I ‘m a boy in makeup. I’m not trans. I’m not a drag queen,” says Alan Macias, 18, known more widely by his Instagram handle @Alannized. He sits before me with sculpted brows, shimmery cheeks, and lush false lashes framing bright doe eyes—he evokes a glittering Bambi. “I just really enjoy the art of makeup,” he asserts, “and being a boy who does it.” With over 200,000 followers, Alannized is revered for his beauty tutorials and glamorous looks: elaborate smoky eyes, bold lip colors, and intricate contouring—all on his own face.

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While boundary-pushing in his own right, Alannized is part of a larger beauty movement—an expanding community of male-identified digital stars who showcase their expertise on themselves. And their rapidly growing followings, totaling in the millions, evidence the power of their influence, from Instagram to YouTube channels where fans of all genders can watch them transform.

It all started in their boyhood bedrooms—private spaces where their talents flourished in secret.

An avid fan of YouTube beauty tutorials, Alannized, then 16, started practicing makeup looks in his room after school, focusing first on perfecting the more subtle art of evening out his skin and amping up his eyebrows. (His first beauty product was a nearly exhausted tube of blemish base cream given to him by his best friend, equally obsessed with YouTube beauty bloggers).

Patrick Simondac (@PatrickStarrr), 26, arguably one of the most influential men in the movement with 1.7 million followers on both Instagram and YouTube, also got his start as a teen furtively experimenting with makeup, stealing his mother’s foundation—”Mama Starr,” he refers to her fondly—when she wasn’t looking. 

Patrick’s best friend and fellow beauty boy superstar, Manny Gutierrez (@MannyMua733), 25, recalls an even earlier enthusiasm for makeup: As a little boy, his mother caught him playing with her lipstick. Raised in a Mormon household—”liberal Mormons,” he specifies, given that he grew up in Southern California—he quickly learned to hide his interest in beauty. “I wanted to play with eyeliner and makeup while other boys were playing with G.I. Joes,” Manny remembers. “So it was kind of tough for me because I didn’t really understand why I wanted to play with the ‘girl’ things rather than the ‘boy’ things.”