When I was a young nerdling, there was an unspoken rule: makeup was reserved for popular, mainstream girls. Geeky girls — those of us who spent lunch in the library, our unpowdered noses buried in Have Spacesuit, Will Travel — well, we just didn't do that stuff.
No longer. Geek is now chic, and the Internet is filled with female makeup artists who draw inspiration from superhero comics, video games, and science fiction. Check YouTube, and you'll find tutorial after tutorial for looks based on the Predator franchise, for example, or on characters like Wolverine, Deadpool, and Gandalf.
"This is how we get our nerdiness out — how we express ourselves," says Ashley DeMello, 24, of Fall River, whose cosmetics blog HaveYouMetAshley is subtitled "A nerd's love for makeup."
"It's like how guys play with action figures to become like those characters," she says. "We do makeup."
DeMello debuted on YouTube in 2010, with a tutorial for a lightsaber-themed look: "I only did a little bit of red," she explains in the video, "because there aren't that many Sith lords compared to Jedis." But she's been playing with makeup since before high school, about as long as she's been into comics, sci-fi, and horror. "I always played off what I saw on movies and TV," she says.
She notes that she and other geek makeup enthusiasts sometimes catch flak from fanboys who don't appreciate having their male power fantasies translated into mascara and eyeshadow. But geeky cosmetics have become established enough that indie companies like Glamour Doll Eyes have put out whole superhero-themed lines, and on Etsy you can find homebrew nail polish inspired by the Incredible Hulk and Doctor Who.
And all these looks are subtle enough to wear on the street as well as the club. "It's like, I know I'm being nerdy right now, but nobody else does," DeMello says. Her advice to fresh-faced geeks? Take inspiration wherever you find it and let your freak flag fly. "Nerds can be girly too."