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Adam Lambert calls BS on toxic masculinity and discusses why beauty & gender is not only skin deep

"the masses are understanding that masculinity can be toxic, that pushing it too hard or trying too hard to be a man has repercussions"

15 May 2019

Adam Lambert is undoubtedly living his best life. The singer-songwriter has a Grammy nomination, three smash-hit albums and three million album sales under his belt, and he is also on the road fronting for legendary rock band Queen. As one might expect when stepping into the shoes of Freddie Mercury, full glam is a must, and Adam is more than happy to oblige. “Freddie gives me permission to take it there”, he says of his fierce on-stage style.

As the first openly gay artist to top the US charts, Adam has played a pivotal role in changing the music industry’s attitude towards gender and sexuality. “When I first started in the states, there wasn’t anybody in my camp and now all the colours of the rainbow are being represented in music - it’s fabulous”.

Here, on the release of his new single, New Eyes, Adam opens up to Glamour about the toxicity of masculinity – “pushing it too hard or trying too hard to be a man has repercussions” - and why a Kleenex tissue is your ultimate beauty hack.

“Being gay in the music industry is no longer taboo”

Identity politics are a lot more in the limelight now than they were ten years ago. The public want to see themselves represented by certain artists and the music industry are finally responding to this. For me personally, being a gay artist, I see so many more gay artists out and proud and that’s beautiful because the more conversations we have, the less stigma there is. When I first started in the states, there wasn’t anybody in my camp and now all the colours of the rainbow are being represented in music -it’s fabulous.

“Masculinity can be toxic”

When I started ten years ago, I remember the way I felt about my relationship with masculinity and femininity. I felt like I had a point to prove. I was trying to make a statement because I didn’t see a lot of it and it was frustrating because I understood exactly what I was trying to say but I think it was misinterpreted at times. Nowadays, that whole conversation is definitely in the fore front and the masses are understanding that masculinity can be toxic, that pushing it too hard or trying too hard to be a man has repercussions. It puts a lot of stress on a young man regardless of sexuality. Trying to fit into this idea of what a man is can be so limited. I still don’t think these conversations are being talked about enough with young men and teenage boys. It’s incredibly important to give guys a break in those fundamental years.

You can also go even further into the gender conversation and look at the trans movement and how amazingly far we’ve come in the last 10 years. Kids at school need to know there’s going to be so many different representations of gender and all of them should be respected. It’s beautiful how the next generation are understanding this.

What’s interesting about gender is that identity expression can be as simple as fashion, cosmetics, the way you do your hair or what shoes you wear, but we all know that’s a shallow way of looking at what and who you are. We all know beauty and gender is not only skin deep. It is all about how you feel, your spirit, your heart and your mind, so to jump to conclusions about someone based on a colour they’re wearing, well, we have got to do better than that.

“Freddie Mercury gave me permission to express myself”

When I first become aware of Freddie Mercury in my 20s, I was really obsessed with the band and would watch old footage of him and his outfits. Freddie was really going for it and he clearly had a sense of humour. He was kind of taking the piss out of himself. It was all ridiculous and that was part of the charm. He allowed people to feel the sense of fun and camp which I think is a sort of dying art but Freddie was spot on with it. He was camp and clever and witty with it which has massively inspired me. In a way when I started working with Queen, looking at Freddie and his style history, it’s sort of a free pass. There’s no line that’s too far and the audience get it. Freddie gives me permission to take it there. Also, I’m not going to stand up there and do a set with Queen in jeans and a t-shirt, that would be ridiculous and totally not the spirit of what they are. To me, it’s showbusiness, it’s performance, it’s supposed to be heightened.

“My approach to beauty used to be constrained by the need to be approachable to the masses”

I would have someone in my ear early on saying the way I dress or express myself was off-putting and uncomfortable. 10 years later, it’s so different. People recognise it’s just your personal expression and style. It felt like before there were only a handful of artists that each record label would be pushing, whereas now with the way that music and TV is streamed, there’s so much more choice and you see a lot more diversity. It helps create an environment where there’s room for everybody.

“I’m still eccentric, I still like glam but my look is more refined”

Back in the American Idol days I was so excited and had so many ideas, inspirations and I thought more was more. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that still to this day but I’m now leaning more towards less is more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not subtle, average or totally pedestrian but I’ve definitely refined my look. I’m still eccentric, I still like glam and stuff that’s a little bit left of centre but I think it’s just more refined.

“Makeup is my form of expression”

It’s interesting because it’s meant different things to me at different points in my life. Early on when I first fell in love with wearing heavy eye makeup and nail polish, I felt like it was a form of expression and rebellion. It made me feel powerful and different and it became my thing, but then at some point I almost felt like I was trapping myself with makeup or covering myself up with it as a mask or defence. A couple years ago I decided to take it all off and go as natural as possible because I wanted to open up and feel vulnerable and wipe the slate clean again. Now when I glam up a bit, I’m back to the place of expression and it’s just me wanting to have fun, it’s me feeling a fantasy.

My beauty guilty pleasure is...

I love mascara, I like the way it makes your eyes open up and makes you more awake. Another thing I’ve fallen in love with is tinted moisturiser from Make Up For Ever.

“My best piece of beauty advice is…”

Sleep and water - back to basics. When I’m travelling a lot, the lack of sleep and dehydration from flying is visible on the face. Washing your face with cold water is good for puffiness. Another tip I got from a makeup artist is to dab a single piece of Kleenex on your face to get any extra oil off. This is particularly useful when I’m doing long video shoots and the powder starts to get cakey.

“I’m obsessed with skin ceuticals skincare”

The whole range is absolutely brilliant. I’ve never found anything that I’ve responded to so well. They have products for all your different needs e.g. ageing, acne, dryness, and the packaging is great too – it’s not a bunch of fluff, it’s the science. When I was younger as a teenager, I had really bad acne so I’m aware of the importance of taking care of my skin.

“Being on stage is my time to go full glam”

I use white eyeliner on the inside of the water line and it’s like bam! The other thing when I’m on stage is that I’m running around and sweating so I’ll use a matte foundation that provides full coverage. I love Make Up For Ever’s one a lot. Eye makeup needs to be waterproof too.

“You don’t need abs if you have good friends and family”

I try to stop and take account of I’m lucky I am and what I have in my life. If I’m feeling negative or down, I stop and think about how some people have it way worse. I also tend to rewind to 10/15 years ago and compare to where you are now. Is it so bad? No. Contentment is a tricky thing because we all want more and nothing is good enough. I would urge people to put the phone down, take a deep breath and think about where you are in the moment, who do you love and who loves you. Think about relationships, your family or your close friends because that’s the most important thing. You don’t need abs if you have good friends and family.

Adam Lambert’s new single ‘New Eyes’ is out now