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Selena Ruiz make-up artist
Make-up by Selena Ruiz

When Chicana glam goes emo: enter Selena Ruiz’s world of make-up

Combining punk, goth and juggalo make-up with Latine influences, the make-up artist is defining a new style of graphic eyeliner

If the cool girl is dead, then make-up artist Selena Ruiz would be dolling up the girlies for the funerals – chocolate over-lined lips, dark skinny eyebrows and bold wings all included. The gig would be fitting for her, too, since her make-up journey started as a coping mechanism after her mother’s death. Afraid to show how she truly felt, she would use goth takes on sharp shapes and abstract designs to manipulate how people saw her. What was solely a mask for pain has now evolved into a blueprint for her signature editorial graphic liner. 

Ruiz’s creations are deeply rooted in her Latine heritage. Taking cues from the Los Angeles Chola look, her work is Chicana glam goes emo – a product of her community and culture. “I have full intentions of bringing my people and my style to these mainstream worlds,” she says. “I’ve been in rooms with people who have the power to do so. I try my best to give my input and put on whatever I can, but that’s why it’s cool. People hire me, for the most part, because they want my style. I love to go all out with what I think is beautiful.”

Her gothic twist on the classic Chicana look has proved popular, leading to work with stars like Alexa Demie, Lourdes Leon and Sydney Sweeney, and brands including Fenty, Gypsy Sport and Willy Chavarria. But when she first started doing make-up on herself, a career was far from Ruiz’s mind. At 18, two years after the loss of her mother, she was living in Riverside, caught up in the all-consuming budtending life and using experimental make-up to hide her pain.

“I would take a lot of Xanax when I was younger – I know it’s frowned upon, but it helps if you do have anxiety,” she says. “I was free to create, and that’s honestly how the make-up started. I would do geometrical shapes. I like the sharpness of them; how simple and clean they were.” Over the last ten or so years, those triangles, rectangles and circles have come together as revamped Siouxsie Sioux and Soo Catwoman aesthetics. She paints faces in hues of black, white, grey and silver – often embellishing with metal balls, o-rings and gems – for something bizarre, edgy and grandiose. 

By the end of the year, Ruiz hopes to publish a diary-like book featuring her signature line work, personal musings, and designs over old photographs of her mother to honour the woman who helped start it all with a look she never got to do. And as her star continues to rise, she is using her platform to bring other Latina artists up with her and challenge those who are inauthentically co-opting the traditional styles to the mainstream. “It’s not just make-up; it’s not just a look. It’s a whole culture and where we come from. It’s our family members, it’s our friends, it’s community to us.”

Dazed spoke to Ruiz about how her Latine culture informs her work and beauty style, crying before going on set as a young artist, and the backlash against Hailey Bieber’s “brownie glazed lips”.

When was your first interaction with make-up and beauty?

Selena Ruiz: When I was like 11 or 12, I was on MySpace – I was like a scene queen. All of the other MySpace queens inspired me to pick up some eyeliner. And my mom, she was always into make-up and always had her bag lying around. I would fuck with it. It was around that age that I started to do the raccoon eyes. That’s basically all I would do. Then I would take her MAC Studio Fix powder – she was really pale, paler than me – I would put that shit everywhere, even on my lips. I would be pale with black eyes.

Besides using make-up as a mask, why else are you drawn to it?

Selena Ruiz: I personally like to draw lines. I never dived into painting, art or anything actually on paper. But there’s something about lines; lines with liner. It brings me joy – it really does. 

What styles were you surrounded by while growing up? Do you find inspiration in any of them?

Selena Ruiz: MySpace. Before that, my mom. She was young when she had me. She was 20 and grew up in the 80s and 90s, so she had that aesthetic: thin brows, eyeliner, lip liner. All of her friends were like that too. They would come over before clubbing to get ready, and I would see it. I thought it was extra, honestly – when I was younger, I hated make-up. I would get so mad at my mom for taking so much time to get ready. But my mom and her homegirls were my first beauty inspirations. They looked like dolls. They were caked up. 

What decade of make-up are you often looking back at?

Selena Ruiz: The 90s is a big reference, but I also love the 70s and 80s punk make-up. Just the crazy line work they would do – it wasn’t always perfect, it was always kind of fucked up. I wanted to come in and recreate it in my own way, to make it very sharp and clean but add a beauty aspect to it. Some of them weren’t pretty, you know? It was art, but they weren’t well executed. I wanted to make it hot, like where I could put a supermodel, bomb base and crazy – very well executed – eyeliner look. I like merging punk 70s and 80s make-up with a 90s vibe.

How do you feel about the rise of Latine influences in popular make-up trends?

Selena Ruiz: It’s annoying, I’m not going to lie. It depends on who it is. For example, I recently heard about Hailey Bieber [and her brownie-glazed lips]. I don’t know if she had the intention of trying to rename it or if she knew originally where the fuck it came from. I don’t know if she was tone-deaf with that. I don’t know what the fuck that was, but it caused a huge stirrup in the Latina beauty community. It’s the same shit. We’re overlooked. When we do it, it’s ghetto; when they do it, it’s high fashion.

I was talking to one of my friends – he’s a designer – Willy Chavarria. We were talking at a panel meeting about this subject. He was saying a magazine hit him up, fat budget. They wanted him to dress Bella Hadid, but they wanted her to be like a Chola. He denied it, because what the fuck? They literally said those words, like Cho-la. That is so ew. It’s not just make-up; it’s not just a look. It’s a whole culture and where we come from. It’s our family members, it’s our friends, it’s community to us. These people see it, and they’re like, ‘oh, that looks cool, but it will look cooler on us, and we can make it popular because we have the means to do so’

It’s wack. I don’t believe in cultural appreciation – I really don't. Just stay in your lane. I think it should be left to us, and I see a huge rise in Latina artists right now. I don’t know if it’s because it’s becoming trendy or popular in the mainstream, but I’m glad to see my homegirls doing it, and I’m able to bring my homegirls along who don’t have a platform like that.

How does your own Latine culture inform your beauty practices?

Selena Ruiz: Growing up it’s always been instilled in me just from being around. I love looking at old photos from the 70s and 80s. @veteranas_and_rucas is an archive Instagram account that my homegirl Lupe runs. She’s an older woman who grew up in East LA, and people send her photos of their families. They’re all LA-based or Southern Cali-based. The make-up is so sick; I’ve definitely taken lots of inspiration from those old photos. In the 70s, they would do pencil-thin, rounded eyebrows with almost clown eyeliner with white underneath and white on top. It’s just beautiful.

Sometimes your graphic liner appears very Juggalo-like, is this done on purpose?

Selena Ruiz: Definitely. I used to be super into clowns. When I started doing make-up, my theme was clowns. I would do my make-up like a clown and go out with it on because I thought it was cool. I still think it’s cool.

Also, it comes from the old school veteranas from LA. They would literally do clownish make-up – drag down their liner to look like a sad clown or line their lips with white and then over their lip liner, they would do a small white border. Clowns have always been a thing in the culture. You see it everywhere. If you go to the swap meets, you’ll see the fucking shirts with the payasa women on them. Payasos are a huge inspiration within the Chicano community. It’s a staple that comes naturally [in my make-up].

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