With glitter’s ties to nightlife, dance clubs, and drag, it makes sense why it quickly became such an emblem for the queer community. But for many queer individuals, glitter was also the first easily accessible makeup item to try—after all, you could snag it at your local craft store without a second glance. “That was one of the first places you could buy something that was a little flamboyant and showy, but you could be discreet in the store when you were buying it,” celebrity makeup artist Dillon Peña recounts.
But glitter itself is not very discreet at all: Some would even consider it hypervisible, a must-have makeup item for extravagant, look-at-me glam. Practically speaking, its ability to quickly draw attention is what makes glitter such a mainstay for drag—before modern glitter was invented, queens even used crushed glass to achieve a captivating, magical performance. “It sort of plays tricks with your vision in the way that it’s sparkling,” says Miss Malice, a high femme drag performer and femmecee of the Brooklyn drag collective Switch n’ Play. “Drag is not always about illusion, but I do think it’s about fantasy and transforming the dullness of reality.”