For many hair stylists, working with celebrity clients is their highest goal and the peak of their career. For 37-year-old beauty expert David Lopez, however, their long list of celebrity clients (including Chrissy Teigen and Ashley Graham, to name a couple) was just the beginning of his own journey into carving a space in the industry where he felt comfortable. At the start of the 2020 lockdowns Lopez exited celebrity hairstyling and began to create their now signature hair and makeup content on social media. Colorful wigs, immaculate makeup, and most importantly, extremely easy-to-follow beauty tips make his content as addicting as it is informative. “I wanted to create my own unique brand, taking what other people are so good at and bringing it to everyone that’s at home,” they say. 130 thousand Instagram followers and 107 thousand TikTok followers prove his mission resonates.
But it’s not just about educating the masses about using hot tools and clip-in extensions. Lopez’s hair and makeup looks are deeply personal and tied to exploring their own gender identity and expression. Coming from a traditional Puerto Rican family, Lopez now spends time exploring and breaking down gender expectations set upon men from birth, allowing his audience to follow along. In real-time they post about their gender expression journey on social media and on his blog Groom and Comb.
Below, Lopez talks to NYLON about starting out in beauty, using hair and makeup as a tool for expression, and finding purpose in demystifying and degenderizing the beauty space.
On Getting Into Hair Styling
“I used to rip up paper towels into strips and run around the boardwalk in Puerto Rico pretending to watch my hair blowing in the wind. I was also always playing with my mom’s hair and my aunt’s hair. It’s a part of our culture and a huge part of my life. Even in high school, I always did my girlfriend’s hair. Then I went to college for film and when I dropped out I had to ask myself, ‘well what can I do now?’ I was bartending and at night would do all of the other bartenders’ hair. Finally, I quit bartending and went to beauty school. Then I was actually homeless and sleeping on people’s couchs, but led me down the path of assisting. I assisted Rodney Cutler for a couple of years where I got introduced to the world of fashion and celebrity and never looked back.”
On Exiting Celebrity Hair Styling
“I started doing celebrity clients with Chrissy Teigen, and after a few years I then worked with Hailey Bieber, Ashley Graham, Anne Hathaway, and Brie Larson. At that time, I felt like that was the pinnacle of what you could do in this career, but it wasn’t exactly fulfilling my soul. I wanted to be on TV and reach a larger audience because I knew I had something to share, I just didn’t know what it was. Then came the very pivotal moment in my career when I was asked to audition for the cast of Queer Eye. I was lucky that I got so close but didn’t make it, which forced me to examine what I do for a living and how I can use it to help people. I started putting myself in wigs and showing people how to do their own hair because I had spent my whole career working on models but that doesn’t help people at home. It didn’t feel real. I wanted to break things down and degenderize and demystify the beauty space.”
On Starting To Wear Makeup
“I always loved makeup growing up. When I saw my mom wear makeup I wanted to feel the feeling that I saw cis women get when they put on makeup. Theater was a gateway for that because it was a safe space to wear makeup. Then I moved to New York and the punk-rock-Pete-Wentz-era meant I could feel comfortable wearing eyeliner. I was always insecure about my undereyes and would wear concealer but wouldn’t want anyone to know. How I came to wear makeup now has been such a journey. I started by learning a lot of makeup artists like Eddie Adams. He told me, ‘girl just do it’ and it pushed me to practice my looks on myself. In March of 2020 I started posting them and I would be shaking while pressing post. Makeup is never something I’ve done professionally and it’s one of the few things I’ve never commodified. It’s between me and myself and I wanted it to stay that way.”
On Exploring Gender Expression With Beauty
“Putting myself in wigs really started my own gender expression journey. It started with my blog Groom and Comb, where I write my own articles after spending so many years doing interviews for different publications. It took off from there. Also working with someone like Ashley Graham really pushed me to be who I am, she just really empowered me through her own experience of being who she is. As I explored makeup on myself more, I started using it as a way to make myself feel better. I think people see it very viscerally—seeing my male and femme side altogether.”
On Male Celebrity Beauty Brands
“[Male celebrity beauty brands] are a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, the world is not ready for a queer person to have a makeup brand. Those brands are out there, but they’re not seen as revolutionary. It’s expected if a brand is from a YouTuber who’s gay, but it’s still revolutionary when a straight, heteronormative man does it. However, I will always say that if someone like MGK or Harry Styles can be the bridge between me and his followers, I think there’s an opportunity there. There might be cis males who look at Harry and think it’s chill. There’s a way to do it responsibly, but I’m never going judge any man for wanting to have a makeup or a skin care brand. I only see it as a vehicle and an opportunity to open more minds, always. I think it’s important for people to think hard about how we have created a system that genderizes beauty.”
On Their Best Beauty Hacks
“For makeup, I always tell people that if they’re doing an eyeshadow, keep one fluffy brush that stays clean and use it as your eraser brush. It’s a brush that only dips into a translucent powder so that anytime you put on eyeshadow and feel like it’s not blending well, you can buff around that edge and it completely diffuses it right away. For hair, a hack that I use personally a lot is spraying hair spray on your brush and gently swiping around your part to get rid of flyaways. It makes your hair look photoshopped IRL.”
Follow David Lopez on Instagram and TikTok.