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making faces :: divine inspiration

the divine dom
several months ago, kat von d announced that she was doing a palette and lipstick inspired by divine. for many gen x'ers like me, divine was our introduction to the world of drag and, possibly, to the idea of transgenderism. now, divine wasn't transgender; he was a gay man who lived his celebrity life in drag, but seeing him still put the idea of the transgender person in the public mind. to this day, he's frequently mistaken for a trans woman. [side note :: as a "drag" artist, divine did not do impersonations of female stars, which is usually associated with drag performances. his character was all his own.]

divine came to his stardom through the films of john waters, the king of trash cinema who worked with a troupe of actors and filmmakers [dubbed "dreamland studios"] in all of his early films. if the broader public has heard of any of his films, it's mostly likely hairspray, which was then made into a hit broadway musical, then back into a film featuring john travolta in the divine role. divine played bitchy tramps and sweet ingenues and his gender was never a point of discussion: all his roles were heavily made-up women who alternately suffered or inflicted suffering, most often opposed by fellow dreamlander mink stole.

waters' films are an acquired taste. rather, they are a niche taste, because i don't know anyone who's hated them at first blush who subsequently came to love them. they are. they are gross, often outright vile [shit-eating scene warning goes here], but the stories they tell can be genuinely moving [to the heart, not the stomach]. they truly pushed the boundaries of what was even marginally acceptable in film and their uniqueness has not diminished with time.

divine's eye-catching presentation nabbed him roles in films other than waters' and even lead him to a couple of disco hits like "you think you're a man". but there is no denying that his legacy is tied to that of walters: he was the director's biggest star and his muse.

so i've been waiting for this capsule collection a while. i ended up passing on the lipstick, although it looks lovely. it's a neutral, muted pink and for the amount of time i wear such shades, i already have more than enough. but i did grab the palette as soon as i saw it was available on sephora. it looks stunning with its mix of bright and neutral shades, with divine's much-photographed baby blue and white featuring prominently. it's the same size and layout as the pastel goth palette, although it's made of different material, so it doesn't have that off-putting smell.

unfortunately, several of the shades leave a little bit to be desired. here's the breakdown:

l to r :: babs, hard magic, baltimore, waters

babs :: a very shimmery white gold that has great colour payoff, although there's a bit of fallout over time. lasts pretty well, especially compared to some of the other shades in the palette.

hard magic :: a matte black that has good coverage, but fades faster than it should. to do any of divine's signature looks, you need a good black, but i think that's more about having a great liner. [and i'm a little surprised there wasn't one included with the collection.] this one is a decent enough option for deepening the crease, although a matte black isn't exactly something most people will need.

baltimore :: a deep, shimmery ocean blue that applies well and lasts reasonably well. it's a little difficult to blend, but not too bad. it's similar to the mac staple "deep truth", but a bit brighter. the lasting power is ok, but not great.

waters :: this is a lighter, cooler cognate to "doom" from last year's pastel goth palette and it's also a colour you absolutely need in this palette. it's a matte baby blue that is perfect for the "divine look". or it should be. the colour payoff here is very weak, even when packed on, and it fades very quickly to boot. even worse, it blends away to nothing with even the lightest touch. the most disappointing shade in the palette.

t to b :: filthy, pink flamingos, female trouble, hairspray

filthy :: a very nice, smooth gunmetal shade that's a bit stiff to work with, but the colour payoff is pretty decent on the eye. it's a little softer in use than it looks in the pan, but it's very pretty. i'd argue that the softer look makes it more distinct than a lot of shades that look like this.

pink flamingos :: well i'm not sure what the hell was going on here, but it's green. why not pink? to be fair, divine never wore pink shadows, but he never wore green ones either. this is [like most greens] a really pretty colour, a grass green with gold shimmer that looks a bit lighter in use than it does in the pan but still really pretty. it does need to be packed on to get the full effect, but it doesn't look heavy, so the main question is whether or not it's frustrating it work with is a question of time more than appearance. this is probably the longest-lasting shade in the palette, as [once you use enough to get it opaque] it stays pretty bright for hours.

female trouble :: the other element of a signature divine look is a bright white, so this matte white should be ideal. but this is far from ideal i complained about the white shade ["skull"] in last year's pastel goth palette, and this one suffers from the same problems times ten. it's impossible to get it opaque. it didn't even look opaque over nyx milk pencil which is bloody white. and to add to that, it's anemic colour is patchy. and what's there fades quickly. infuriating.

hairspray :: a sparkly pewter that looks great on the eye, but has a lot of fallout. i'll forgive it because i don't mind looking a little messy, but if that's going to bother you, this is going to annoy the crap out of you. i really like doing a sort of glam mess of a smoky eye with this one. the lasting power is good but not great.

as you can see, the ratio of good to weak isn't great. if you're a big john waters fan, i can recommend it for your collection, but beyond that... it's hard for me to say it's worth the investment. kat von d palettes are expensive compared to a lot of other brands, but it's still an eight-shade palette with two real duds and a few underwhelming shades. the one thing i would consider is that, if you have the pastel goth palette, there are some nice combinations you can do with that one. again, it depends on how you want to spend your money.

here's a few looks that i've done with the palette. these aren't the only ones that i've done, but they're the best ones.

"low key"

this is a mix of mostly "babs" on the lid, with "hard magic" on the outer 'v' and into the crease, blended with a little "filthy" between the two. this is clearly not a look that recalls the most "out there" moments of divine, but i think it's a nice example of how the palette can give a little glam to a very simple, conservative look.

it's pared with hourglass "mood exposure" blush and kat von d's "double dare" lipstick. the formula on the lipstick is quite similar to what i experienced with anastasia's matte lip colours. it's an extremely lightweight matte that lasts well and doesn't get drying, but at the same time isn't the best of choices if your lips are dry or chapped to begin with.

"green flamingos"


this is a counterpoint to the first look, since it gets about as colourful as this palette can. i've applied "pink flamingos" all over the lid, with baltimore on the inner and outer corners and along the bottom lash lines. i also patted a bit of "babs" on the centre of my lids, for a little extra pop. i used pixi's endless silky eye pen in "black blue" along my upper lash lines and marc jacobs highliner gel crayon in peridot on my water lines. 

you don't want to overdo it with that much colour up top and nars' "deep throat" blush seemed thematically appropriate [although neither divine nor waters did porn]. the lipstick is mac "viva glam v". 

"glam smoke"

this was what i was referring to earlier about "hairspray" making a great choice for a trash-glam smoky eye look. i've used it here all over my lids and "filthy" on the outer half of the lids as well. i used "hard magic" to give more shape, which wasn't really necessary, and added a bit of definition along the lash lines with pixi endless silky eye pen in "slate grey". i did add urban decay "buck" from the original naked palette, along the edge of my eye sockets, because it made things look a little more finished. i also have to give a major assist to anastasia's metallic luster liner in "metallic gold", which is much more like a light pewter or platinum shade, and gives a noticeable effect with just a little colour. 

the blush here is nars "sin" and the lipstick is mac "blankety". 

"troubled female"

after trying to channel the insane brilliance of divine in pink flamingos several times, this was the best i was able to get. clearly, the white isn't nearly sharp enough to work and believe me, it took more effort than i'd normally expend to get it to this point. i wanted to stick to the white/ blue/ black palette as closely as possible, but i could not make "female trouble" look good on its own, so i added "babs" on the inner lid. "waters" looks ok, but not great, in these photos, but it was patchy and faded rapidly, so this look was not lovely within a couple of hours. along with nars "black valley" i did a strong angle with "hard magic" and tried to apply "female trouble" above the crease and along the browbone. then i gave up and used "skull" because it was just easier to get a passable look that way.

i didn't note the blush, but the lipstick is armani rouge ecstasy 510 "dolci".

this can be a fun palette to work with, but for something created to invoke one of the greatest icons of drag and trash cinema, i feel like it could have [and should have] been better executed. i have my fingers crossed for a full-on waters-themed collection in the future, maybe from another brand.

2018 marks the thirtieth anniversary of divine's untimely death, which is as good an excuse as any to get into the magical, maniacal work of john waters and the dreamland studios gang. the bfi has a nice little primer on what to watch first [and what to hold off on] among waters' films. pop matters did their own top ten list of his best films, which is as likely to start fights as any top ten list, but still gives you something to go on. later this year, the baltimore museum of art will feature a retrospective of these hometown heroes. but if you're in baltimore before then, you can kick back with a "divine martini" at r. bar, which has a feature menu of waters-inspired cocktails for the next few months. 


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