Your K-Beauty Guide to Pride: What to Expect + Beauty Tips & Inspiration
Whether you’re a Pride Month newbie or a familiar face on the scene, I’ll share a few tips on surviving this celebration of love and equality.
Happy Pride Month to all of you! While rainbow looks are a joy to behold all year-round, June is a particularly special month for all things colorful. It’s Pride month, and it deserves a little attention.
Pride Month is just around the corner. It’s the promise of a day of everything fabulous, everything rainbow, celebrated by those in the LGBTQ+ community (along with their allies), and it’s something I look forward to with great anticipation every year.
What is Pride?
Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969, which are largely credited as the catalyst for the modern-day LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. Today, Pride is a global event, with parties, parades, workshops, and concerts held to recognize the impact and progress the LGBTQ+ community has made throughout history. LGBTQ+ people have had a long and hard road to equality, and for some there is still a long way to go. Currently, only 26 nations worldwide allow LGBTQ+ people to marry. Being LGBTQ+ can result in criminalization in 69 countries, and in 10 countries it is punishable by death. Thankfully my country of South Africa made gay marriage legal back in 2006, and my wife and I are happily married here in the U.S.
The first Pride took place in New York City in 1970, at a time when bell-bottoms, platform shoes, and disco ruled the fashion world. I’m pretty sure BB cream wasn’t a thing back then and exposing as much skin as possible to the sun’s rays was acceptable. Nowadays, we are far more focused on protecting our skin from irreversible damage, and using adequate sunscreen is undoubtedly rule number one.
I’m working on becoming a Pride veteran, having been to Pride events in Seoul (twice); New York City; Columbus, Ohio; and Phoenix, Arizona. No two Prides are the same, and over the years I’ve come to experience some stark differences between them.
My Seoul Pride experiences
Seoul has been celebrating Pride since 2000, where a small attendance of 50 people was met by onlookers cursing and yelling aggressively. Ten years later the festival had much more support, including representatives from Korea NGOs, human rights groups, counseling centers, as well as transgender singer and model Harisu (Lee Kyeung-eun) and film director Kim-Jho Gwang-soo, whose wedding was the first public, non-legal same-sex wedding ceremony in South Korea, a country that does not recognize same-sex marriages.
In the nearly 20 years since Pride has been held in Korea, attendance and support for the LGBTQ+ community has grown immensely. In reaction to this, so has the number of violent and unfriendly anti-gay protestors. Many are from conservative Christian groups who have been known to physically block the parade by lying on the road, call for LGBTQ+ folk to rot in hell, and physically attack LGBTQ+ people enjoying the festival.
One major difference I’ve noticed with Seoul’s Pride compared to any U.S. Pride event is that it is quite typical for Korean LGBTQ+ people to hide their identities behind face masks and sunglasses. This is often due to fear of being ostracized and condemned by others. Attendees have worn red ribbons in the past to indicate that they would not like to be photographed by any media. Additionally, the police presence was very strong and seemed to be in place to protect the Pride attendees from possible harm caused by anti-LGBTQ+ protestors.
While there is still a long way to go before South Korea gets on board with marriage equality, something positive to note is the growing support at each Pride festival. Last year saw over 120,000 participants, along with the support of a number of international embassies including Canada, New Zealand, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, the UK, and the U.S.
Top tips for getting Pride-ready
So if you’re going to be attending your local Pride event, as a Pride veteran and K-beauty lover, I’ve learned a few things on how to survive all the festivities that I’m going to share with you. But first, to get you excited for Pride, take a look at this piece of essential viewing. You won’t be disappointed, promise! (Some context: Mark Kanemura is best known for his work with Lady Gaga (who else) and on the show So You Think You Can Dance, and his rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” is absolutely iconic.)
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1. All of the sunscreen
Don’t skimp. I mean it. Pride events typically run through the hottest months of the year (May-August), with the official Pride month landing slap bang in the middle of summer. You’re guaranteed to spend a couple of hours under the sun’s scorching rays, and your skin deserves the best protection you can give it.
My favorites for halting those UVAs and UVBs are A’Pieu’s Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream and Missha’s All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk. Both are gentle enough for sensitive skin yet provide super effective protection against sun damage.
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You’re going to be on your feet for a few hours and likely walking quite a bit, too. Beat the heat by staying hydrated and taking care of your body from the inside. Water is going to be your skin’s best friend today, so stay away from the caffeinated, sugary drinks if you can.
3. Don’t be afraid to stand out
There are absolutely no rules for what to wear to Pride, and no expectations to dress a certain way. This means you’re free to take this sense of freedom and run with it. Wrap yourself in a rainbow flag if you wish, try that makeup look you’ve been practicing at home, or pop on those sky-high heels (or rainbow sneakers) that make you feel like the queen you are! This is a time to embrace your identity and let yourself shine. The world is your oyster today, and you’ll be in a space to celebrate with an accepting, non-judgmental community who will love you as you are. Try Missha’s Modern Shadow Glitter Prism for an extra sparkle or Tony Moly’s Perfect Lips for a shocking, temporary stain.
If this is your first Pride event, don’t stress too much. If you’re attending as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, you will be welcomed with open arms. You don’t need to be lesbian/gay/trans/queer or anything else to attend, as long as you come with good intentions and the desire to celebrate and support those who are. If you wish to celebrate your sexuality as a minor, by all means go ahead. Hold your partner’s hand in public, feel free to steal a sneaky kiss, and just soak up the ambiance of a community of people who accept you as you are.
Just remember that this is a space that is free of prejudice, so if you’re carrying any of that, just wipe your feet at the door. No hate, no prejudice, and no barriers allowed. Take this time to share the strong sense of pride in your community for achieving things that once seemed impossible (hello marriage equality!).
Pride makeup inspiration
Who says you have to contain the bold colors of the rainbow to just your outfit, nails, and Pride flag? Now’s the time to make use of those colors that you neglect throughout the year and apply them to your face in the most extra way possible. Here, some of my favorite Pride makeup looks.
I just love this look from Hertta Joutsen, a 19-year-old from Finland. Her blending is simply out of this world.
Another teen from Europe, 19-year-old Alice King from the UK has perfected her eyeshadow artistry.
It appears we all have a lot to learn from the teen MUAs because 16-year-old Kyrie Michelle completely kills it with her perfect rainbow eyelids. The attention to detail is simply astonishing.
In the name of all things art, I give you this look from Martha Butterworth, a UK-based fashion and beauty MUA. You didn’t think we’d leave out eyelashes now, did you?
Let’s not forget all the men who rock a contoured look like any queen. Peek Justin Spracklin’s ultra-sharp blending too, which is totally inspiring.
I just love Manny Gutierrez’s royal getup. He believes that boys should get just as much cosmetic recognition, and I totally agree!
Lastly, if you’ve ever wanted to cry rainbow tears, take a look at Bella’s slaying look below.
If those looks just don’t cut it for you, just think outside the box and do Pride Month in your own unique way. After all, the most important thing to remember at Pride — besides plenty of sunscreen and water — is your sense of pride. You’ve come so far in your personal journey, and you are worthy in every way. It’s your day and you deserve to shine!
I hail from South Africa, where I cut my teeth as a journalist, writing for the biggest-selling English magazine in the country.
I spent three years in South Korea and discovered a passion for K-beauty and the jjimjilbang.
I'm always on the go, but I make time for my skin.
Follow me on Instagram at @meg______b and at linkedin.com/in/megan-bursey-530b4177