In 2017, fans saw the face of DJ, producer, and overall pop innovator Sophie appropriately for the first time. For years before that, the pioneering musician, who tragically died last month at the age of 34, remained relatively undercover, hidden behind DJ decks; plastic slides the shape of spiral DNA-covered album artwork where a face and a body might have been.
Then, on 19 October 2017, Sophie uploaded the music video for a song called It’sIt’s Okay To Cry, in which the artist stared straight into the camera in a moment of revelation. But what was immediately striking was the prosthetic makeup plumping the artist’s cheeks like a cherubic angel, as Sophie reassured us: “I think your inside is your best side.”
It’s Okay To Cry was an introduction to Sophie’sSophie’s face, as well as to the artist’s 2018 LP Oil of Every Pearl’sPearl’s Un-Insides.
That was an album that linked transgenderism with transhumanism – the philosophy that we can reach our most significant potential by improving ourselves technologically. Songs like Faceshopping and Immaterial proposed that technology (including prosthetic makeup) could enhance our self-presentation in ways that transcended the gendered human self. Through music, Sophie expressed the idea that, by creating new skins of our own, we could better express our insides, and our best sides, to the world.
It wasn’t just a striking effect, but a seminal one. Less than two years later, Balenciaga sent their models down the catwalk with similarly sculpted faces for their spring/summer 2020 collection at Paris Fashion Week. The show notes that accompanied the presentation explained that the model’s models prosthetic makeup was a “play on beauty standards of today, the past, and the future.”
Catwalks have always been at the forefront of embodying speculative futures, and sure enough, ever since Balenciaga’s Sophie-resembling show, prosthetic makeup has begun to cross over the back to pop music and into mainstream visual culture.