EJ Moreno sits down with makeup artist and drag queen Raven…
Being RuPaul’s Drag Race royalty alone is no easy task, but being part of that legacy and striking out with your own is even more challenging. Drag race legend and Emmy-winning makeup artist Raven is figuring that out as he begins a new series journey. Painted With Raven premieres on November 25th, and we will see the drag legend in a whole new light: as host of a new show.
I had the honor of chatting with Raven over a Zoom call, though not on-camera. We both highlighted how odd that felt, but I said I wasn’t presentable to such a legend. “Ha! Well, I’ll let you think I’m in drag then to keep up the illusion.” With so much humor and heart, Raven opened about quite a bit during our chat.
During the interview, I asked Raven about their makeup origin story and early memories of cosmetics. Like many queens, Raven credits her mother for her earliest memories. “I felt like I had two different moms,” says Raven. “I’d see her in the morning, hair up for work…and then the woman in the evening with wet hair and smelling like Oil of Olay.” Speaking of early memories, I also asked Raven what they remember from fashion and makeup growing up. Not shockingly, MTV played a part in Raven’s makeup upbringing.
“The Thriller video was a huge moment. That’s when MTV would do huge event premieres, and you didn’t want to miss it. You also saw people like Boy George and Cyndi Lauper, which started my appreciation for makeup.” Like many from the time, you couldn’t avoid the bright and color vibes of the ‘80s, which Raven used as an influence in their early work.
Speaking of early work, Raven also dove into their history from Drag Race to his own show, Painted With Raven. I asked Raven when they first entered the workroom on RuPaul’s Drag Race was this something he’d ever expected. Raven said, “Not at all.” This also brought us to a moment of reflection and shared an incredible story of when RuPaul brought out an outfit from Raven’s season of Drag Race, and it sent Raven down a nostalgic trip. “I remembered that out, that was the first time I saw RuPaul in full drag, in person, and it forever stuck with me. So, to see that outfit now really brought me back.
We moved the conversation to Raven’s new show, Painted With Raven. Going from a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race to host their show is quite the transition, but Raven turned to Emmy-winning host RuPaul for some advice. When asked what one of the most significant pieces of advice Ru gave Raven was, the makeup artist said, “Ru reminded me that there’s a job to do at the end of the day. While it may be hard, you have to do it.”
And in true to RuPaul’s energy, the legendary drag queen reminded Raven of what got him to this point. Raven recalls Ru saying, “Be yourself; that’s what got you here.”
With the state of the makeup industry constantly changing, I wonder how a drag queen or makeup artist says motivated. We go to social media for many of us to check out the latest looks…and so does Raven. “Honestly, I do the same; I go through Instagram, I see the trends. I do tend to avoid tutorials, though.”
But what surprised me was Raven saying the contestants of Painted With Raven served as a massive inspiration. “The contestants on the show are insanely talented; we’d [Raven and the producers] go back after a challenge and sit amazed at the tricks and techniques. The things these kids can do is out of this world.”
Now, we know the series will have some impressive guests based on the first trailer, but I had to ask Raven who was a guest judge they’d love to have on Painted With Raven. I briefly mentioned makeup legend Pat McGrath and Raven sounded so happy. “Oh my goodness, it’s so funny you said that because she’s someone, I’d want as well. Pat is amazing and can offer so much. Sadly with the pandemic, it was a bit hard to get her, but we did do this over Zoom so let’s hope for the future.”
Painted With Raven debuts this Thursday, November 25th on WOW Presents Plus.
Many thanks to Raven for taking the time for this interview.