BIPOC Voices, Living

Glitter and the role it plays in the Drag community

Where did glitter originate?

words by: Natasha Marsh
Jul 3, 2022

This year I celebrated Pride in Mexico City, Mexico. As a big fan of the New York City and San Francisco Pride celebrations, I was elated to learn that Mexico City Pride coincided with my birthday trip to the colorful city. Walking around the Pride parade, I was entranced by the colorful angel wings, grungy mental work, platform shoes, and so much more. But most of all, I was stunned by the enchanting glitter eye makeup, body glitter, and glitter body spray, on all the locals and tourists who flocked to the city for one of the biggest Pride festivals in the world.


It reminded me of my early days in New York City, where nights and weekends were spent at infamous House Of Yes, yelling and dancing to the drag and circus performers who were also decked out in glitter ensembles and makeup. It got me thinking: Did glitter originate in the drag community? Or was LGBTQ+ culture in general (not the show Euphoria) responsible for the popularization? I set out to find out more through my research.


Made out of glass and invented in 1934 by Henry Ruschmann, an American machinist, glitter entered popular culture during the late ’30s to early ’60s, becoming a world of its own with rockstars like David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust in the ’70s, who sported it with pride. Back then, and even now, it is seen as protest and defiance, often seen on people at activist parades and walks, or thrown on homophobic politicians via glitter bombing.


I often joke around with a close friend of mine who has been obsessed with glitter and sequins since we were 7. She has a tendency of leaving glitter around my life for weeks after I see her. Glitter, although popular in many youthful activities and childhood birthday parties, is also an important beauty staple in queer nightlife and performance art (drag, burlesque, and cabaret).


Glitter makeup, seen too often on female-identifying bodies for so long, has been used in the drag community as a way to blur gender lines. In other words, it’s the wearable glitter that speaks loudly for a community that has long been told to be silent—without having to say anything.


There is also something to say about its durability and long-lasting capabilities. You can’t easily get glitter off of your skin, clothing, bedsheets, or home floors and carpets. Random? I think not. I believe it’s symbolic in the fact that its history and celebration cannot be erased, and that the community will never give up on themselves or their rights.


To learn more about the LGBTQ community, these 5 queer books are great additions for your bookshelf.