Riccardo Simonetti likes to show off with make-up. In an interview, he talks about the stigma surrounding men with make-up on.
Wearing makeup is vain and makeup is only for women? Riccardo Simonetti (29) wants to refute these clichés. He is the moderator of the show “Glow Up – Germany’s next make-up star”. In the show, which starts on September 22 at 8:15 p.m. on ZDFNeo, ten make-up artists compete against each other. They put their skills to the test in various challenges. They are then judged by the renowned make-up artists Armin Morbach and Loni Baur as well as guest judges such as Conchita Wurst (33) and Eva Padberg (42). The format originally comes from Great Britain and can already be found in the original on Netflix in this country. Now the show is also coming to Germany.
Entertainer and author Simonetti is happy with the program “Creating visibility”. In an interview with the news agency spot on news, he revealed why he sometimes feels more manly thanks to make-up and what would appeal to him about a role in a horror film.
Do you have the feeling that many more men today dare to leave the house with make-up on?
Riccardo Simonetti: In the bubble I live in, men have always put on make-up. But I think you can see more and more that outside of the queer bubble, our image of masculinity is constantly changing. You’re now seeing more men wearing nail polish, wearing pearl necklaces, or using decorative makeup. I think the internet plays a big role in that, because you see people you can identify with that you might not see in conventional media.
It’s still a topic to talk about because you still can’t just be a man putting on makeup without having to have a political discussion about it. I wish we could get to the point where it’s perfectly fine to either use makeup or not.
Do you often experience hostility because of your appearance? Has that changed with your growing media presence?
Simonetti: I’m not familiar with not triggering a reaction. When I lived in Bad Reichenhall ten years ago, I didn’t know the feeling of walking through the streets and not getting any reaction from people about how I look, how I’m dressed, how I move, whether I’ve got make-up on am or not…
Years later, with the media attention I now have, I’m still fighting some of the same struggles as back then. The comments people write under my pictures are the same things that used to be called out to me. That’s why I want to inspire and sensitize people through my work to be nicer to each other.
You’re now being applauded for your looks too. You have just received an award for “Fashion Icon of the Year” and have been the face of a number of campaigns.
Simonetti: But I have the same appeal: that you should be nice to people who look strange. I used to be told that I was an oddball. Today, I am the person to be recognized for the things I used to be ridiculed for. I hope that through the things I do, people who are like me or like the boy I was ten years ago have it a little easier.
Thanks to some campaigns, photos of me with my makeup on have been hanging on bus stops lately. People shouldn’t just see my face on it, they should get used to seeing a man with make-up on at any time of the day. So that they become more tolerant towards the made-up men who then sit next to them on the bus and not just at the bus stop. I hope that I can build such a bridge between people.
You have not chosen an easy task.
Simonetti: That’s right. I was just talking about it being a tough fight at dinner last night. I mean no harm to anyone at all. On the contrary. But I have to listen to so much crap for it. I’ve been accused of wanting to influence children, deliberately making people homosexual, and demonizing conventional masculinity. That’s not true at all. Just because I’m trying to get more rights and kindness out of people who get screwed all the time. I can’t understand how so many obstacles can be put in my way.
Have you found a way to deal with this more easily?
Simonetti: When someone criticizes me for the fact that I wear make-up or how I look, it often bounces off me. People underestimate how commonplace this is. It’s different when I’m being criticized for trying to inspire others. This is difficult. It would be a lie to say that it’s not incredibly stressful to have to fight this battle all the time.
But when you then hear that, for example, young people can lead a self-determined life through my work or are encouraged to show the world their true selves – that is a great motivation. When I see that the things I do really have an impact on people’s lives.
Do you have any advice for people who are afraid of criticism from others?
Simonetti: Once you’ve felt like you were yourself and showed society who you are – it’s like a drug. It’s addicting. Then you want to be that person in every area and start building a life where that is possible. You attract people who like you for the things you are. But you also see people leaving your life who can’t deal with the fact that you love yourself more than the opinions of others. This is not a negative, but the beginning of the rest of your life.
Why is it important to you that “Glow Up” made it into prime time as a makeup show?
Simonetti: When I was young I didn’t have any representative figures. When I turned on the TV, of course I saw gay people here and there. But they weren’t allowed to talk about being gay or complex topics. I’m sure that gays of this generation must have done a lot of political things. But back then, maybe they couldn’t do it in prime time form on TV.
That’s why it’s so important to me to create visibility with these platforms. That’s why what we did with “Glow Up” is so great. It’s an “8:15 show” that’s about makeup, but also about more. It’s about showing the reasons why people started with make-up and what their sometimes very personal inspirations are. I see that as the privilege of today and I would definitely like to take advantage of it.
What feeling do you associate with make-up?
Simonetti: For me, make-up is language that speaks for me before I can even open my mouth. There is a stigma surrounding the subject. It is said that people who put on too much make-up or spend too much time doing it are superficial and vain. I think our show makes it clear that makeup isn’t just there to make someone look prettier. It can make people look more interesting. But it can also transport a message or transform people into a work of art.
I think just a makeup look that goes beyond everyday makeup can create wonderful artistic things. I see this as a way to emphasize facets of my personality. For example, if I wear a badass smokey eye and pull my hair back, that’s something very hard, which I find particularly masculine. On the other hand, I perceive reduced make-up, where I wear more neutral tones, as a more feminine look. My ideas of masculinity and femininity are now decoupled from the topic of make-up.
Has your approach or feel for makeup changed with the show?
Simonetti: Working on the show was a great process for me because I could think of a new make-up look every day for a month at a time that is also worthy of a show like this. As a result, I spent a lot of time in makeup and that was inspiring. I looked at what the contestants created every day on set and that also encouraged me to try something out of the ordinary. I was like, ‘My God, I look so terribly boring! Now I have to put a piece of moss on my face too!’ (laughs) That’s when you see what’s possible and with how much creativity you can turn your face into a work of art.
You’ve recently landed moderation jobs and dabbled in acting. Is there anything else that would excite you?
Simonetti: I was hoping that this question would come up (laughs). I have a new goal. I have a dream to be in a horror movie. This was a sensitive topic for me for a long time. I couldn’t watch them because I was too sensitive and dreamed about it. Since moving in with my boyfriend, I’ve developed a different relationship with horror movies. I love them now and really want to play in one – also to finally overcome my fear. Then the next time I watch a horror movie, maybe even alone, I’m emotionally prepared because I know how the scenes come about. Besides, I’m the perfect horror movie victim! (laughs)