Self-described as a ‘Trojan Horse,’ make-up artist Kay Montano is a modern-day feminist with a passion for diversity; displaying an aversion to ‘born Barbie’ culture, she’s definitely not interested in ‘keeping up with the Kardashians’.

Sandwiched between her feminist views and the aesthetically orientated world of make-up, Kay carefully balances the two seemingly contradictory forces:

“Make-Up needn’t be seen as corrective or something to hide behind. I see it as another form of expression and acceptance, even pleasure, of being in your own skin. It’s too easy and too unintelligent to say that wearing make-up means that you’re not empowered. Being a feminist has got nothing to do with what you look like, you could wear make-up, high-heels and have your tits out and still be a feminist.

Sexuality is normal and bodies are nothing to be ashamed of – we learn that it’s really all about having awareness of your true intentions. You shouldn’t have to hide yourself to be treated as a normal human being. Whether or not to see this freedom an act of sexual submission or sartorial freedom (whether an observer or participant) is all about your own reasons for viewing and participating. As we know, nudity is viewed by different cultures entirely differently, according to what is learned there.”

With over twenty years experience within the fashion and beauty industries, Kay has observed representations of the female form morph from a spectrum of ideals to the promotion of an increasingly narrow physical archetype:

“I think that society has regressed back to a really limited stereotype of women, relying on regressive laddish fantasies of ‘processed’ sexuality, where women look like a cross between little girls and porn stars.”

Naming a collection of beauty icons including Anjelica Huston and Lauren Hutton, Kay insists that it’s the imperfections that make us unique and beautiful:

“All my beauty icons have got something a little strange about them, but that’s what makes them exceptional. It’s easier to say what beauty doesn’t mean to me, rather than what it does. It’s not exclusive to any age, race or gender, and it’s not about suffering, oppression or fitting in.”

Urging young woman to aspire to alternative role models and reject ‘Kardashian culture’, Kay believes that contemporary feminism comes in the unlikeliest of packages:

“There are so many women who are threatened by the silly notions of what feminism is. The reason I can [now] be so self-assured is that when I grew up I had so many feminist role models. Paula Yates and Gloria Steinem would write gutsy and sassy columns in Cosmopolitan magazine; I was brought up to believe that feminism was seriously hot, so it’s such a shock to see that everyone has gone so ‘Kardashian’. More girls should be looking to young women like Tavi Gevinson, who’s speaking to teenagers in a positive way. I love how she writes in Rookie Magazine; she’s young, stylish and talks candidly about being a feminist.”

Saluting its co-founders Caryn, Debra and Erin, Kay considers All Walks Beyond the Catwalk to be an integral piece of the jigsaw puzzle in order to reform body image perceptions and appreciate diversity:

“All Walks Beyond the Catwalk has evolved from an earnest movement, to something that’s happening all over the world. The girls have really done their groundwork and have been trailblazers for the cause; I admire them for that. It’s very hard for people in the industry to come forward. People don’t like upturning the apple cart, but All Walks haven’t been afraid to do that.”

Interview by Charmaine Ayden
Editor Charlotte Gush, on Twitter @CavaCharlotte

Charmaine Ayden is a Fashion Communication graduate from Northumbria University. An avid admirer of all things ‘glossy’, she set her heart on a career in Fashion Journalism from a young age.

Undertaking work placements with Vogue, WSGN, Asos, Drapers and Glamour Magazine, Charmaine is currently working as Copy and Features Writer for

Check out Charmaine’s blog The Good is the Beautiful and find her on Twitter @CharmaineAyden