Marketing analytics firm AdMaster found in 2018, there was a 61% increase in social media activity relating to male beauty, compared to the previous quarter.
In Bangladesh, male beauty found an unlikely protagonist in a young man named Saad Bin Rabi who broke through gender stereotypes. In a country where people judge each other for no reason, Saad is on a quest to put the judgmental aunties' nose where it belongs, which is in their own business.
Saad, aka SaadMUA, is a 21-year-old social media influencer who has over 218k followers on Facebook. So how did Saad become SaadMUA?
"Well, it just happened. Honestly, I didn't have a specific plan. But I loved to put on makeup and so, I continued to cultivate my passion by sharing my different looks on social media as a makeup artist. Somehow, they ended up going viral. After that, there was no looking back, I crawled, I walked, and here I am now running."
The changing circumstances in the beauty industry worldwide and the growing popularity of influencers in our country also encouraged him to work in this industry.
"I was probably 6 or 7 years old when I realised that I love putting on makeup," remembers Saad, when asked how it all began. He used to initially fool around with his mother's makeup.
"I still can't open myself up fully due to constraints set by our conventional society. Even though it is the 21st century, people in our society are not open-minded enough to accept a man who uses makeup."
Saad was very young when he started his journey on this path full of 'excitement'. "As I was very young, even those negative comments I received sounded fun," he says.
But the support he got from the netizens was phenomenal and that outnumbered the hate comments on his videos. He says, 'Thus it became easier for me to move forward".
And yet Saad had serious doubts when he started.
"It wasn't easy to convince my family of my dreams and aims. And there was a constant mental pressure about what the neighbours will think, or what if my friends don't accept my true self. So yes, the mental pressure was the real struggle in my journey."
People worldwide are breaking different gender stereotypes these days. So should ''makeup only for females" be broken as well?
"WHY NOT? For me, makeup is akin to art, so why would you need to have a specific gender to create art?" asked Saad.
"But I'm not saying that every man and woman should use makeup. I'm not forcing my lifestyle on anyone. I want any person who loves to apply art on their face to have the right to do it. We are used to seeing women using makeup, but that doesn't mean that every woman likes it, and that is absolutely normal. The same goes for men. Some men want to use makeup, and that should be acceptable as well in our society."
But breaking stereotypes against all odds always requires a support system. Saad's ultimate support system was his grandmother (paternal). She also supported him financially to buy makeup in the beginning.
"My parents were aware of my orientation from a very young age, but there was a time when neighbours were asking questions and pointing their fingers at me. So to avoid all that, my parents were against my wishes, but my grandmother was there to support me," said Saad.
"A few friends belonging to the same community as mine have helped me go forward and were happy when I started doing well. And finally, my biggest support system is myself; if you are not helping yourself, you can't go ahead," Saad added.
Saad says that established brands did not want to work with him initially because they didn't want to affect their image. Now, more and more brands are willing to work with him, and he credits his followers for this.
"Due to my follower's constant support, I am encouraged to create better contents which are opening doors of opportunities for me."
Being a male beauty influencer also entails a lot of undue criticism.
"I love to observe how reckless people can get on the internet. I pity those whose hatred creates no value to our society yet they continue. I always remember that there are people who want to be like SaadMUA but does anybody want to be lifeless like them?"
So where does he see himself in the beauty industry in Bangladesh?
"I never thought that in Bangladesh the beauty industry would take off that much. This makes me happy and I think content creators of this country have the potential to excel in this sector. I aim to see myself as a successful beauty influencer in Bangladesh. If I had more support initially, I might be in a better position than I am right now. Nevertheless, I am hoping that there will be more scope to work in this country and the social barriers will soon fall."
For men who dream to be as rebellious as SaadMUA he says: "Nobody should be afraid to be themselves. Even if your dreams require you to be rebellious, then be it, but don't give up because of some people who won't be contributing to your life ever. Keep working hard, and you'll eventually see the light of success sooner or later."