Ditmas Park

Cat eyes and confidence: Drag queen beauty workshop teaches teens self-expression

New Brooklyn Public Library program encourages LGBTQ inclusivity

February 22, 2019 Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Drag queen Cholula Lemon shares a moment with Abigayle Ganter at a beauty workshop at Cortelyou Library. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

She sweeps into the room, a goddess in a silver sequined mini-dress, sparkling stiletto boots and a matching mane of hair.

This glam gal named Cholula Lemon is here to teach teens how to do eye makeup — drag-queen style.

A dozen young women have gathered in a meeting room at Cortelyou Library in Ditmas Park to learn how to make magic with lush lashes and liner.

“It’s really about trial and error,” Cholula Lemon tells the teens as they pick up their eyeshadow applicators and get started. “You just have to play. Don’t worry if your hand’s a little shaky.”

Drag queen Cholula Lemon shares makeup tips with Aster (left) and Aila (right) at Cortelyou Library.
Drag queen Cholula Lemon shares makeup tips with Aster (left) and Aila (right) at Cortelyou Library.

To an observer’s ears, it sounds like a life lesson or two is lurking in this light-hearted afternoon.

And in point of fact, the drag-queen beauty workshop is part of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Change Agents initiative.

Kahla Norville deftly wields her eyeliner.
Kahla Norville deftly wields her eyeliner.

The initiative’s aim is “to provide a safe space for kids and young adults to express their gender however they like, guided by a positive queer role model for all genders and identities,” a press invite from the library says.

The afternoon of face-painting is an expansion of a popular Brooklyn Public Library program called Drag Queen Story Hour, which is for toddlers.

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Teen girl in headscarf puts on makeup.
Tiffany Mustopa is hard at work at the beauty workshop.

At the beauty workshop, the teens gaze intently into individual mirrors laid out on their desks with an array of makeup. Cholula Lemon guides them through intricate steps, which they follow to perfection.

“You’re all naturals — you don’t need me,” the teacher tells them.

Jonathan Hamilt serves as a model for Cholula Lemon’s makeup demonstration. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan.
Jonathan Hamilt serves as a model for Cholula Lemon’s makeup demonstration. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan.

She paces around the meeting room, leaning in to admire her students’ handiwork.

“Oh gorgeous!” she says. “Ladies, you’re doing such a great job.”

Young girls put on makeup for Brooklyn Public Library's Drag Queen Story Hour.
Marley (left) and Maya (right) are busy applying false lashes.

After the glue dries on everybody’s false lashes and mascara wands have been wielded, Cholula Lemon and the teens pose together for red carpet-style photos, with special lighting and a poster that says “Drag Queen Story Hour” as a backdrop.

“I can’t tell you how much fun I had today,” she says. “You are all honorary drag queens.”

Thursday’s beauty workshop is the first one the drag queens have done in a library, Jonathan Hamilt, Drag Queen Story Hour’s New York deputy director says. The next one is scheduled for March 21 at Red Hook Library.

Girls putting on makeup for Brooklyn Public Library's Drag Queen Story Hour. Photo by Lore Croghan.
Teamwork works well for Aster (left) and Aila (at right).

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