Non-binary makeup artist Ryno Mulder is a cover star


Get It JHB North magazine is increasing the visibility of the queer community by featuring well-known non-binary makeup artist Ryno Mulder on its cover.

The Johannesburg-based Mulder, who started their career as a beauty and fashion writer at Rooi Rose magazine, has become one of South Africa’s most sought-after celebrity makeup artists and stylists.

Their work has appeared on covers, editorials, billboards and advertising campaigns in magazines like Cosmopolitan, FHM (France) Marie Claire, Men’s Health and Oprah, amongst others.

For its July edition, Get It JHB North magazine published a cover feature celebrating Mulder and their career as a beauty and fashion mover and shaker. While the magazine may not be a national or international one, it is widely seen and freely available to residents of Johannesburg, giving it great visibility among everyday people.

Mamba caught up with Mulder to talk about the cover, what it means to them to be non-binary and how makeup is becoming increasingly genderless.

Ryno, what are your preferred pronouns?

It feels un-PC to say this but I don’t care what pronouns people call me. Their intention is what matters. I, like most people, can tell if someone comes from a place of kindness, ignorance or insult. But even if someone has a negative intent in the way they gender you, I remind myself that I don’t have to react to that. And I don’t have to take it on. It says something about who they are, not who I am.

What does it mean to you to be non-binary?

Non-binary is quite a new word I think. I just always had a sense of otherness, both in my experience of the world and how I saw myself reflected by others. I felt this otherness even in the gay male community, where I had initially expected to feel completely at home. From my teenage years, I was searching for a word to describe this experience of my gender. And the first word that felt like a fit was androgyny. It somehow comforted me. To have a name for something felt like having power over it or at least some sense of control. Kind of like how a magician can only pull a rabbit out of a hat after saying Abracadabra, you know? I don’t feel completely like either a man or a woman. I feel more like the one on some days and more like the other, on other days. Third gender genuinely resonates with me.

“There are good people out there who will love you, not despite who you are but because of who you are.”

How do you feel about being on the cover of Get It Joburg North? is this your first cover?

Yes, it is. I was a fashion and beauty editor in women’s magazines for most of my career. I had to style and create many covers, so it was nice to be on the other side of the camera. Honestly, I mostly hope it brings me more clients as a makeup artist and helps sell my new product, the Makeup by Ryno ICON foundation.

Why do you think it’s significant that the magazine highlighted a non-binary individual on the cover?

It’s weird that even when local LGBTQ+ personalities get media coverage, their sexual preference or gender identity seems to be a topic that is usually deftly avoided. So when a community magazine whose audience is not niche and not specifically targeting an LGBTQ+ audience does not shy from this, it seems like a stride in visibility. For that, the editor and the publishers should be applauded. I don’t think this would have been likely even ten years ago. So it is normalising queer culture. It reminds me of something Quentin Crisp said to the effect that the world does not accept [LGBTIQ+] people because we convinced them to accept us, they simply get used to seeing us live amongst them.

How aware are the people you come into contact with about what it means to be non-binary? How do you address it?

I honestly think many people are not comfortable asking questions about gender or sexuality that they don’t understand so they simply avoid the topic. And with how politically correct the world has become it probably makes it even harder for people to touch on those topics out of fear of offending or saying the wrong thing. I tell people all the time that I welcome “uncomfortable” questions and I try to answer them as best I can from my perspective and lived experience. I walk Gigi, my Sandton sheep, at a dog park in my neighbourhood daily where all these 70-year-old ladies know me and have seen me come to the park from shoots in my wigs and stilettos. And they never experienced anything like this before but they adore me. It’s fantastic to see how people who grew up in completely different social and religious contexts can adapt, accept and embrace. And I think it is because they got to know a real person. Then you can no longer objectify someone and reduce them to the idea of them being “a freak” just because they’re different.

Makeup seems to be becoming increasingly genderless. Does that excite you?

It thrills me to live in a time where the world has changed rapidly for the better in at least some ways. A world where fashion and beauty are becoming more genderless and regular people are feeling comfortable expressing their authentic selves. I love that social media and pop culture reflect and promote this.

Do you think that it reflects a growing general blurring of gender roles and identities in society?

Things are changing but I’m sometimes reminded that if you live in a specific community or move in certain social circles you can falsely lull yourself into believing the whole world has evolved but this is not everyone’s reality. The more progressive things become the more pushback there is from people who are ignorant, who live in fear and who are unhappy with themselves, so they project that hate onto groups like the queer community. I’m optimistic though.

Have you faced queerphobia yourself?

A while back I made a live Facebook video responding to someone who sent me bigoted religious messages and although there were some vile homophobic and transphobic comments, 99.99% of the hundreds of comments were from heterosexual, cisgender and even religious people expressing their acceptance of queer people. This gives me a lot of hope and optimism for the future. And I hope any person who finds themselves in an oppressive relationship, family or community will realise that not everyone is like that, to remove themselves from those circumstances as fast as they can. There are good people out there who will love you, not despite who you are but because of who you are.

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