Reality talent show star and celebrity make-up artist Joseph Harwood, has battled prejudice to become a YouTube sensation, with his own cosmetics line and beauty book. He talks exclusively to Fashion North.
At the tender age of 16, Joseph Harwood became the first model to strut the catwalk at London Fashion Week as both a man and a woman.
He went on to be the first gender ambiguous person to ever win a reality based talent contest with Simon Cowell’s YouGen competition last year.
Joseph’s Youtube channel, JHMemories, has been a huge success with 12 million views from all over the world. He’s launched his own cosmetic brush line, lip balm, skincare and with a book deal in the bag, the 24-year-old has further plans to do a make-up class tour in the US.
It’s an amazing feat for the boy who didn’t fit in when he was growing up in a small rural village in England: “Being the fat-but-smart kid at school, I never felt that I was part of something, because I didn’t look as great or feel as accepted next to my peers. I didn’t feel like I belonged.”
To escape the small town he was from, Joseph decided to join Myspace. His striking look and androgynous style grabbed the attention of several photographers. At just 15-years-old, Joseph was formally scouted by an editor from Dazed and Confused to take part in a number of look books.
Joseph said: “From then on, my mum started bringing me to castings, I got to walk in London Fashion Week at 16 as both a guy and a girl. I started getting booked for more editorial work and played with my image.”
After joining Youtube in 2011, the blogger’s make-up tutorials on YouTube have gained him a following of over 130,000 subscribers and have opened up the doors into the industry.
He said: “I really thank God for timing, I’ve definitely created a niche for androgynous beauty on YouTube; it’s taken me to the finals of the L’Oreal Brush Contest and to launch a skincare product”.
Not only has the YouTube channel raised awareness, but it has given many people in the non-binary gender community and LBGTQ community well needed representation and coverage. As one of the first bloggers to post gender related videos online, Joseph received an alarming amount of transphobic and homophobic comments from people on the web.
This unfortunately is not the only instance where he has experienced this: “I’ve had situations in my college where I was taken out of lessons for using a female bathroom, I’ve been banned from venues for similar things”.
In regards to people in similar situations, Joseph advises: “to turn all energy into rocket fuel. Any obstacles I’ve dealt with have given me a fire under my ass and I put that into my work”.
Since starting his tutorials, the make-up artist has chosen to change his appearance many times. Deciding more recently to adopt a more polarised look, rather than the androgynous styles that he’s well known for, Joseph noticed: “the amount of issues have dropped astoundingly. Which really alarms me because ‘passability’ shouldn’t affect the quality of someone’s life.”
The former model defines his gender and style as being two spirited, stating: “I definitely attribute a combination of both genders to my essence. I tend to theme aspects of my style around situations in my life. I spent three years with long fuchsia hair playing with my version of a mermaid image, because I related to the original metaphor by Hans Christian Andersen. Then I played with the idea of looking very ‘alienesque’ and colourless because I related to the feeling of being an alien within our society.”
He goes on to say: “My appearance has always been a really cathartic representation of who I am, the references I pull come from my journey and I’m always looking to play with the different colours”.
Joseph shares with us that his life right now as crazy and wonderful: “As a makeup artist I’ve been able to work with so many amazing people. Obviously I have a soft spot for some of the drag race girls I’ve worked with, such as Willam, Detox, Jinkx, Milk, Adore, Alaska. But I’ve also worked with musicians like Anna from the Scissor Sisters and on covers like the transformation of Francois Sagat into Madonna for LoverBoy Magazine. It’s just been insane.”
The Youtuber doesn’t want to give too much away, but tells Fashion North: “I’m throwing my creative concepts into a book, I’m really very excited to be able to create portraits in a way that I don’t think has been done before. I am not going to give too much away, but it’s going to have some of your favourite faces in.”
Joseph is also working on a makeup class tour in the US and his new lip balm; which has hit stores across the UK.
He adds: “I have a few secrets up my sleeve in different mediums, totally freaking out about them but I’m gonna try my best!”
Excited about the future, Joseph reflects on his journey so far: “I definitely feel like my brain has been absorbing an overwhelming amount of information from the past year. I’m looking forward to purging that and channelling everything into my book. I’m excited to see what further madness is around the corner!”
Check out Joseph’s Youtube Videos