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In Conversation With... Lulu Cerone

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Lulu Cerone is an activist, author and artist from Los Angeles. When they were just ten years old, Lulu founded a youth empowerment organization called LemonAID Warriors. The nonprofit helps young people make philanthropy a regular part of their everyday lives by encouraging them to host events that give back. Lulu's debut book, PhilanthroParties! A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back, was published in 2017 and they currently study Film and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University. When they graduate, Lulu plans on queering the movie industry 4ever.

My earliest experience with makeup was definitely during Halloween. Halloween has always been my favorite day of the year, and I remember spending all of my allowance as a kid on spirit gum and fake blood. I pretty much mastered monster makeup by age ten. I’ve always had a passion for dressing up and temporarily transforming myself. Looking back on it, I think my early monster makeup days were pretty formative in terms of how I view makeup now. I’ve never seen makeup as a way to mask insecurities, but rather as a mode of creativity and natural extension of self-expression.

When I was 12, I started going to an all-girls school, which stifled my journey with gender. I loved my school, but its ideology was completely defined by the cis female experience. My one outlet was theater. It was the only space on campus where gender wasn’t absolute. My theater department never brought in outside actors, so having the freedom to audition for any role regardless of its gender was really freeing. My theater teacher also embraced androgyny and queer expression, and gender was treated as a really fluid thing in our productions. It’s the first time I ever experienced anything like that, and having that space growing up really helped me come to terms with my own identity.

For awhile I saw makeup as a hindrance. I think that sometimes as a nonbinary person, there can be a pressure to distance yourself from every aspect of the gender you were assigned at birth. I don’t wanna speak universally because everyone’s experience with gender is completely different, but I know that was true for myself. During periods of gender dysphoria, I would reject all things that are seen as traditionally “feminine,” like makeup, because I was afraid people wouldn’t take my non-binary identity seriously. But that also implies a super cis-hetero definition of makeup, that it’s something exclusively used by women to make themselves appear more attractive to men. And that’s not how makeup should be defined. I now see makeup as a way to express myself and my queerness, and as a way to totally dismantle cis-heteronormativity rather than conform to it.

I can’t believe I’m actually admitting this right now and please don’t @ me, but honestly the first figure I remember finding beautiful was Shrek. I was obsessed with Shrek, and according to my parents I would watch the Shrek movies over and over again and talk about how beautiful he was. I guess it kind of makes sense -- he’s such an unapologetic dude and really couldn’t care less about what other people think of him, which is something I admire. I guess that sort of crossed over into my adolescence, when I got really into the anarchy of 80s punk and goth music and fashion. I gravitated towards people like Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, Richard Hell, Poison Ivy of The Cramps, Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux (who is still my biggest makeup inspiration tbh), people who really embodied chaos and rejected social norms. My definition of beauty is still the same-- I appreciate people who do their own thing and disrupt boundaries whenever possible.

My mom taught me how to find the perfect shade of red lipstick, and when I was 13 my YMCA summer camp counselor showed me how to make sure my wings are even. Two very valuable lessons. I also came out for the first time at YMCA summer camp which I think is really funny.

It can be hard to stay inspired in such a torrid political climate. So I constantly surround myself with art and books and music. I want to make films and so I’m trying to watch a movie everyday. I also consume as much queer media as possible and stay up to date with trans and nonbinary artists and activists. I’m obsessed with Felix Walworth’s music right now and really admire Chella Man’s art and activism. I’ve also been revisiting Sadie Benning’s films, who started shooting videos on their Fisher-Price camera when they were 15. They’ve been hugely influential throughout my adolescence, and I really recommend their work.

Photo Credits to Meghan Marshall