Willam Belli, the international drag queen sensation, is finally doing what fans have been clamoring for since he first hit the runway on season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race: he’s releasing a makeup collection, cheekily called Coverboy.
The “gender creative” line, which officially launched over the weekend during the third annual RuPaul’s DragCon NYC, features lashes, glitter and lips. “No palette?” I ask, referencing what has become a signature for the handful of other queens who have released collections. “No one needs another fucking palette,” Willam responds.
Encompassing the collection are six designer lashes, including a triple layer lash — a drag queen signature, according to the packaging — and a subtle feathered polka dotted style for a “naturally glamorous moment” ($10-$18), five signature lip varnishes in shades like red, trublue, truffle, “Steely Tran” and “Puss” ($16), and four glitter gels for cheeks, eyes and lips in colors like goldie, gem, “Roller Rink” and “Blue Balls” ($12).
The concept for the brand first started to take shape in 2018 during a conversation with some people that Willam met through his friends Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. “[Ready Go Ventures] started brands for other influencers that wound up in Sephora or Ulta and I thought, ‘Why don’t I throw my two cents into the ring?’ Because my makeup is pretty durable. It’s bulletproof: my lips don’t go anywhere, I’m eating in, I’m smoking in it, I’m leading an active single mother lifestyle.”
At this point, Willam pauses our interview as a fan approaches with a copy of his 2016 book, “Suck Less: Where There’s a Willam, There’s a Way.” He greets his fan with a familiar hello (the assumption is always that they’ve met, not that they’re meeting), snaps a quick selfie, then takes a page from the book and bites it before signing an autograph. “Where were we?” he asks matter of factly, turning his attention back to me.
According to Willam, he was looking for makeup with a lifespan, something he could not find on the market, and so he decided to create it himself. As a drag performer, often in makeup for hours if not entire days (and/or nights), finding a makeup that didn’t need constant re-applying was crucial. “I don’t want to carry a whole makeup bag to a gig and worry about my face. I just want it to stay where I put it,” he explains.
It’s a drastic shift in landscape from the world of makeup Willam came up in, which never acknowledged drag queens — let alone targeted them. (Then again, drag had not meant the leap to mainstream consciousness as it has over the last decade.) That led to some creative shopping techniques for Willam in the early days. “Anything I could steal — I stole so much from the CVS and Walgreens every weekend and then I used to steal from this local community theater too — I stole all their wigs,” he explains. “Stealing, mopping, thieving, pilfering, that was me.”
How does he think his makeup line stacks up to other former “Drag Race” contestants who have gone on to create makeup lines themselves (Trixie Mattel, Miss Fame) or collaborated with major brands (Alyssa Edwards, Aquaria)? It’s not a competition, he says, but rather a celebration of joining his contemporaries in finding ways to monetize their talents.
“It’s a big pie,” he says, “and there’s plenty of room for each of us.” After all, having a range of lines targeting and intentionally directed at people of all genders can help ungender the conversation about who can (and cannot) wear makeup. Plus, with the varied ranges of products and colorways, there’s no reason why consumers can’t dabble with multiple, if not all, of these collections.
Any nerves Willam might have had surrounding the launch of the line were surely put to bed by the long line of adoring fans waiting to get their hands on the product. “When you’re a drag queen you need three good things: a lip, a lash and some glitter. The glitter can cover so many things: it can highlight, you can put it in your hair, up your shins, anywhere.”
Asked if there’s anywhere you shouldn’t put the glitter, Willam gave an answer so characteristically obscene, I couldn’t possibly print it here. “Any more questions?” he asks with an equally characteristic menace in his eyes, encircled by his perfectly sculpted Coverboy lashes. Not at this time.