'Pretty Boys' author David Yi on male beauty and 7 cultural offerings that redefine masculinity


Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

Keeping you within the know, Culture Queue is an ongoing sequence of suggestions for well timed books to learn, movies to observe, and podcasts and music to hearken to.

Famed historic Greek ruler and navy mastermind Alexander the Great had a ardour for fragrances. France’s King Louis XIV sported glittering heels and made voluminous wigs modern. Vikings, usually remembered for his or her rugged masculinity, had intensive hair grooming routines.

Interest in males’s magnificence was socially acceptable earlier than it grew to become taboo, and, as David Yi notes in his new ebook “Pretty Boys,” it’s now reemerging after an extended hiatus. Modern, Western concepts of masculinity took root in Enlightenment-era Europe and continued throughout the pond in America, Yi recounts, and pursuits in cosmetics, style and grooming grew to become more and more aligned with femininity, queerness and immorality — and even criminalized for males in some instances.

Now, the pendulum is swinging again once more.

'Pretty Boys' author David Yi.

‘Pretty Boys’ writer David Yi. Credit: Sarah Yun

“When it comes to men’s beauty, attitudes of masculinity have shifted,” Yi stated in an e mail interview, pointing to stars like Bad Bunny, Harry Styles, Frank Ocean or boy band BTS. “No longer do we subscribe to the idea that men have to be stoic, or hypermasculine to survive in our capitalistic, Western world. Rather, men and their masculinities can be expansive.”

Yi is the founding father of gender-inclusive magnificence media model Very Good Light, and “Pretty Boys” is one-half complete historical past of masculine magnificence — together with historic Egyptian ruler Ramses the Great and the “queen of queens” RuPaul — and one-half ideas and strategies for how one can get their appears.

Looking again at well-known males all through historical past, Yi stated, “Often times, it’s their brute force or physical strength that’s celebrated in history books and not their beauty that is amplified. I’ve questioned why this is and it has everything to do with historians being afraid to tell stories of powerful men and their ‘softer’ sides as if that makes them have any less agency.”

“I wanted to put the facetious term, ‘pretty boy’ on its head and celebrate men who channeled their inner and outer beauties to change the world,” he added. “They prove that truly, pretty is pretty powerful!”

Yi provided the next listing of his favourite issues to hearken to, learn and watch to have a good time boy magnificence.

Add to queue: Redefining masculinity

Watch: “The King and the Clown” (2005)

This South Korean flick a couple of Joseon-era king who falls in love with a courtroom jester grew to become a field workplace sensation and an tailored play. “The themes of love, longing, and homosexuality made this (movie) a conversation starter,” Yi stated. “It was the first modern film (in Korea) to discuss masculinity outside the confines of Korean hypermachoism, providing a glimpse into more liberal themes for a very conservative South Korea in the mid-aughts.”

Listen: “Strawberries & Cigarettes” by Troye Sivan (2018)

Yi additionally recommends Troye Sivan’s 2018 single a couple of same-sex relationship coming to a detailed. “The slow, synth-pop song normalizes young love while also hitting upon themes of loss and a relationship’s end,” Yi stated. “The song went viral in Asia thanks to BTS’s leader, RM, writing how it was one of his favorite songs that year.”

Watch: “Minding the Gap” (2018)

The documentary follows three skater boys in Illinois who bond over skateboarding as they “navigate their painful teenage years,” Yi stated. “Each has to confront the masculinity that’s been forced upon them, and the documentary ultimately showcases how young men are conditioned to be a certain way by their environments.”

Read: “Girl” from the ebook “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee (2018)

This essay, by Korean American author Alexander Chee in his debut anthology, explores “the thrill and euphoria that goes into dressing up in femme attire,” Yi stated. “‘Girl’ is about the freedom that comes with a young queer person owning their femininity and the power that comes with it.”

Listen: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” by Lil Nas X (2021)

The single — and accompanying music video — “Montero” was a direct hit for its queer and hell-raising spirit. “Unabashedly gay, Lil Nas X’s devilish and delicious single explores masculinity, manhood, and lots of sex,” Yi stated. “The Gen Z artist bares himself in this catchy, addictive mass pop song that’s out, proud, and loud.”

Read: “Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood” by James Baldwin (1985)

Baldwin penned this essay for a 1985 situation of Playboy, discussing “American manhood, misguided masculinity, and all topics we as a culture are just coming around to in 2021,” Yi defined. “The late writer was and is the blueprint when it comes to delving into modern American masculinity.”

Watch: “Sex Education” (2019-)

In redefining masculinity, Yi says “Gen Z is already ahead of the curve.” He factors to this Netflix dramedy, about a young person who turns into an unintentional (and unliscensed) intercourse therapist at his highschool, as the proper instance. “In (the show), young men explore their sexualities in such a healthy, normalized fashion that’s compelling, real, and inspiring,” Yi stated.

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