Instagram is so, so full of makeup artists and beauty bloggers. Turn on any explore page, and you’ll see enough tutorials and product reviews and experimental looks to make your head spin. But some certainly stand out — like Lauren Leonard, a 25-year-old makeup artist from Chicago with 300K followers.
Lauren’s talent speaks for itself but we wanted to actually speak to the girl that tries these daring and fashion-forward looks, often inspired by drag (her favorite RuPaul's Drag Race contestants include Raja, Katya, and Kim Chi, all excellent choices). But she also has vitiligo and she uses her platform to inspire others with the condition. Lauren describes the patches around her eyes as her “signature” and her eye makeup often goes to highlight how very beautiful they are.
“I’ve always been the weirdo of my family and related to a lot of different subcultures and aesthetics,” Lauren said. “And makeup was always a big part of self-expression for me. So even now, it’s basically like an accessory, and it’s about me expressing myself and my creativity.”
Her makeup is nothing if not bold — favorite looks include bright, glossy eyes, painterly liners and over-the-top designs that recall ‘90s club kids. She doesn’t like following specific trends (besides strobing) and likes to keep her contour and eyebrows soft and natural in order to not take away from her eyes. And Lauren wears her looks IRL; they aren’t just for the ‘gram. “A lot of the time I don’t wear them out because I just don’t have anything to do,” she laughed. “But last minute, even if I just have to go to the grocery store, I will wear them out. I get some funny looks, but it’s nothing I’m not used to.”
Lauren was first diagnosed with vitiligo as a kid and the patches on her eyes first began developing about five years ago. It was a tough, long journey to self-acceptance. “Oh, it was so hard,” she said. “My family never had me feel some type of way about it, it was all me. But I always felt like I would never be normal like the rest of my friends, and that carried on as a teenager and into my early twenties."
“When the ones on my face started, that really spooked me,” she continued. “I was really insecure about it. I was scared to show them off. The only people who saw them were my family, my closest friends, my boyfriend at the time and the people I worked with, because I worked so early on Saturday mornings that I didn’t feel like getting up even earlier to do makeup. But then I noticed that people either didn’t care about it or they were extremely loving and accepting of it. So I took it upon myself when I was about 21 to step out of my comfort zone and show it off a little bit more.”
Lauren started posting on Instagram and receiving positive responses, and over time became wholly confident. “Now it’s kind of a signature for me, and I don’t intend on covering it up any time soon,” she said. “Now when I cover it up, it just feels wrong. I love the way it looks.”
Through Instagram, she hears from tons of kids with vitiligo and other skin conditions, as well as their parents. “It’s crazy to me, in a good way,” she said. “I didn’t have anybody to look up to when I was a kid. I never knew anybody with vitiligo. And because I was so insecure for a really, really long time, I never envisioned myself as being any kind of inspiration to other people with [the condition]. So it’s amazing to hear people’s stories or what they’ve gone through or how I’ve helped them feel more confident or to experiment more with their look. That really drives me to do what I do even more.”
Lauren’s platform has been optimized in an ideal way. “I hope that I’m showing people that you don’t have to let something as silly as a skin condition keep you from doing what you want to do, or looking how you want to look,” she said. It’s pretty clear that she has.
(Photo: Lauren Elyse via Instagram)
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