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How makeup led this Texas drag queen to Hollywood’s doorsteps

Makeup artist Martin De Luna Jr, (he, she, they) better known as Lushious Massacr, is a Brownsville, Texas native.
(Martin De Luna Jr. aka Lushious Massacr)
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Lushious Massacr, the gorgeous glittering drag queen who is the makeup artist behind some of the most famous and iconic faces in drag today, doesn’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse that she can’t seem to leave her hometown of Brownsville, Texas, for good.

Tucked on the southernmost tip of the state, the gravitational pull, she says, keeps bringing her back every time she tries to leave. “It’s this weird thing where the only way I’m able to find success and find balance and peace is in Brownsville. Life knocks the wind out of me and I come home, like, ‘Oh, I’ve failed again.’” She takes a beat. “Then something happens.”

And since the last time she came home, a lot has happened. When drag superstar Shangela was looking for a new makeup artist for the second season of HBO’s “We’re Here,” friend and fellow Rio Grande Valley queen Joela Puss connected her to Lushious. “I was so naive,” she says. “I thought I’d be gone for maybe two weeks.”

The show, where “RuPual’s Drag Race” alumni visit small towns to make over and inspire queer people, was shot over nine months. Shangela was so impressed by Lushious’ skills that she took her on tour, crossing the country and rubbing elbows with people such as Vice President Kamala Harris and Bad Bunny.

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Shangela then fought ABC and Disney for a “star request” to allow Lushious to be her makeup artist when she competed on season 31 of “Dancing With the Stars.” Then, there was another season of “We’re Here.” And another tour followed after that.

“Everyone knows Shangela’s face,” she says. “And it was very exciting to work on one of the most beloved faces of drag.” She’s so good at creating that face she won an Emmy for it as part of the team on “We’re Here” last year.

Over on YouTube, where she entertains her over 60,000 subscribers with makeup tutorials and tonterias, she showed off the award, proudly displaying her boy name: Martin De Luna Jr.

“I wanted to honor him — to honor Martin. Everything in this life set him up to be invisible, for him to be another face in the crowd who was never going to shine, who was never going to be special,” she said. “I fought with everything in my life, in my soul, so he would not be invisible. Martin, his entire life — he felt like he was disregarded and he fought. He fought really hard and look at him now.”

Look, indeed. Lushious was anticipating some time off after the Emmy win and two-plus years on the road, but as luck would have it, another Drag Race alumna came calling. “Lushious, mi amor, I need you sister.” It was Latinx drag icon Valentina, who was about to start shooting as one of the hosts of the inaugural season of Drag Race Mexico.

Valentina wanted Lushious to come to Colombia where they were shooting and be her personal makeup artist. Lushious, exhausted from life on the road, almost said no. “But then I thought, “‘Are you crazy?’” She says it was the hardest, but most rewarding experience of her life.

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“Sister, we’re creating art that will live forever,” Valentina would say. Rocío Durcal and Juan Gabriel played in the background as Lushious painted her face every day. “It was an out-of-body experience,” she says. “I thought, ‘This will be in the history of Mexican queer culture and this is my little contribution.’ I’m so grateful and blessed.”

“Drag Race Mexico” just aired its finale this week and for the past two months, Lushious has been home, in Brownsville, finally enjoying some time off. “Oh honey, I could be working in Brazil right now,” she says when I ask what’s going on in her life, “but I needed to get my life together.”

Back in the ’90s, long before the Lushious Massacr persona was born, Martin was just a boy, desperate to be seen. The eldest of four brothers and born to Mexican immigrants who, as they describe it, come from “the rancho” with no running water or electricity. Martin was in his mother’s heels since he could walk.

Surrounded by machismo their entire childhood, their queerness and comfort with the feminine was ignored. The consequence, in effect, erased Martin. “I remember feeling invisible,” Lushious says. Meeting her drag mother, Brownsville legend Divina Garza, saved her life.

Fresh out of high school, Martin was dipping their toes into the local scene when they met Divina at a house party. She was big, brown, full of life and glamorous — everything Martin wanted to be. “She taught me how to come out, be confident, to see my beauty and be secure.”

Before long Martin was going out to clubs in drag, exploring their sexual and gender identity, all under the watchful eye of Divina.

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But there was the ever-present threat of violence. Lushious remembers men shooting paintballs and throwing bricks at her and her friends when they went out one night in downtown Brownsville. She was just 21. Those experiences, combined with the shame she felt at home inspired a move to Houston. “I just remember I was so afraid of my family finding out. I felt like my world would be over if my parents knew I was out dressed up as a woman.”

In Houston, she became more confident in herself, in her drag and in her everyday queerness. She saw the gorgeous drag queens who’d compete in pageants that still define the city’s drag scene and became part of it.

And yet, after seven years, the gravity of Brownsville began to pull her back. “I said you know what, I’m doing a disservice by not showing my family who I am.” In her mind, there was a “wall of ignorance” in her family, in her town, really, and she needed to be the one to knock it down.

“It was very difficult for them,” she says, “I knocked the door down and there was this big flaming drag queen and they were shook!” It took time, she says, but they eventually came around, if not in full support, but in full acceptance.

In 2019, after gaining popularity as a makeup influencer on YouTube, Lushious moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. She knew she was funny, she knew she had charisma and she knew she could beat a mug (drag speak for doing someone’s face in makeup), but the party-centric lifestyle was too distracting. She met some good friends, like her drag daughter Mija and Valentina, but in the end, she says “I fell flat on my face.” She was back home 10 months later. Then, as the world slowly opened up after the pandemic, Shangela called.

The tension between Lushious’ success and her commitment to Brownsville is pulled so taut, there’s a sense it might snap at any moment. Hate crimes, especially towards Latinos and members of the LGBTQ+ communities are at a record high in Texas.

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In a couple of weeks, a drag ban goes into effect in the state that could potentially lead to fines and even jail time for performers. In Brownsville specifically, the community is still on edge after a trans woman disappeared in 2019 while city Pride displays were vandalized earlier this year.

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And yet, Lushious stays. She says it keeps her humble and reminds her to not take anything too seriously. She also wants to keep knocking down that wall of ignorance and prove that Mexican American stories from South Texas are valuable. That, she says, is her purpose in life.

Hollywood actually has already called again. This time Lushious will be stepping out from behind the scenes and front and center as a judge on a new drag reality show that starts shooting in late September. Meanwhile, Emmy nominations for her last season of “We’re Here’ are imminent.

After that? Lushious wants to turn the Valley into its own Hollywood, making movies, music and more from the 956. So Lushious takes Brownsville as it is — the blessing and the curse.

Luis Rendon is a Tejano journalist who lives in New York City and writes about South Texas food and culture. He’s been published in Texas Monthly, Texas Highways and The Daily Beast. You can find him on Twitter/X @louiegrendon and Instagram @lrendon.

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