Meet The Local Creatives Championing Beauty For All
Jimmy D designer James Dobson and actor/model Andre Sv are the friends behind new Youtube channel Beauty Benders
We've been keeping an eye on the newest beauty YouTube channel Beauty Benders, from Jimmy D fashion designer James Dobson and actor/model Andre Sv. Launched over lockdown, it came at time when many of us were looking for ways to be creative within the confines of home.
James founded his label in 2004, creating an aesthetic based on a dark sensibility with a wry sense of humour. His deconstructed and androgynous designs are worn by the likes of this week's cover star Benee, Lorde and Troye Sivan.
Andre has been involved in the New Zealand fashion industry for several years as a model, and as a muse to the Jimmy D label. His acting credits include appearances in The Rehearsal (2016) and Sui Generis (2017).
Described as a platform to showcase makeup and beauty for men, non-binary people and those that think outside the box when it comes to beauty, the naivety of Beauty Benders is part of its appeal, with fun, lo-fi videos that capture those very first introductions to makeup many people have experienced.
"We know nothing about makeup. James drinks too much sauvignon blanc, Andre has a questionable grasp of the English language, but at the end of the day, it’s just two friends discovering the pure joy of makeup together."
The charming duo took the time to share their morning beauty routine with us.
Beauty and skincare is such a big part of self-representation and how we present ourselves to the world. Why is the idea of Beauty Benders so important to you?
James: For that exact reason - we see makeup as pure self-expression completely separate from gender. There are cisgender women that feel strong societal pressure to wear makeup without any desire to do so (so why should they?!), and at the same time, there are men or non-binary people who would love to but feel embarrassed or even scared to experiment with makeup because of how we associate makeup with femininity, and in turn femininity with weakness. We want beauty to get to a point where it’s more connected to style and is considered in the same way as deciding what accessories you want to wear in the morning.
We also just want to bring the joy back to makeup. Instagram and YouTube have made beauty really prescriptive, like 'these are the exact steps or products you need to use in order to wear makeup'. You see REALLY young Instagrammers priming their faces with Tatcha Silk Canvas, contouring and cutting their creases, etc. It’s mind-blowing! We just wanto to show that makeup can and should be fun, and there are other options for how you can wear makeup - it doesn’t always need to be ‘pretty’.
We also don’t want makeup to be thought of as something you need to use to cover up or to mask insecurities. Again, we just want to think of it as a form of self-expression that you can dip into as heavily or lightly as you would like.
Andre: The idea that one’s appearance needs to be consistent with respect to symbolic 'masculine/feminine' norms seems very archaic. The deviation of makeup away from these cues and towards style, in general, is central to Beauty Benders. Doesn’t it seem absurd that a bit of pigment mixed with a little emulsifier + a preservative should largely determine what gender role others should expect me to take on?
Who are your beauty icons and why?
James: The Divine David. Makeup artists like Val Garland, Pat McGrath, Peter Phillips and Inge Grognard (who Andre introduced me to) that have created some of the most iconic looks of our time. Seeing Marc Jacobs discover makeup during lockdown on his "Too-Torials" on Instagram was really refreshing. His approach was just really naive and playful and the total antithesis to influencer culture.
What do you hope people get out of watching your videos?
James: The desire to play, experiment and have fun with makeup. To see it as an exciting flourish to an outfit and to separate it from gender.
Andre: If you are watching me fail to match my foundation for the fifth time, or blend my eyeshadow with my fingers, or butchering the pronunciation of Chantecaille yet again, you might be thinking 'this guy should not be talking about makeup!'
WATCH: Beauty Benders episode 6
Beauty Benders also celebrates all types of beauty and challenges the status quo. What advice do you have for anyone who might not have the confidence, but wants to express themselves through make-up? Where is a good place for them to start experimenting?
James: Start by educating yourself. There are a lot of really incredible makeup artists on YouTube or Instagram who are actually there for the artistry (not the drama). People like Alexandra Anele, Wayne Goss, Robert Welsh and Celine Bernaerts all have some really good entry-level videos.
Once you feel like you have an understanding of basic products and techniques, start analysing beauty looks that you like, sometimes it’s really small measures. Things like a swipe of gloss on an eyelid, a small dot of a metallic shadow on the inner corner of the eye or a smear of a highlighting balm on the cheekbones or cupids bow can make you feel like a million dollars and can be a super covert way of starting to wear makeup.
Andre: If you are a person who has been culturally influenced to avoid makeup, starting out can be hard. At first I had to think of an alibi every time I visited a makeup store, in case I would have to explain my purchase to a store assistant. Once you do it enough times, you realise there isn’t anything to it. I wish I was a lot more experimental from the get-go! Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help in a store! Or ask us haha! Oh, and watch our videos - we made a tonne of mistakes so you don’t have to.
What are you both currently listening to?
Andre: Chromatica by Lady Gaga.
James: Kim Petras, Sonikku, Macy Rodman, Caroline Polachek, Theia and Benee (duh!).