Audubon Artist Residency

Art of Bird Drag

Viral makeup tutorial, bird drag looks, and special interview with L Y L E, drag queen and Disney Prince.

Meet L Y L E, the talented makeup artist, drag queen, and Disney Prince.  As part of Audubon California's pride celebrations, L Y L E  did a fabulous drag makeup tutorial on how to transform into the Painted Bunting, Audubon's official Pride bird. The video went viral, with over 70,000 views on the Audubon Instagram page. 

As a follow-up to his hit makeup tutorial, L Y L E did a series of stunning bird drag makeup looks, including the Lazuli Bunting, Strawberry Finch, and Paradise Tanager. 

In the Audubon Magazine's article, Brief History of Avian Drag, it says that "bird-inspired looks are part of a rich drag tradition. While men dressing as women in performance dates back at least as far as ancient Greece, the niche of drag that is avian influenced can trace its roots back to the 20th century alongside the evolution of the modern drag we know. Many of these bird homages remain some of the top moments in cult cinema and reality television."  L Y L E is currently an aspiring participant on RuPaul's Drag Race show.

Paradise Tanager look by L Y L E Photo: L Y L E

Audubon California's Interview with L Y L E

Enjoy this special interview to get the inside scoop on L Y L E he got started in drag makeup, his favorite bird drag look, and why glitter is the solution to world peace.

What do you think is the correlation between birds and drag queens?

They are magical in their own ways, and people love to watch them. People do birdwatch and people do like to keep an eye on a drag queen. There is a larger-than-life aspect and sheer amount of colors. They are both eye-catching and stunning.

Which bird drag look did you enjoy the most?

I enjoyed the Lazuli Bunting the most. The colors were almost neon. I was worried because I don’t have neon. It felt ethereal. If a bird from a magical landed on me, that would be it.

Lazuli Bunting makeup look Photo: L Y L E

What struck you the most working with birds?

They are so incredibly detailed. I love the sheer variety of colors and shapes, zigzags, and polka dots. I’d start with their eyes. Birds have natural contours that shade and blend. They don’t wake up every morning and choose to put on their look. They have one really fierce outfit and they cut out the rest of that hassle.

Favorite bird as a kid?

I grew up with seagulls. They are scary-looking vultures! I watched them destroy garbage the other day. They are huge. They are dopey for sure. Mine mine! They are so white and so clean.

What’s your favorite bird right now?

I love hummingbirds. When I moved out here, I found myself staring at a hummingbird for an hour and a half. My eye doesn’t work well enough to see their wings flapping so fast. I remember looking up videos and finding a trend of people putting hummingbird food on their hands. I fell down a YouTube black hole with that.  

What’s your favorite thing about drag?

When you create a drag persona, it’s a made-up presence. It’s very present in this world, but it will be gone in the morning. It’s powerful and freeing and just an escape. We all gravitate for escapism, we go to the theater to escape and fall into a story. Why not create your own story? We need to be more expressive and creative in this world.  The best thing about drag is that it’s almost impossible to have inhibitions. I think embarrassment is a useless emotion.

How long have you been performing drag?

I’ve been doing theater since I was 10 and have been around the entertainment and performance world. I started doing drag 7 years ago. I only recently started exploring the artistic side of makeup last year. I do drag glamour looks.  I challenged myself to do a different look every day for 30 days. I learned by myself through trial and error.

Before this, I was working on a cruise ship and started finding inspiration in nature at the beaches of Nicaragua and Brazil. I was finding these crazy shells that are actually yellow. They were so vibrant and beautiful. Then I started looking at plants and insects. Then Audubon started hitting me up and I began looking at birds. I often find things that are not stereotypically beautiful. For example, I see the contradiction in nature – like juxtaposing colors that would clash.

What is your best makeup tip?

Start with eyes as I always do. Put a bright highlight on the eyes. Of course, wear a lash. Use a lot of color and add designs with dots. Glue a feather to your temple. Do a cupids lip with lipstick focused on the center of the lips.

When working with bird looks, I start with my eyes, that’s what people look at first. Whatever colors I don’t use from the eyes, I will bleed into the cheek or forehead as a contour. I’ve learned that looking at these birds, you can do a contour as purple.

Best advice I can give is jump in. There are no mistakes. Just put more on or take it off. Or slap some glitter on it and call it a day. Start small. People think drag is big. Start small and go from there.

Product tip?

Glitter can be your best friend or worst enemy. Urban decay has a lovely eye shadow glitter called Heavy Metal that comes in different colors. It’s a great starter glitter and comes as a gel. You can fill in wherever you want with a hint of glitter. Shout out to Lemonhead, based in California.

Where is the best place to put glitter?

EVERYWHERE! The inner corner of the eye, as a highlight on the cheekbone, on lips, all over my body, all over my hair. If everyone wore glitter, people would stop fighting. They’d be all up in each other’s space and then there would be glitter!

What was the experience like for you?

Fun, to wrap it up on a word.

Any final words?

Be kind to one another. Set two birds free with one hand, honey.

Follow me on Instagram @itsjustlyle

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