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Makeup Artist Jade Ponce Is Uplifting The Trans Community, One Face at a Time

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Jade Ponce has an immediately recognizable gentle spirit. Sure, you might first notice that she has mastered the art of a glowing soft beat or that her highlighter is the perfect shade for her honey complexion—but then you take note of her sweet smile and inviting demeanor and think, I want to be friends with this girl.

Jade exudes a subtle confidence that makes you believe that she was born with it, but the truth is, her strong sense of self is the result of hard inner work and self-exploration. This makeup artist has a story to tell and inspiration to share, so we caught up with Jade to learn more about her story and discover what beauty and pride look like through her eyes.

Finding Her Truth

“Growing up in Vegas and starting my transition was really hard,” says Jade. “There are gorgeous people everywhere and lots of plastic surgery. I put a lot of pressure on myself and felt like that's what I had to look like.”

While many teens were discovering who they are, Jade spent a lot of her time trying to hide her true self. Even though she was out and identified as a gay man in high school, she suppressed herself for the sake of others. “In school, I always had a false sense of confidence,” she says. “I never wanted anybody to see me being vulnerable, so I portrayed that I was this confident person that knew who I was. I didn’t want anyone to know how bad I was struggling with my identity and all of my insecurities. I was the token cool gay at all of the parties with all of the straight guy friends—never showing my femininity.”

But one day, something changed. “I just looked at myself in the mirror and I told myself, ‘What are you doing? You're wasting your time and you're going to die like this,’” she adds. “At that moment I had an awakening. I just snapped out of it and said out loud, ‘I’m a woman.’ Plus, I hate lying,” Jade continues. “I'm not a liar. It makes me really uncomfortable, and I felt like being my old self was like constantly lying to myself, my family, and my friends. Ever since that day, even through all of my ugly phases, this is me and you either like it or you don't.”

Redefining Beauty

After making the decision to transition, Jade’s beauty journey wasn’t just a highlight reel. Like many of us, she looked to the 2010s YouTube beauty community and found inspiration in heavily contoured complexions and overdrawn eyebrows. “I don't know what I was thinking,” says Jade. “I used to wear four pairs of lashes at a time. I just wanted the thickest lash look—you could barely see my eyes!” Even though she might have gotten it a bit wrong at first (who doesn’t?!), Jade’s love for makeup ultimately created a path for her career.

“I didn't grow up very well off financially, so I didn't have access to hormones. The only thing I had to make me feel feminine was makeup. I watched as many people as I could and learned how to use it on myself, and then it became a passion. I started doing my friend’s makeup, and then I’d be referred to a friend of theirs, and one day I was doing a bride. It all snowballed from there. Now makeup artistry is what I do full time.”

For aspiring makeup artists, Jade recommends getting as much experience as possible. “Doing makeup on other people versus doing makeup on yourself is so different,” she says. “Do as many faces as possible because that's when I really learned. It’s all about confidence. It’s important to discover your personal style and find out what makes you different. Just because something is popular, it doesn’t mean you have to do it.”

Makeup Artistry Meets Activism

Makeup was once a disguise for Jade to hide behind, but today, it’s her tool of connection. With tens of thousands of followers on TikTok, a community of loyal YouTube subscribers, and a growing, engaged Instagram following, Jade’s visibility itself is a form of activism. It allows her to share her story while instilling confidence and pride in others. Plus, her sense of humor and creative makeup looks offer inspiration for days.

“Before, I used to try and use makeup to change who I was,” says Jade. “I wanted the full transformation, and I was basically doing drag makeup. But as my artistry grows, and I grow as a person, I just love expressing myself and using makeup to bring out who I am. I love doing that for other people, too.” And while she’s ambitiously paved a way for herself, Jade is more concerned with her impact on others.

“I have goals as a makeup artist, but more than anything else, I just want to keep chiselling away at who Jade is. I’ve never been a numbers person. As long as I can support myself and do things I’m passionate about, I’m happy. I want to continue shedding light on what it’s like to be Black and trans. I want to help people—I didn’t come this far to keep it all to myself.”

Why Pride Matters

In spite of some of her negative experiences, there’s not a hateful bone in Jade’s body. She stands up for herself and her community with grace and compassion, but disrespect—especially to oneself—is something she never tolerates.

“Unfortunately, [as trans women] we do need to be cautious due to violence against us, but I want to bring awareness to that,” she says. “I'm such a proponent of not hiding, now more than ever. We need to be visible and live our lives. We deserve to fall in love, go out for drinks, or just have a basic life. I'm not hiding myself even though it's scary. Honestly, I'm scared almost every time I go out, but I'm not going to let that stop me because that means that they win.”

While you can find Jade sharing her favorite makeup products on YouTube, her channel actually began as a safe space for those navigating similar experiences. She explains: “At one point, I struggled with mental health and my gender identity, but I struggled alone. Now I realize it was very unnecessary, and I didn't have to struggle without a community. It's okay to go through hard times. It doesn't have to define you. There is beauty in that vulnerability. Although what we portray on social media is like this picture perfect life—we're all humans. That's what's beautiful to me.”

Most importantly, Jade wants to instill pride in the younger generation. “Ever since I started on YouTube, I had a younger audience of a lot of young trans girls questioning things,” she says. “ I just wanted to be that good role model for them. I want them to know you don't need a ton of surgeries. I didn't even start hormones until like four years into my transition. I know a lot of women who go into sex work or do dangerous things in order to invest into their bodies—and while there is nothing inherently wrong with that type of work, I want to see people being happy with themselves.

“Medicine, surgeries, or exterior things don’t make you who you are. Today, I don’t feel like I have to present this fantasy of a woman. I just feel like I'm Jade. I love showing my femininity, and I get this euphoric feeling when I have my makeup done, and I know I look cute. I spent the majority of my life hating who I was and wanting to hide. Now I can't stand to hide. I want the world to know I’m here.”

Interested in reading more inspiring personal stories? Learn about dermatologist Adeline Kikam's (a.k.a. @brownskinderm) strive for wellness in skin of color, see how Ndeye Peinda is breaking the stereotypical beauty mold, and hear from makeup artist Renée Loiz about her work to diversify your beauty cabinet.

Inspired by Jade’s creative makeup looks and want to experiment with your look? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with the IPSY Glam Bag. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

About the author
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Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated May 23, 2023 12:00 AM