For many within the trans and non-binary community, beauty, art, fashion, and creating are integral parts of self-discovery and expression. Some people’s first understanding of their gender is realized through makeup and hair. And for some others, beauty is crucial to survival as it provides an escape from our sometimes undesirable realities. As it exists now, beauty is more than an outlet of self-determination; in the online realm, beauty helps find and build community. These connections have led to unfathomable career opportunities in today’s industry, whether as an associate at Sephora or as a behind-the-scenes glam team in Hollywood. The presence of trans people in the beauty industry steadily grows.
Beauty has reached far beyond escapism and capitalism; countless beauty artists apply their talents towards the greater good, advocating for social justice issues, often with messages painted right on their faces.
Matt Bernstein’s radical looks have informed thousands with clever messages about the LGBTQIA+ community, and these posts have educated the masses about the ongoing anti-trans political crisis shaping the country. It’s fair to say that beauty activists, and the beauty industry is helping to usher in acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Yet, even amid prevailing support, growing anti-trans legislation targeting trans healthcare and trans athletes has left most of the trans community feeling despondent.
Last year, 44 trans people were murdered, setting a record for the highest number of fatalities tracked since 2013. Meanwhile, as 2021 is shaping up to surpass last year’s casualties, trans people, especially trans youth, find they are targeted by anti-trans legislation across the country. More than two dozen states are attempting to block trans people from playing sports consistent with their gender identity or receiving gender-affirming health care.
If we have learned anything after these last four years under Trump, we know that the intentional enabling of misinformation by public figures and politicians is dangerous. Dire consequences are expected to take place as these bills and anti-trans rhetoric continues to gain steam. The trans community is bracing in anticipation of violence, especially towards trans youth.
Still, while we all are on high alert, some of us create safe havens to protect others in the community. By standing up for one another, trans people find ways to uplift and support themselves through trans-inclusive sports leagues, healthcare, art, or even by creating communal safe spaces dedicated to trans-inclusive beauty.
Industry creatives Deja, an Emmy nominated makeup artist, and Dee, a celebrity hairstylist, have combined their skills to foster such a space. Together, the duo has launched DDPro, a concierge space where glam is created, safety is affirmed, and where the most marginalized of the trans community have access to a production team and studio that supports their creative pursuits.
Deja and Dee are well seasoned in their fields of expertise. Both have worked with friend Laverne Cox since Orange Is The New Black’s first press junket. They’ve long championed trans inclusivity in their work, collaborating with well-known organizations and brands to spearhead several trans-centered campaigns. In 2019, DDPro produced a 10-page spread with Gay Times Magazine, “They Power,” which highlighted various non-binary creatives and introduced their work and production capabilities to the world. Most recently, Deja was nominated for Best Makeup on FX Television series Pose at the Emmys.
Deja and Dee are social activists and loudly advocate for marginalized people; DDPro is an extension of their social justice work. “Social justice and giving back to marginalized communities is a driving force of our creative pursuits. Our aesthetic lies at the intersection of fashion, art, gender, and performance, which continually influence our dynamic team.”
Deja and Dee work diligently to redistribute their resources, especially towards trans, non-binary, ethnically diverse, and queer community-focused projects. Trans people utilizing beauty to support and validate other trans people isn’t unorthodox; it has long been a form of collective support within the community. DDPro continues this tradition, as both experts extend their creative expertise to a community often grappling with the harsh realities caused by rampant transphobia.
There is no better time or need than now for DDPro, their resources, and their opportunities for trans people across the spectrum. The LGBTQIA+ community, many of whom experience anxiety and depression due to the aforementioned circumstances, find that these feelings are amplified by onset of a pandemic that has doubly impacted their income.
Trans and non-binary people already face disproportionate discrimination when looking for work, and for LGBTQIA creatives or gig workers, their income has nearly vanished due to the pandemic. The financial and emotional upheaval has turned life upside down for most of the trans community. DDPro’s affordable structure is a necessary asset, especially for a community that continues to be financially vulnerable as the pandemic continues. Deja and Dee aim to elevate young, queer, transgender creatives into entrepreneurship and success planning, with the intent to help build the socioeconomic development of talented trans people on the margins. “As a team our ethos is to challenge and disrupt the exclusionary beauty paradigm while creating safe spaces for inclusion in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes. We love to push the boundaries. We tailor our services to the person, not the trend.” They do so in an environment established to reaffirm trans people and their existence, all the while helping produce stories and prompt dialogues that counter the transphobic falsehoods currently plaguing our politics.
The DDPro’s space allows the duo to work with clients one-on-one, creatively consult with organizations and brands, and create new work in a comfortable and safe setting. The menu includes a starter studio, production team options, professional makeup and hair services, image consulting, Photo Studio, and skills-building workshops. Their studio is equipped with backdrops and lighting for shoots, a salon with separate hair and makeup stations, as well as an endless list of photographers, videographers, and shoot-related team members. DDPro’s Studio can be rented as a whole or in parts for the small-scale photo and video shoots, or even just for self-tape auditions. And while Dee and Deja emphasize emotional and physical safety for clients, they also ensure covid safe facilities by implementing TV production level protocols.
DDProand DDProStudio provides a glimmer of hope for those, like myself, who feel weighed down by the ceaseless waves of political harassment. Dee and Deja look forward to creating avenues that foster truthful and humanizing conversations about trans people. Still, more importantly, they hope their space serves as a consistent affirmation of other trans people and their existence through beauty. “When it comes to DDPro impact behind the scenes, we pride ourselves in creating an experience.”
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