A Cover Boy for CoverGirl

Openly gay teen becomes first male to represent cosmetics company — what does this say about our society?

You might have seen him already: James Charles, a YouTube sensation from Upstate New York, was recently unveiled as a fresh new face for CoverGirl cosmetics.

You read that correctly. A young man is representing CoverGirl.

“First boy ever & I am so excited.”

The 17-year-old high school student joins Ellen DeGeneres, Katy Perry, Sofia Vergara, Queen Latifa, Taylor Swift, and Pink, among others, as a spokesmodel and the world’s only “CoverBoy.” He is the first male to represent the 55-year-old company — or any cosmetics company, for that matter.

Charles’ makeup tutorials on YouTube have helped him garner more than 650,000 Instagram followers (up around 200,000 since the unveiling just days ago), not to mention more than 75,000 Twitter followers. The teen has mad skills wielding a brush and mascara wand.

Perry announced CoverGirl’s groundbreaking selection over Instagram last week, proudly writing, “Honored to have the pleasure to announce the very first COVERBOY, James Charles!” He retweeted the picture of himself with her, embracing him, writing, “I can finally announce that I am officially a new @COVERGIRL. First boy ever & I am so excited to see whats [sic] coming!”

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Charles, who is openly gay, represents the LGBT community — as well as advertisers’ new vision for sales in a rapidly changing market. Though a young, gay male spokesmodel for mainstream cosmetics would have been unheard of and largely rejected even a few years ago, Madison Avenue knows that millennials and the emerging Generation Z (those born after 1998) don’t bat a mascara’d eye at such things.

Transgender lifestyles have gotten so much attention in the past few years that the Oxford English Dictionary even added the phrase “gender fluid” to its 2017 edition.

Though transgenderism occurs among a very small group of people in this country, the notion has become mainstream from Hollywood’s and the media’s perspective. To look at television programming such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Transcendent,” “I Am Cait” (cancelled after just a year), and other TV shows — including the Emmy-winning “Transparent” — one would think many, many people are part of such a lifestyle.

A 2013 Gallup survey found that Americans believe as many as 23 percent of the U.S. population is part of the gay and transgender communities. In actuality, however, only 3.8 percent identify as gay and .06 (note the decimal point) identify as trans, according to the Gallup poll and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Let this huge disparity in numbers sink it. That means that around 97 percent of the population identifies as heterosexual, but Americans don’t realize that. So if Hollywood continually promotes an agenda, as often and hard as it can, viewers might just buy it in a big way.

Because of the constant social media and media coverage that James Charles and his fellow gender-bending stars have gotten, CoverGirl sees cash in him. “We’re seeing a lot of interesting things with these social media stars, from a marketing standpoint,” Robyn Goodman told The Christian Science Monitor.

Goodman, a professor of advertising at the University of Florida, added, “Companies are partnering with them to parlay their fame online so that the companies themselves may feel more authentic to millennial and Gen Z audiences.”

So rather than representing the vast majority of Americans and more traditional values — CoverGirl recognizes that millennials, who now outnumber baby boomers, and the growing Gen Z hold future marketing power.

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Younger people are also much more accepting of and experimental with the LGBT community. Branding expert J. Walter Thompson Intelligence reports that 56 percent of Generation Z affiliates with someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. And PR and marketing agency Ketchum says Gen Z is the most racially diverse generation ever and holds sway over more than $600 billion worth of family household spending.

James Charles is the new face not only of CoverGirl, but of the huge cultural and religious shifts in our society. If CoverGirl’s move is profitable, many more young men — and women — will follow in Charles’ footsteps and companies will only be too happy to help it happen. And they’re not thinking about people’s well being here. They’re thinking of dollar signs. Will Smith’s son, Jaden, is already pushing a gender-neutral clothing line, including skirts and dresses for men.

Earlier this year, Smith, 18, revealed his own confusion when he told GQ of his clothing, “I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction.”

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