Merlot’s killer beauty skills got them a Milk Makeup campaign

Merlot is a model and upcoming musician with a killer style that can’t be recreated.

You’ve definitely seen their freckly face popping up on your Explore page or featured in Milk Makeup’s LiveYourLook campaign. Loosely identifying as non-binary, a category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍, Merlot is not confined in anyone’s box. Breaking the rules through makeup and clothing they’re kicking beauty standards in the chest and coming for the music industry next!

Check out our interview to get to know the face behind the pics as well as the upcoming plans for their music!

Merlot wouldn’t be Merlot without… ?

Freckles, a gin and tonic, and an assortment of velour blazers.

You mention in your Insta bio that your “Erykah Badu’s illegitimate child.” How much of an influence has she been on who you are today?

I really look up to Erykah for her ability to stay current over the last couple of decades without ever sacrificing her artistic integrity. Her style, along with her music has evolved over time to reflect what’s “in” at the moment without her every fully reinventing herself or compromising her own uniqueness. It’s something that has given her longevity over other artists in her lane, and something I hope I can accomplish as well

Have you always knew that you wanted to identify as non-binary?

I’ve only begun placing a label on how I feel (though the label “non-binary” itself is something I’m still working through as I get to know myself deeper), but I’ve always known I was outside of the boxes “man” or “woman.” From a very young age, I was growing into physical features that were both very feminine and masculine (obviously assuming this distinguishable binary exists) and I had a hard time juggling that for a while. I fell outside of the gender binary entirely while I tried to swing back and forth between it, and I also had trouble trying to plant myself somewhere in the middle. It took time for me to grow and learn more about myself before finally just saying “fuck it!”, and disowning and unlearning the entire thing. And although today I tend to lean outstandingly femme-of-center as far as my presentation goes, I usually throw non-binary over it all to get to a quick point about my identity. Ask me again in a year.

As a non-binary person, how does that influence your killer style?

Its hard to talk about this without sounding corny, but I would say that being non-binary is more of a product of my style, even though we all know there is nothing that’s truly inherently feminine or masculine about clothing, hair, or the way that you carry yourself. But I guess it’s true that when it comes to my style, I’m less afraid of trying new things and taking risks, because realizing that I don’t fall under any certain gender binary and that I’m comfortable with however I present myself, takes a huge weight off my shoulders when leaving the house.

I carry myself however I feel comfortable doing so that day, and labeling myself as non-binary is nothing more than an extension of that.

READ MORE: Girl Cult Fashion: Our fave ‘fits from the festival 

You mentioned in your feature with Milk Makeup that you started this faux freckle trend that’s been circulating on the web but what encouraged you to do it?

HA, for the record, it was a cocky joke I made in the context of the initial interview, but I quickly realized it was taken seriously. I obviously wasn’t the first person to ever draw freckles on their face, but in college I starting playing with different makeup ideas on my face, and four years later, the freckles have stuck. Did I start the recent trend? No, but it feels cool to see something I’ve been keeping secret for a while now become mainstream and popularized, especially recently on runways and in major fashion spreads.

How has makeup aided in your creative expression?

I’ve only recently began experimenting more seriously with makeup in the last year or so outside of freckles. I’m still pretty minimal with it, but it really can take a good look to the next level. In the same breath, I love pulling back on the makeup and even the freckles sometimes when an outfit can speak for itself. I do want to incorporate makeup and “looks” into my musical artistry, for sure.

If you had to choose one makeup company to utilize for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Honestly Milk Makeup, because not only are their products amazing for the looks that I go for, but they’ve been the sweetest company to work for. In my experience, they really take care of their models and employees, and they’re brand is very linear with my vision for a great makeup empire.

What trends are you looking forward to this fall and do you plan on creating your own?

I would be lying if I said that I was any good at trend-forecasting. And if I had any trends I knew I was going to start, I’d keep them a secret until fall!

Trends that you are absolutely tired of seeing or need to be retired?

Major brands fashion houses exploiting queer & trans people for clickbait.

Who are your top 5 style icons?

Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Erykah Badu, and myself.

How would you describe your style in one word?


As a model, what barriers do you hope to break and what stigmas do you want to destabilize?

Personally, I consider modeling just one aspect of my long-term goal of becoming a musical artist. I love to see others celebrated in the media who are more than a pretty face — artists who use their creative self-presentation to further their own artistic goals. Ultimately, the more we celebrate multi-hyphenate artists who have other notable qualities in addition to their beauty, the more we show that style and substance are not mutually exclusive. In short, I am loving the idea of “personalities” instead of “models.”

Many would think that identifying as non-binary would give you a leg up in your career but are there any challenges you face in the industry (music and modeling) because of your choice?

At this point in time, there is a high demand for bodies that are typically viewed as “other,” and we see that manifesting itself with queer and trans people sprinkled throughout fashion on every platform. Momentarily, it could be seen as a good thing for me, because even just a few years ago, I would have never fit the bill for anything close to mainstream modeling. I do hope that in the near future, we can distinguish which companies are taking advantage of this trend from the ones who actually want to celebrate queer people. I have yet to face challenges from it, but time will tell as fashion is constantly evolving.

What role does music play in your life?

Music is everything to me, and will always be my number one passion in life above everything else.

READ MORE: See pics of Galore’s first ever Girl Cult Festival 

Who were your musical influences in your adolescent years? 

When I was growing up, my mother always played retro R&B greats like Anita Baker, or Al Green. I always loved music from earlier generations and usually listened to people like Sam Cooke all day. The first current musician that I actually took a lot of inspiration from was John Legend when he released his debut album, “Get Lifted.” I remember knowing then (I was in elementary school) that that’s what my first album had to sound like. My music has obviously evolved since then, but I still borrow from old school R&B particularly.

Last year around this time you performed music of your own, should we expect to see more of this in the future?

I am definitely working on a fun new project that I can’t wait to release soon. I had a lot of ups and downs in the making, but I’m almost finished with something I’m really proud of and I can’t to put it into the world!

Finally, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever recieved that you’d like to pass on to others?

My mother constantly tells me that nothing will ever happen in your life if you just sit around and wait for it. You have to actively work for everything that you want to see in your own life and the things that you want to see change in the world. I have to remind myself of this all the time when I’m sitting around waiting for a spark to happen in my own life, and this is the advice that has made most of a difference for me.

Photographer: Nigel Hosang
Cover Photo: Imani Dennison

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