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salvia is the surreal drag artist channelling alien glamour

Beauty notes from the Nick Knight muse whose extreme rejection of traditional ideals of beauty and unique style of distorted make-up has taken the fashion world by storm.

by Tish Weinstock
30 January 2018, 8:15am

Image via Instagram

Born and raised in the Welsh wilderness, as a kid Salvia never felt at ease in her human body. “I always felt detached,” she says, “as if it was just an ugly vessel carrying me around.” So she decided to opt for something a little more otherworldly. Inspired by the ethereal beings that shimmied and shook down Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter 09 runway, Salvia began experimenting with dramatic make-up and extreme looks. First she shaved her eyebrows, and then she shaved her hairline. The white eyelashes came next, followed swiftly by the Leigh Bowery-style smudged lipstick. Distorting her image further through Photoshop was just a natural progression, it’s also what piqued the interest of renowned photographer Nick Knight, who cherry picked her to star in last project, Infamy. Here she muses on all things beauty.

“My earliest beauty related memory was when I was around four years old; I watched an episode of the Tweenies where my favourite character Fizz had a hallucinatory experience -- she went to a toy shop and encountered a doll with long white hair and pink skin, she looked like a human-alien hybrid. The doll had ripped up her clothes and taken out her batteries so that she couldn't be sold because she wanted to stay on display for everyone to see her and give her attention, but the shop owner saw that she was broken and threw her in the bin.

When I was 14 I shaved off my eyebrows and I consider this to be an important moment for me because it was the first step in finding how I wanted to look and was my first rejection of traditional beauty. A few weeks later, I started drawing dots on my face and painting my eyelashes white.

My first big make-up inspiration was the make-up from Alexander Mcqueen's autumn/winter show, The Horn of Plenty. It’s always the things that shock me most that I end up falling in love with.

I never felt beautiful as a kid, but I loved dressing up. Dressing up has helped me learn to love my body, the ritual of decorating and celebrating myself has allowed me to develop a better relationship with myself and my body. I wish I had been able to express myself through dressing up as a child, I think it would have helped me love myself, because I always felt detached from my body, as if it was just an ugly vessel carrying me around.

I share a lot of pictures I’ve taken of myself on Instagram. I’m really inspired by the artist Claude Cahun, who was dressing up and taking surreal self-portraits in the 1920s, as well as the work of Cindy Sherman. I am also fascinated by people editing their pictures and how and why they do it. I am interested in how far I can push the editing of my pictures and have it still be considered a look, the majority of people wouldn't consider a floating flesh orb to be a look, but I do. Social media isn’t as important to me as it was, but when I was younger it was important because it showed me that there are beautiful queer people living amazing lives, which isn't something I was ever shown growing up.

White mascara instantly makes me feel extremely glamorous and ethereal and shaving my hairline is important for preserving my alien glamour, but I feel most beautiful when I’m dressed up and in a loving environment with my friends.

Over the years, I’ve experienced an abundance of make-up fails, but they are mostly pretty boring. My therapist recently told me that when I first started seeing her I arrived with the words “fuck off” written on my forehead, I guess that could be considered an interesting choice.

My advice for kids who don't feel beautiful is to practice celebrating themselves and their bodies, the majority of bodies do not fit the standard that is forced into our heads and it is important to know that you can be beautiful existing outside of that mould. Loving yourself is the most powerful thing you can do.”

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

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