The Rule Breakers: We Explore How 8 Individuals Use Beauty as Self-Expression
There's nothing more freeing than feeling whole and beautiful in your skin—regardless of trends, so-called beauty "rules", or accepted presentation. But it's also tough. Acceptance and individuality, in this world, don't always go hand in hand. Which is why we celebrate those who offer their unique looks and voices without apology. These are The Rule Breakers. The individuals who "do them" regardless of what that looks like. It's by their example that we can find inspiration, authenticity, and permission to be ourselves. Below find the humans that have energised us—through their hair and makeup looks, of course, but also their words, ideas, and fresh perspectives.
Marley Parker is a born-and-raised New Yorker who blends various beauty looks on her Instagram as aptly as she does genres of music as DJ She Marley Marl. She undeniably vibey—her style matches her personality in all its eclectic, original, and raw glory, and it all comes across as both authoritative and spontaneous in equal measure. She says of her beauty inspiration: "I'm inspired by a lot of my friends, people I meet every day, and my environment! I have a love for so many things, which forces me to find a way to connect and intertwine everything."
Parker admits she used to hate her signature curls as evidence of internalised racism. "I wanted to have straight hair—most of my childhood idols had straight hair because of how whitewashed the media is," she told us. She looks to Rihanna as an icon, though, musing that the singer and beauty entrepreneur "has a beautiful gift of making women of colour feel beautiful, fly, and important."
Sarah Feingold launched a magazine with VICE called No Basic Girls Allowed, a publication meant to reach "a woman who is in the process of learning to know, accept, and love herself on all levels—mind, body, and spirit. A woman who, because she focuses on personal growth and self-awareness, experiences a life increasingly filled with peace, love, joy, passion, and fun." Feingold wants the magazine's content to feature "all the good and positive things in life," as she "visualises these things every day with the intention to inspire and motivate people to achieve their goals."
She offers a feed on her Instagram that's meant to inspire—an eclectic, bold, and beautiful collection of images that feature creative makeup looks, her gorgeous natural curls, and other photos we're already planning to print and pin to a mood board.
Simi and Haze Khadra
Simi and Haze Khadra, 23-year-old identical sisters, were born in Saudi Arabia, raised in London, and attended high school in Dubai. Now, they're climbing the It-girl ranks as successful models and DJs. They were first recognized for their style and beauty choices, which naturally, has grown exponentially along with their reach on social media.
Their neon-painted tips, electric-adorned lids, and multicolored eyebrows act as a visual feast for anyone who scrolls through their feed. But they're not just here for show. Simi told WWD, "When ideas, rather than people or events, permeate most of your conversations, that's when you know you're hanging with the right people, and that's one of the major reasons I feel confident that I can do whatever I want to do."
Kate Bowman is a model and actress living in New York City. She also doesn't shave her body hair—a choice that should be hers alone, and yet, of course, other people have tons of things to say about it. She spoke of the decision she made in middle school to leave her hair as is, on Man Repeller: "Embracing my sexuality transformed the way I thought, not only about physical things like body hair, but also about the way I wanted to represent myself. It was a huge mental leap. Gradually, I started becoming more comfortable with my body, especially as I realised I didn't have to change myself in order to feel beautiful."
When she was 18, Bowman was photographed by Olivier Zahm, Pat McGrath asked her to model her makeup line, and her career took off. She notes, "I'm aware of my privilege as a cisgender, white, able-bodied woman in being able to do that, though. It is much easier for me to make the choice to grow out my body hair than it is for a person of color or a trans woman. I'm not a champion of the body hair movement. I'm not. I'm just being myself, and that's the message I want to send: Be yourself, no matter what, in whatever way you feel most comfortable. Never let anyone else take your identity away from you."
Kelsey Lu left her strict religious community to study music. Now, a classically trained cellist and indie artist, Lu is recognized for both her soulful music and her artful hairstyles. She told i-D of a time a woman approached her on the street and scolded her for the way her hair looked. "She saw us—a beautiful group of youth, a beautiful mix of people who are all so happy—and she just couldn't take it. I felt so sad for her," Lu told the magazine.
However, judgment and shame are burdens she has replaced with love—and she has no problem wearing her hair any way she so chooses. Her chameleon-like style and colour choices are all so distinctly different, but they're beautiful just the same.
"I just kind of woke up one day a year ago and decided it was time to be bald!" model Jazzelle Zanaughtti told Vogue of her choice to buzz her hair. "A few months later, my friend had bleach and I was like, 'Oh, that could be fun,' and here I am now." She says of her brows: "I used to bleach them, but then it started bleaching my skin underneath, so I just said, 'Fuck it,' and shaved them off," she explains. "It's 10 times easier, looks better, and makeup goes on a lot smoother."
The Detroit-born model has an androgynous look, sure, but for Zanaughtti, it has nothing to do with the trend. A breath of fresh air in an industry so caught up in Photoshop-packaged "flawlessness", the model laments she doesn't think about gender and credits childhood bullying and the queer scene in Chicago to finding herself. "I definitely pass as white," Zanaughtti told i-D, "so I have that privilege and I have to support my people and rep where I come from."
On Instagram, you can find her fresh, exciting makeup looks and a lot of inspiration—anything from her thoughts on confidence to acceptance and glittery eyebrows.
"Makeup doesn't necessarily have any energy," photographer Quil Lemons says to Allure. "It's just products, and society gives it that gendering. It's weird. Nothing says it's for boys or for girls. We just put those labels on it." It's this very crossroads—the intersection of masculinity, gender, and race that Lemons' alter ego, Glitter Boy, creates space.
The Glitter Boy photo project reminds me of a conversation I had last year with John Legend about the idea that black men are meant to be "hypermasculine, violent, and invincible," and yet, "there's plenty of black men who don't fit that stereotype and their masculinity is valid." He spoke of "complicating the notion of what it means to be a black man," which is something Lemons is taking to task. He wears and photographs men in glitter as a way to showcase "black boys experimenting with anything that's really feminine," he told i-D. Now, he's been featured in Milk Makeup's glitter stick campaign and put his skills on display with Fenty Beauty's now-iconic Trophy Wife highlighter.
Japanese model Manami Kinoshita was discovered in a Tokyo coffee shop, and she's no stranger to color. Kinoshita documents the bold, bright colors and textures she uses on her face as often as the various neon colors she dyes her hair. "Manami's unapologetic energy shape her as the quintessential anti-model," Metal Magazine wrote of Kinoshita. And it's true. She'll go makeup-free, shave her head, and then appear entirely done up a moment later. She's everything that's interesting and fun about beauty—the joy, the reflection, the personality.
She told i-D, "It's like Bruce Lee said in Enter the Dragon: 'Don't think—feel.' My best advice to other young creatives is to try not to view yourself through someone else's filter."
Next up: These are 24 summer makeup looks you can re-create right now.