Q&A: David Yi sheds some light on ‘boy beauty’ and has a message for all men — it’s time to wake up to makeup (or at least skin care)


David Yi pops into the Instagram-famous Alfred Tea Room in Beverly Grove for a cup of tea and to chat about his recent media foray — creating a website devoted to men’s beauty and grooming, particularly addressing the needs of men of color and the LGBTQ community as a whole.

The tea room is a drool-worthy, eye-grabbing cotton candy pink. In more recent decades, the color pink has been associated with girls, but in a rapidly changing cultural landscape, that is no longer the case. Society is slowly chipping away at hardened gender associations. People from all walks of life and backgrounds are expressing their truest selves outside the box of traditional societal norms.

And it’s part of this larger shift that has prompted Yi, the founder of the men’s beauty, grooming and culture website Very Good Light, to want to help continue to change hetero-normative stereotypes and redefine the concept of male masculinity in today’s society. Recent pieces on the site include: how one writer finally accepted his man boobs, the allure of an Internet-famous face mask and a young photographer who has challenged masculinity by taking photos of male subjects wearing glitter.

Prom photo shoot for Very Good Light. (Ella Weisskamp)

“We launched our website two days after James Charles was named CoverGirl’s first CoverBoy,” Yi said. “It basically was like the universe was affirming everything that I already knew about the importance of boy beauty.”

Days after a spring dinner for influencers and stylists with L.A.-based men’s skin-care brand Baxter of California, Yi, a USC alumnus who now lives in New York, answers five questions, touching on his mission, men’s beauty and his favorite things about L.A.

I could feel it in my bones that boy beauty wasn't just a trend, it was a movement.

— David Yi

How did you get into the world of beauty and style?

Growing up in a Korean household, skin care has always been in my DNA and a point of interest for me. But I went into it professionally ... [by launching a website and discussing men’s grooming topics]. Also I could feel it in my bones — that boy beauty wasn’t just a trend. It was a movement.

Why did you start the website Very Good Light?

Boys, men, guys — all want to be a part of the beauty movement, but there is no outlet for them. Publications like GQ and Esquire are too old and too hetero-normative, and they’re stuck in that small box when it comes to masculinity. Guys want progressive grooming tips and information on good skin care. But where do they go?

They can’t go to traditional male sites or feel like they belong at Allure or Cosmopolitan — these traditional women’s beauty sites — because their skin is different. And makeup will look different on their male faces. So I felt like there was really a gap in the market and I felt we could fill it by doing tutorials and how-to guides for men. But more so, grooming was a funnel to redefine masculinity and create a more inclusive space for Generation Z, which is the most gender and sexually fluid generation ever. Think of Jaden Smith and Young Thug, who readily wear dresses, and no one bats an eye. I wanted to discuss what it means to be a man in 2017. You can be any form of a guy on the spectrum from super-feminine to super-masculine, but if you consider yourself a man, you are a man. I felt there needed to be a safe space and a website that empowered young people.

If you consider yourself a man, you are a man.

— David Yi

Who are your style icons?

Everyone [in the fashion industry] says Raf Simons. We have to put Raf Simons in there. Another style icon that I love is a K-pop star named G-Dragon. He is the biggest pop star in the world in my eyes and he is always front row at Chanel. He is the purveyor of everything cool.

What is your best men’s beauty and grooming tip?

I think a big tip is to listen to your skin and use what works for your skin. I wish more guys would know that skin care is not scary. It is self care. Also moisturize and use SPF!

As a New Yorker visiting the West Coast, what are some of your go-to spots when you’re in L.A.?

I love going to eat at Bestia downtown. Also, Koreatown now has the Line Hotel, which is so chic. After that, you have to try karaoke in L.A. It is very different than in New York. There is a bigger Korean population in L.A., and it is much more authentic. And of course, L.A. is known for brunch food, and right now Kings Road Cafe is my favorite brunch spot.

Einkorn buttermilk cake with lemon verbena and lemon sherbet, fermented blackberry jam and emerald plums is on the menu at Bestia in Los Angeles. (Christina House / For The Times)
(Christina House / For The Times)

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