The Drag Queen Who Never Gets Hair Caught In Her Lip Gloss


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“Hi! My name is Shea Couleé (@sheacoulee), and I am a drag queen, model, actress, recording artist… For short, you can just say ‘excellent.’ I’m based in Chicago, where I’ve lived for about 12 years now. I grew up nearby, in the southwest suburbs. I’ve always loved performing, developing looks, and doing makeup, and I got into drag because I needed an outlet for all of those different interests. I never thought it would be my full career, but I did set my sights on Drag Race immediately. I was such a fan, and it felt like the best platform to showcase queer artists. The first time I auditioned, I had only been doing drag for four months. But I auditioned every single year for five years, got onto Season 9, and the rest is all history! As just a viewer, I don’t think I understood how fast the show goes. It’s a well-oiled machine, and you really have to get into the rhythm. I’m going back on the road in 2022, so I’ve been spending a lot of time writing new music. But I’ve also been focusing on a partnership with Quiet Girl Shoppe, which is a Black woman-owned business out in Naperville, near where I grew up. I had been using their products and thought they were really good, so I reached out and asked if they wanted to collab on a shea butter-based soap.

When I am not in drag, good skincare is good makeup. My skin needs a break to heal. My girl Farrah Moan got me into Sunday Riley when we were on tour. It was 75 cities in three months, doing shows night after night, and the heavy makeup was wreaking havoc on my skin. It was getting dull. Farrah recommended Good Genes, and breaking down the dead skin with a little lactic acid absolutely made it more radiant. Another thing I learned from Farrah is that I should use oils, even though I have oily skin. They stop my skin from overproducing oil and getting clogged.

The Youth To The People Superfood Green Tea Cleanser has a really nice lather and is super gentle. I also have their exfoliating mask, which I kind of use as a first cleanse in the shower. It’s a very fine exfoliating scrub, so I like to go in with the Superfood afterwards to take off any leftover particles. My favorite toner used to be Sunday Riley’s Martian Toner, but they discontinued it. What I loved is that it wasn’t super astringent—it was kind of a water gel, and all the products I used afterwards sunk in better. I felt like it give me more bang for my buck. Anyway, I’m still looking for my replacement. I always use one of two active oils: Sunday Riley’s UFO oil is a nice clarifying oil with oregano, and it’s good for keeping my skin clear. And their Luna oil is my favorite retinol. After that I’ll use a couple drops of Youth to the People’s Dream Oil on top. And in the morning, my final step is the Fenty Beauty Hydra Vizor sunscreen. It doesn’t leave a cast.

Patrick Starrr’s One/Size Primer fills in any texture, which gives me a really good base. And then I use three different foundations. I took a class on color theory in college, which comes in handy now; there are so many ways to play around with color and glam, and I think that’s why I love having a rich complexion so much. Even with expansive shade ranges, foundation oxidizes and changes color when it dries. So I use an Anastasia foundation that’s a very warm brown in the center of my face, and as I go to the outer perimeter of my face and neck, I move towards a neutral Smashbox one, and then a cooler Fenty one. It looks more natural that way. After my foundation I go in with a highlight from Juvia’s Place concentrated in the center of my face, and cream contour by Fenty Beauty. I powder and set it with a Morphe Deep contour palette, which just gives it more depth and diffusion. Sometimes I use the blush in that Morphe palette, but I also like to use a crimson red or purple from Ben Nye, which is theatrical makeup but looks really dynamic. I use two shades of Fenty beauty highlighter, Mimosa Sunrise, which is a peachy pink, and 7daywknd, which is a really cool lavender. They’re really beautiful together. I like to highlight the apples of my cheeks, my brow bone, above my lips, and a little bit on my chin.

I create my brow shape with a dark brown brush tip liquid eyeliner from Nyx. If you hold a makeup brush from the corner of your nose through the iris of your eye, where the brush lands on your brow bone should be the highest arch of your eyebrow. If you tilt it from your nostril past the outer corner of your eye, that spot will be where your brow ends. And then if you go up the center, past the inner corner of your eye, that’s the front. That’s the most balanced brow shape. I’ve done it so many times on my face that I just know, and once the shape is there I’ll use the That’s the Point superfine liner to draw on individual hairs. I love to use the Anastasia Beverly Hills eye primer to create my cut crease. And the best advice I can give about lash application is to put the glue on top of the track rather than the inside of it. That way, when you apply the lashes, the glue sitting on top pulls them up so you don’t have droopy lashes. Kim Chi taught me that. I like to buy different lash strips at the beauty supply store, cut them up, and put them together. Sometimes longer lashes can cover up the makeup, so I place really long individual lashes farther apart so you can see through them.

Just like I contour my face, I contour my lips. I always line them with a black lip liner first, then a brown lip liner, and blend the black into the brown. The nude Fenty Stunna Lip Paints are really beautiful, and I concentrate the color in the center of my lips and leave the corners alone, which helps create a nicer pout. Because I like a glossy effect but don’t want to get hair caught in my lip gloss when I’m performing, I’ll dab a shimmer eyeshadow onto the center of my lip with my pinky to give the effect of it being wet.

I love to eat, and Chicago is great for that. But another thing I love to do when I’m not working is play this game called Dead by Daylight. I play online with my boyfriend and my friends Detox, Farrah Moan, and Tony Soto. The premise is: you’re in a maze being hunted by a serial killer, and you have to fix five generators in order to power up the doors and escape. It is so anxiety-inducing, but for some reason I love it and feel relaxed afterwards. And playing it with friends, hearing a bunch of drag queens screaming while they’re being chased in a video game, makes it almost comical.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author