Welcome to Favorite Follow, a series that highlights NYLON’s favorite creators and the stories behind some of their most memorable content.
Before male celebrity beauty brands started trending and the likes of Harry Styles and MGK started drawing attention for their manicures, there were people like David Yi pushing for a more thoughtful beauty industry. and inclusive. Yi is the co-founder and CEO of Very Good Light, a multimedia platform dedicated to redefining masculinity, the status quo and promoting people of all backgrounds and the gender-inclusive personal care brand, Good Light Cosmetics. .
Both the brand and Yi’s platform grew out of their pride in their Korean-American heritage. “It’s authentic to my story of empowerment, self-fulfillment and love,” she said NYLON. “It is also authentic to the story of Good Light: we are made in South Korea, the beauty capital of the world.” They hope that people come to Good Light for “stories of how beauty comes in so many different shapes and forms” and are passionate about having conversations about expanding beauty beyond the rail even further outside the site. Last year, Yi released a book called, Pretty Boys: legendary icons who redefined beauty (and also how to shine), exploring diverse and striking beauty icons that have redefined the aspect of masculinity and gender expression throughout history. When Yi doesn’t write about how self-care and well-being transcend boundaries and rails, you’ll find him on TikTok.
Read on, for Yi’s thoughts on the story of people identifying masc in makeup, male celebrity beauty brands, and why beauty is inherently rebellious.
ON DEPARTURE EXCELLENT LIGHT
“It was after working as a fashion and beauty editor that I realized the world was still so binary. Beauty was so kind, much more so than now, if you can believe it. I thought it was a little daunting to put labels on products. Why could only one sex beautify? Why could only one genre be allowed to power up with tinted cosmetics? Why was taking care of yourself less considered than if you were not a woman?
As an American Korean who was pushed and pulled in two different directions, it was pretty jarring. In Eastern cultures, skin care and beautification are an act of respect. In the western world, it’s almost as if participating in skincare and beauty makes you less and that’s something that has always confused me. Very Good Light was launched in 2016 to redefine masculinity through beauty. Beauty is a vehicle that has always been political and a symbol of change. Since then, we have led that charge of democratizing expression, identity and beauty. “
ON THE HISTORY OF THE IDENTIFYING FOLK OF THE MASC IN MAKEUP
“Some of my favorite stories come from ancient history and how men and people who identify with masc have really empowered themselves with beauty. I write about it in my book Pretty Boys. Some examples include the Babylonians who painted their nails before battle to match their hair color. This was tens of thousands of years ago, but before their potential last day on Earth, they wanted to feel and look good before a big fight.
I loved the stories of the Vikings and how these very powerful and muscular men were so obsessed with grooming that they had grooming kits next to their swords and shields. These consisted of eye tweezers, combs, picks and more to make sure they looked their best at every turn. I loved the Korean stories hwarang from 600. They would embellish themselves to imitate Maitreya, the most beautiful of the Buddhist gods, and channel a higher power “.
GROWING BEAUTY BRANDS OF MALE CELEBRITIES
“I think he’s bold and beautiful and if he empowers them and inspires others, that’s great! But I think there is a need to be aware of their privilege and also to pay tribute to the many women and members of the LGBTQIA + community who have struggled to be seen in front of them. After all, it is LGBTQIA + women and members who have always stood up for equality, free will and the right to express themselves freely. For example, many trends come from the drag community where foxes have been severely punished for accessorising themselves. It is important not to belittle or ignore the story. White men cis, straight or straight-passing, above all need to understand and reciprocate ”.
ON THE REBELLION OF BEAUTY
“Beauty has always been a sense of stepping into your own light and owning your own agency. Thinking about yourself so boldly is rebellious. We have all been taught to fit into the status quo or conform to society and thinking about your beauty and how unique you are is the antithesis. The inherent rebellion of beauty, therefore, means that you are entering into yourself and betting on yourself. Radically love you in full? Put yourself first and believe in your power? I think it is an act of rebellion ”.
ON THE FUTURE OF THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY
“I believe we need to broaden the meaning of masculinity and femininity. While we won’t be able to abolish these terms in our culture, I think we can be more specific with our words about what it means. What are we saying when we refer to a man as masculine or feminine? Are we saying they have more agency for their bodies? Are we pointing out that they are bolder in expression?
At the core, there is misogyny in these words, with the feminine usually meaning less than or unable. I think that in beauty we have the power to turn it upside down. We can understand the fluidity of humanity and how we all want to be seen, heard and share power. “
Follow David Yi on Instagram.