Taemin Interview: How Makeup Has Shaped His K-Pop Career
Makeup and masculinity aren’t mutually exclusive — a fact that is finally on full display, colorfully and unapologetically. No matter how you identify, you deserve to play with beauty, free of shame and secrecy. Makeup is for everyone, and through Mascara & Masculinity, we’re celebrating just that. In each edition, we ask men and masculine-identifying people to share their stories of falling in love with makeup, plus the products that shaped their relationships with beauty — and with themselves.
The power of smoky eyes isn’t lost on dudes, let me tell ya. For 25-year-old beloved K-pop star Taemin, sooty black shadow diffused on the outer corners of his lids has helped emphasize his signature duality. Through his fluid choreography, playful personality, and sensual songs, the K-pop star has become known for his sexy-yet-pure image, as Taemin describes it to me. Dramatic eye makeup, specifically, intensifies his impressive aura, and that’s incredibly intentional.
“As an artist who performs on the stage, I try to express my feelings and convey my inner thoughts through the looks I give the audience,” he explains. “So, I tend to focus on making sure that my makeup highlights my eyes properly.”
For many, Taemin needs no introduction. In case you need one, though, I got you: In 2008, a then-15-year-old Taemin debuted with K-pop group SHINee as the youngest member and charismatic main dancer, and the quintet quickly became one of the most influential acts in the industry. Taemin, in particular, stood out with his androgynous aesthetic. At the start of his career, his long hair drew so much attention that he jokingly apologized for being “too pretty” on TV in 2012. Now, 10 years into his flourishing career, he’s not apologizing for his androgyny anymore. His hair may be shorter now, but he’s owning the way he marries masculinity and feminity in his stunning performances. If this is the first you’re hearing of Taemin, I strongly suggest watching his music video for his incredibly popular solo song “Move” to put all of this into perspective.
While preparing for his series of solo concerts at Seoul’s SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium, which will take place March 15 through 17, Taemin took a break to reveal how makeup has shaped his thriving career and why he believes a standard for masculinity doesn’t exist.
The Taemin Starter Pack
Black eye shadow and eyeliner, of course.
My Experience Then
When Taemin shares his earliest makeup memory with me, I find myself overcome with déjà vu. Like me, Taemin first began dabbling in cosmetics occurred around age 12 for picture day — mine was for school, his for, well, not school.
At the time, Taemin was an SM Entertainment trainee getting a profile photo taken. Although he doesn’t remember which products were used, his first experience with makeup has stuck in his memory. “It felt like as if I’m wearing a mask — not because it was uncomfortable but because I looked kind of cool yet a bit unfamiliar at the same time,” he recollects. “It felt like my attitude changed as my looks changed.” I, on the other hand, snuck into the bathroom at my private school in South Florida to etch a black eye pencil along my water lines and swipe on mascara before my yearbook photo was taken. We weren’t allowed to wear more than lipgloss to class, but I was a dramatic teen dedicated to having smudgy liner for my official school portrait.
Once Taemin debuted three years later, he realized makeup is another way to convey the vibe of his concept and music. “As I utilized makeup, I found the increasing need to build my own artistic image,” he says. “The synergy created from clothing, hair, and makeup combined is truly amazing, so makeup has been, is, and will be a key factor in establishing my identity as an artist.”