeup for events or going out, sometimes it helps boost her mood to put on things such as fake eyelashes and purple, sparkly eye shadow on days when she’s not particularly keen on going to school, she said.
Instagram isn’t the only way people display their work. Truong said she was impressed by users on the short video platform TikTok who drastically changed their appearances using tools such as plaster and inserts in addition to makeup.
“I think that’s what really sparked this change of, ‘This is my face – I can do whatever I want,’” Truong said.
In general, Truong said she values the communities that have congregated around beauty – ones in which people can share their tips and techniques without judgement. Keanu Balani, a third-year political science student, has garnered more than 38,000 Instagram followers with his tutorials and holiday-inspired looks. He said that makeup has given minority communities, such as men who wear makeup, a way to express themselves.
“It’s a blessing because it’s given me and so many other people a platform to share our art and our creativity – it has normalized, in a sense, the trend of makeup,” he said.
Casillas also admires the inclusiveness of the industry, especially since her interest in makeup manifested when makeup for males became more popular, she said. She said she values the one-size-fits-all quality of cosmetic artistry.
“It’s an art form, and I think that’s something that everyone can appreciate, no matter what their race is, their gender (or) their background (is),” Casillas said. “I feel like art is universal, and everyone can appreciate it.”