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Meet the Buddhist monk leading a double life as a makeup artist

Fiona Hayward April 20, 2019

Gay Buddhist monk and make-up artist Kodo Nishimura (PinkNews/Instagram/kodomakeup)

Being a Buddhist monk and a make-up artist may seem like two mutually exclusive careers, but not for Kodo Nishimura.

Nishimura splits his time between doing make-up for celebrities in New York and being a monk in a Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

Growing up in Japan, Nishimura felt as though he couldn’t be open about his gender identity or sexuality.

“I didn’t want people to find out that I was attracted to men,” he told PinkNews.

“I didn’t want to admit I liked Sailor Moon or Disney Princesses, but the fact I couldn’t share this with people, meant I couldn’t connect with anyone or make any friends, which isolated me.”

Watch the video below to see Nishimura transform from religious wear into make-up:

Nishimura fell into the make-up artist world whilst studying abroad in Boston in 2007.

He found he was unbound by the traditional constraints of gender and began experimenting with makeup—something that had not been possible whilst living in his father’s temple.

“Being different can make differences in the world, so don’t be afraid to be who you are.”

—Kodo Nishimura

He began giving his friends makeovers and after seeing the positive impact it had on their self-esteem, he was encouraged to start a career within the industry.

He now identifies as “gender gifted” and has become an established celebrity make-up artist, working behind the scenes at Miss Universe.

Becoming a Buddhist Monk

Despite finding his passion in make-up, after 8 years in the US, he felt as though something was missing.

“I wanted to be disciplined again as a Japanese person and I wanted to challenge, question and understand Buddhism better,” he explained.

Whilst Nishimura never thought it would be impossible to pursue both careers, he did experience a period of doubt, even encountering homophobia within the monastery.

“Before, I was living to meet the expectations of other people, but there is nothing wrong being who I am, my identity is nothing inferior.”

—Kodo Nishimura

But, with the encouragement of his master and the acceptance of his family, he learnt that the most important thing was not how he dressed or looked, but how well he carried the message of Buddhism.

“Before, I was living to meet the expectations of other people, but there is nothing wrong being who I am, my identity is nothing inferior.

Kodo Nishimura.
Meet the Buddhist monk leading a double life as a makeup artist. (Instagram/Kodomakeup)

“As long as I am helping people, giving validation to people and doing what I think is correct, it doesn’t matter.”

Since graduating from his monastery in 2015, Kodo continues to spread the message of Buddhism throughout his work and has become an advocate for LGBT+ rights as well as providing free makeup workshops for transgender women.

Not so different: Make-up and buddhism

Whilst his two roles may appear very different, Kodo continues to find similarities within them.

“I’m working from the same place, I want to make people feel better about themselves, I want to show them their beauty, so to me, these two things are almost the same,” he said.

He hopes that his story will encourage more people to embrace their true identity.

“Being different can make differences in the world, so don’t be afraid to be who you are.”

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