‘Lipgloss Boy’ Enioluwa Adeoluwa shatters expectations of masculinity in Nigeria

·5-min read

Enioluwa Adeoluwa, affectionately known as Lipgloss Boy or Beauty Boy, has become one of Nigeria’s most popular influencers. He has done so by challenging notions of masculinity in his videos, which offer makeup, skincare and fashion advice for men. Enioluwa’s success, in a country as conservative and homophobic as Nigeria, is impressive and unprecedented.

It all began when Enioluwa posted a video of himself on Instagram applying lip gloss in November 2020. The video quickly went viral. Today, Lipgloss Boy has over 335,000 followers on Instagram, more than 376,000 followers on TikTok, a late-night show, and he has worked with major international beauty companies.

The 22-year-old is currently completing a marketing masters degree in Lagos and also works as a content creator for a fintech company. He grew up with five siblings in a Christian family which he described as a “beauty experience”. Enioluwa told us that he was grateful for how open-minded his family has been – a luxury in a traditionalist country like Nigeria.

“I wanted to start meaningful conversations around gender norms and masculinity”

In Nigeria, there was no beauty content among men so I wanted to do something that was different, that would enable me to express my individuality and that would start meaningful conversations around gender norms and masculinity. The first video that went viral was a video of me applying lip gloss. I think that it caught people’s attention because people aren’t used to seeing men wearing makeup.

I posted the video before going to class and by the end of the lecture, I had already received thousands of likes and comments. It went completely viral. I was surprised at how many people related the video. But it goes to show how far we need to go in terms of normalising certain cultural taboos.

Masculinity has often been restricted by gendered expectations in fashion. Skirts, dresses and makeup are for women, while suits are for men. But these notions of masculinity are confined and toxic. What about men who don’t want to fit into this specific box? What about men who want to wear makeup and skirts? We should be allowed to wear what we want and it is so important for us to break down these barriers. I hope to inspire people to do so through my content.

Although I have received lots of positive feedback, I have also received a lot of hate speech and bullying across online platforms. I have been harassed and have received tons of inappropriate questions about my sexual orientation and criticism for wearing ‘feminine’ clothes and makeup.

However, the positive feedback that I receive on a daily basis reassures me that I am doing something right and that I should continue, even though dangers exist. I didn’t have figures in Nigeria to look up to when I was growing up. I want to be that person for younger generations. It is so important for people to realise that they are not alone.

“Making videos about makeup for men is considered dangerous”

Enioluwa told us he sometimes feels scared before posting his videos – and for good reason.

Nigeria’s legal code criminalizes homosexual acts and the gender identity or expression of trans people. In the north of the country where sharia law holds, penalties can include public flogging or stoning to death (although that penalty has not been used). In addition, members of the LGBTQ community have been beaten up in public. In other states, same-sex offences carry a 14-year jail term.

A 2013 Pew Research Center study found that 98 percent of Nigerians thought homosexuality should not be accepted by society. Meanwhile, a 2017 survey by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS), a Nigerian-based human rights organisation, showed that 90 percent of Nigerians supported the continued enforcement of Nigeria’s anti-gay laws.

I get very nervous before posting my videos because I get scared that there will be a negative backlash. So making videos about makeup for men is considered incredible out there, and dangerous.

There is a very basic understanding of sexuality and gender in Nigeria – according to law, you are either female or male. There are no other options, and you can face over a decade in prison if you don’t fit into these boxes. So lots of people live in constant fear and cannot openly express their sexual orientation. They are not protected by any law, and so they face discrimination.

I have had to navigate fame very carefully. I’ve tried to build a name for myself while staying as minimal as possible so that I don’t get into trouble with the government. But fame also offers a certain degree of protection as well.

“An explosion is taking place among younger generations when it comes to sexuality and gender norms”

Enioluwa believes that there has been a generational change in the way social issues are dealt with, with younger generations becoming a lot more progressive. According to him, social media has played a key role in this shift.

There is absolutely no doubt that an explosion is taking place among younger generations when it comes to sexuality and gender norms. We are now able to find communities of people we can relate to on social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. This has empowered us, as we no longer feel alone. People beyond this country have inspired us a lot and the internet has enabled us to connect with them.

Lots of people are still living in fear, the situation is definitely not perfect, but young people have definitely opened up. They are beginning to take up space, allowing themselves to be who they want to be because people are tired of living in fear. I think that my success is an example of the shift that has taken place. I’m wearing makeup online and still collaborating with major companies at the same time. It’s one of the first times that people are seeing that.

Enioluwa’s work is not just important for men, but for women as well. According to a study by the UN, addressing the negative expectations of men, a feature of ‘toxic masculinity’, plays a key role in eradicating gender-based violence.

This is critical in Nigeria, where more than one out of every four women aged 25 to 29 have experienced some form of physical violence, according to the UN.

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