‘My work does normalise makeup... but I am no torchbearer’: Ankush Bahuguna

Ankush Bahuguna, who took the internet by storm during the pride month in 2020, with his makeup tutorial that came with a simple message of not letting gender norms define a person.

The internet rightly supported him, including actor Sonam Kapoor who also shared his video. However, digital content creator Ankush Bahuguna asserts there shouldn’t be any barriers to lending support on social media. Be it cisgenders like him or the trans, non-binary, queer folks, who are the real heroes behind this movement, the response to anyone wearing makeup should be equally positive.

Ankush may have added fuel to the conversation of normalising makeup for men, but in all fairness, he simply stands in solidarity with those who have been doing this for ages. Weighing in on the same, Ankush says, “My privilege as a cisgender man protects me. The same thing I get applause for, trans, non-binary, and queer people get bullied for. And, this has been an important learning for me as well. I understand that my work does normalise makeup and self-expression for a lot of people too, but I’m no torchbearer. There are so many queer and trans people who have been leading this movement since forever and the reason why I can make makeup videos is because they started it! So, I absolutely agree and recognise my privilege.”

“I’ve never called myself a revolutionary, but people use those terms loosely when they want to show their support, which is what erases the other community’s hard work, which is absolutely unfair. But, educating my audience and amplifying marginalised voices is the best that I can do and I do that,” he adds.

The Delhi-based social media personality stands amid a plethora of influencers who scribble ideas on their notepads with the goal of generating content. When asked what makes him stand out, he says, “With so many of us sharing the digital space now, I think the only way you can be distinguished from one another is by your authenticity as a content creator, rather than your content per say. Because we are all thinking along the same lines, cracking jokes about the same things. I make content that comes naturally to me and I’d like to believe that it’s my personality that distinguishes me.”

As an active social media personality, Ankush’s personal and professional life is constantly in the spotlight. Like any other content creator, he is also prone to be judged, trolled, and criticised. He states that on good days he is able to look through it, but on bad days, even the smallest hate comments crumble him into pieces. However, he maintains that criticism is inevitable and important.

“I try separating actual criticism from hate, but this cancel culture gets out of hand. People leave no room for error or learning. Sometimes, people will call out over narratives that they have learned about a month ago themselves! That’s what I hate. It’s a constant mudslinging match of people trying to prove they are woke-r than the rest,” says Ankush.

Despite being an internet sensation and followed by actors such as Bhumi Pednekar and Tamannaah Bhatia on Instagram, Ankush does find himself competing with other influencers even though he tries not to. “There’s no sugar-coating this. The algorithm demands that you keep up, if not compete. And, it’s natural in such a set up to constantly compare your growth and talent to someone else’s,” he says.

Interestingly, what does set him apart is that he includes his mother in his sketches, too. Ankush says she may not understand social media well, but she’s happy and has always been supportive. “She’s a typical Indian middle-class mom! She’s too blinded by the fact that I get free stuff or that people recognise me on the streets to care about the actual profession,” says Ankush.

The year 2020 saw several comedians come under the scanner with some facing stringent actions for their controversial gigs. When asked if the same bothers him while uploading a video and if he’s super cautious, Ankush states, “When comedians use their medium to make a larger point, it has an impact. And, we are in a country where voices are silenced every day. So, it’s obvious why comedians are the targets. Yes, I’m cautious and scared. Every day is a reminder to be hyper-vigilant about what you say and who you could unknowingly offend. So, yeah, I’m scared. Who isn’t?”

Speaking about his bucket list for 2021, Ankush says he’s always wanted to do a film, something that has been on his mind since 2015. He also plans to travel more for some good views on his vlogs, and finally, get fitter in order to post shirtless pictures for more likes (laughs).

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