Makeup is a huge part of how most feminine-leaning individuals perform gender on a day-to-day basis. So huge, in fact, that most people rarely think about it in any kind of critical way; it becomes invisible. And when we do think about it, we often say we are wearing it “for ourselves,” as if such a decision could ever be made in a vacuum.

Personally, I’m not losing too much sleep over the fact that I sometimes put pigments on my face, either for fun or because society tells me to. But that doesn’t mean we should never think about what purpose makeup serves in the constant construction of gender roles within society.

Enter the MADE UP campaign, a project by University of Kansas art student Brenna Paxton, which seeks to make people do just that by getting couples to pose for portraits wearing each other’s daily beauty routines. Not all of said couples are heterosexual, but all of them have a partner who is more traditionally “masculine” and one who’s more “feminine.” The resulting photos are lighthearted but thought provoking, a good combination for any visual project. Here are some of them:


Paxton also did interviews with her subjects, questioning them about how the project, and wearing makeup in general, made them feel. The answers she got from women were not too surprising, for example:

“I feel like I wear makeup because I’m supposed to, because it’s just kind of the accepted thing to do. I mean, I enjoy doing it when I’m going out and stuff, you know, doing fun things. But the everyday thing…I just feel like I have to. So it’s just kind of the world I’ve been raised in.”

(This is not surprising because it’s how a lot of women I know feel about makeup.)


The more surprising answers came from the men, most of whom had probably never thought much about makeup before:

Paxton: How does it feel to have makeup on for the first time?

Man: It feels like I have my war paint on. I’m ready for battle but I don’t know what I’m fighting for.

To see the rest of the portraits, visit

(Via Bust)

Photos: Brenna Paxton