Beauty has always been inherently transgressive.

We only need to look back in history to refer back to endless examples. For one, men wearing makeup in the 1700’s was considered lewd for those like the Macaroni, the “Gen Z” of their day, who were pushing stodgy British culture to have a more expanded view of masculinity. Then there was makeup for women, which was also once considered taboo. Women who dared wear cosmetics were considered sex workers and stigmatized for being pariahs to society. And of course, there were third gendered folx – many who we’d called non-binary today – who utilized beauty to create space for themselves and become vital members of their communities. They fought to be recognized and to thrive.

But in today’s world what does beauty mean? In the Age of TikTok, beauty trends, pressures of filtering and plastic surgery, how does beauty equate to empowerment? And if beauty – its products, potions, salves – has never had a gender or sexuality where is culture going next?

refinery29 vice very good light

These are questions we are leaning into in our official partnership with our friends at Refinery29 and Vice Media Group. Starting today, Very Good Light is joining forces to create stories around the intersection of gender, identity, inclusivity and beauty in a series.

“Refinery29 is known for its genre-defining beauty content, which celebrates self-expression, acceptance and innovation,” says Simone Oliver, Refinery29’s Global Editor-in-Chief. “And at a time when Refinery29’s mission of uplifting underrepresented voices couldn’t be more critical, I’m proud to partner with a like-minded organization like Very Good Light to continue that necessary work.”

Simone, who took over R29 just last year, is an industry veteran who’s worked at Facebook, Allure and the New York Times. Just this week, she made her first instrumental beauty hire in Sara Tan, Refinery29’s official new beauty director. Sara comes from the podcast Gloss Angeles, where she’s the co-founder and co-host, and worked at Bustle before. In her new role, Sara will be creating a new foundation for Refinery29 to be established as a diverse space in beauty, relating to self-expression, self-image, subcultures and beyond.

“I am beyond thrilled to join the Refinery29 team under the leadership of the brilliant Simone Oliver,” she says. “I’ve been a longtime reader of Refinery29 and have always admired the brand’s commitment to amplifying diverse voices…I’m excited to work to create impactful stories that’s inclusive, unconventional, and continues to push the beauty conversation forward.”

Together with Simone and Sara, Very Good Light’s own editor, David Yi, will be creating programming around beauty beyond what’s celebrated now. For the pilot program, Very Good Light, Refinery29 and Vice Media Group will debut an Instagram Live series this spring which will seek to redefine understandings of gender norms and societal conditional to celebrate varied expressions. It will be co-hosted by David alongside the R29 team, featuring notable guests, taking a deep dive into gender fluidity, spanning current topics to historic references to uncover the present and predict the future.

“I’m thrilled and humbled that Very Good Light and Refinery29 are coming together for a true
partnership series,” says David. “Very Good Light has always championed beauty beyond the binary and from all spectrums while Refinery29 has been a safe, smart space leading the charge when it comes to inclusion. Together, our groundbreaking series will delve more into beauty, uncover what it means outside the confines of the gender binary, and understand that there’s so much diversity out there that’s still not being talked about.”

While the partnership doesn’t have an official launch date – what we do know is we’re excited to delve into beauty’s past and future.


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