This week, James Charles got the chance to live out every fan of America's Next Top Model's dream: modeling for Covergirl. The 17-year-old is the first ever male-model to utter the iconic "Easy, breezy, beautiful… Covergirl!" for the brand— and it's a big deal. Covergirl campaigns are coveted, viewed as an affirmation of a celebrity's fame and selling power. It was the thing Tyra dangled in front of ANTM contestants' faces as motivation to perform wacky challenge after wacky challenge. Past Covergirl models include Katy Perry, Tyra Banks, Ellen Degeneres and Queen Latifah—which makes this moment ever the more impressive when you consider Charles earned the deal simply through his Youtube beauty tutorials and large social media following.
The campaign is an important one, yet another advance in the ever-growing representations of gender-fluidity and non-conformity currently ablaze in the fashion and beauty industry. There's Jaden Smith, who wore a skirt for Louis Vuitton earlier this year and Hood by Air with its much-talked about tattered, gender-bending outfits. Both designers and advertisers are gunning to win the dollars of Generation Z, those born after 1998, and to do so requires doing away with conventions. Generation Z-ers possess a more fluid, causal relationship to gender and sexuality. J.W. Intelligence reported that over 56% of Generation Z reported knowing someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns and only 48% of them identify as exclusively heterosexual.
Contrary to popular thought, these moments also help cis, straight individuals as much as it does those who fall outside of the gender binary. This was best seen when rapper Young Thug appeared on his album cover wearing a grandiose ruffled skirt, later saying, "You could be a gangster with a dress, you could be a gangster with baggy pants" and swiftly expanding the boundaries of black masculinity.
Yes, James Charles's modeling for Covergirl may be a savvy business move by Covergirl, creating tons of internet buzz -- but it also represents the brand opening itself up to the entire world. Because while, yes, boys have used make-up just as long as girls have… how often is this openly acknowledged in advertising and celebrated? Who knows, maybe the next announcement from the brand will be an even bigger steps towards de-gendering: announcing to a name change from Covergirl to Coverperson.