Announcing Yadim, Document Journal’s Beauty Director

The boundary-pushing makeup artist sits down with Editor-in-Chief Nick Vogelson to discuss the the real-life inspiration behind his practice and the hopeful future of the beauty industry

Yadim finds liberation in beauty. Melding inspiration by the New Romantic looks of his favorite bands as a teen to the glitter-dusted dancefloors of raves to his grandmother, the San Diego-raised, New York-based makeup artist creates his multi-sensory signature beats. Whether on red carpets, runways, or magazine spreads, he blends glamor with provocation.

In conversation with Document’s Editor-in-Chief Nick Vogelson, Yadim shares the real-life inspiration behind his practice that he found through teenage rebellion, social media, and the women in his family.

Nick Vogelson: When does your relationship with beauty start?

Yadim: I come from a Mexican family where the women put a lot of effort into their appearance. My grandma, bless her soul, till the day she died wore a full face of makeup and did her hair every day. And when I was a kid, my sister was already a teenager. I always wanted to be in her space while she was getting ready. She introduced me to a lot of music growing up, so I just found everything about her exciting. Watching her beautify herself was really thrilling for me, and obviously makeup was a part of that.

Then, ultimately, my mom. In the ’80s, she was almost like a drag queen. I remember her getting ready for work in the morning, and she’d come out of the bathroom in a pink robe and a towel on her head. And I watched over the next hour as she transformed herself into this beauty queen. And I didn’t know, or maybe wasn’t aware, at the time that it was the makeup that fascinated me the most. Kevin Aucoin was on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and I remember my mom saying to me, ‘You need to come here and watch this with me, mijo.’ I was in awe. She eventually bought me two of his books, and they became my bibles. I would study every look in those books and replicate them on friends and family members. I must have been 13 at this point.

Nick: You talked about your sister introducing you to music. I’m curious what the music landscape was like for you in those formative years.

Yadim: My uncle was a musician, and my mom was really close to him. Growing up it was a lot of jazz, The Beatles, and Sade. That was the soundtrack of my childhood. But that was also the music that got the stamp of approval from my mom and at some point you kind of want to rebel against that. My sister’s music felt like the antithesis of that. She introduced me to Culture Club, The Go Go’s, The Cure, Duran Duran, Bauhaus, early Madonna.

There was one time when I dressed up as Madonna and started writhing and gyrating to one of her songs. And I guess my father got really upset and forbade my sister and my mom from ever letting me listen to Madonna again. That intrigued me and made me want to explore her even more, because of course whatever our parents forbid is exactly what we want to do. Later on, as the ’90s rolled around, my sister also introduced me to Nirvana and I discovered other bands like Hole and Sonic Youth. And to this day I still love all that music. And I think it informs a lot of my aesthetic and perspective on beauty.

“Just to be able to leave a fingerprint on what the story and community of that could potentially be, I find really exciting.”

Debra Shaw photographed by Davit Giorgadze with beauty by Yadim and styling by Thistle Brown for Document’s Spring/Summer 2024 edition.

Nick: That leads me to my next question. How do you connect beauty with identity?

Yadim: I think that the way beauty is represented in culture informs a lot of what allows us to feel comfortable in our own skin. As beauty and its standards continue to evolve, more people can find themselves reflected in the cultural landscape. And in that sense, I believe that it has a very strong tie to identity. I also think that beauty—whether it’s hair, or makeup, or even fashion—is something that allows us to separate ourselves from the constraints that we grew up with. At least for me it was. When I was a kid and found rave and club culture, that was such a huge liberation for me. Those were the spaces where I first found my people, where I first found acceptance, empathy, and compassion. My friends and I would go to art supply stores and buy glitter and puffy paint for makeup. It wasn’t really a cosmetic journey at the time. It was more about just being as wild and subversive as we could be. That really formed my identity, as a queer person growing up.

Nick: When we’re talking about identity, we’re also talking about community. And we’re very excited and honored to have you join Document as Beauty Director. What type of stories do you hope to create?

Yadim: One of the things that excites me about taking on this role is the possibility of democratizing the Document beauty story. Part of that, I think, is building a wider community of creatives, and Document has already done that in the fashion space. Just to be able to leave a fingerprint on what the story and community of that could potentially be, I find really exciting.

Nick: What is the most important thing you would say to young makeup artists?

Yadim: Always be open and willing to learn. I still learn things, both technically and about the way I move through the industry. It’s vital for me to always remain teachable. The moment I think I already know something, I’m in trouble. So I surround myself with people that I can learn from as much as they can learn from me. Like my assistants. I’m constantly engaged in seeing how they work. And I’m always open to feedback from them, which wasn’t really the case maybe in the older guard of makeup artists or hairdressers. I like to be very malleable in that sense. I think that’s very important for any creative.

Nick: What do you think are the most inspiring things in beauty today?

Yadim: The way that social media has given so many a platform for expressing their creativity. I’m obsessed with watching videos of kids beating their faces. And they are so good at it! It’s something that I think has likely been a saving grace for many queer and underrepresented youth, I wish I would’ve had that in my early teens. Social media has revolutionized beauty and I find it very inspiring.

Nick: What is beauty’s role with the larger movement in the industry toward representation? How would you identify beauty’s power in that?

Yadim: I hope its role is to move the needle forward, to drag the masses kicking and screaming into a wider representation of what is considered beautiful. I think we still have a long way to go, but I’m grateful for every baby step along the way.

Nick: Your work is always so considered—can you share a bit about your process.

Yadim: It’s interesting that you’d say it’s considered because actually I feel like I do my best work when I’m less considered, when I don’t overthink something, when I’m spontaneous. I can only be that way though, when I’m working with a team that allows that kind of spontaneity. The process of making images is a collaborative process and it means everyone on the team feeling empowered to contribute, to not be afraid to take a risk or make a mistake. Oftentimes the final image that is published is an amalgamation of many mistakes. Of many changes that happen on set that eventually lead us to an interesting place. I thrive in that process, it’s what keeps me interested. I’m lucky I get to collaborate with many photographers, stylists and teams that welcome that kind of exploration. Some of us are really like family.