Local politics is a lot like having good eyebrows. It takes patience and a steady hand to turn a bushy situation into something clean and orderly.
Luckily for the citizens of South Berwick, Maine, they have Keagan Roberts. The 19-year-old Ulta Beauty brow specialist was just elected to the town council, becoming one of the youngest people to hold public office nationwide.
“Really, it’s kind of weird,” Roberts tells MEL of being a member of Gen Z in politics. “I just feel like a younger person who has gotten into government. We’re a decent portion of the population, and we’re going to be the future population.”
Even if he’s too humble to say so, Roberts is something unique. He’s also a queer activist who, in 2018, during his senior year, helped Marshwood High School install the first gender-neutral bathroom.
Roberts has a twin brother, Logan, who is also gay. Today, the twins are living separately for the first time. After graduating high school in June 2018, Logan enrolled at Salem State University while Keagan embarked on a four-month volunteer trip to Bolivia. After returning to Maine, Keagan enrolled in cosmetology school and began work at Ulta.
He missed being politically active, so last month he decided to run for town council. Because the deadline to appear on the ballot had passed, he ran as a write-in candidate. “I realized that would be a perfect avenue to make a difference in a way that I hadn’t while I was going to beauty school,” Roberts says.
Congratulations on getting elected. What’s it like to be in office?
It feels like I made the right choice.
Were you concerned about choosing this path?
I’d done a vocational program in high school for cosmetology, so my path was already kind of set. It’d be silly for me to have spent two years in high school trying to get my hours and to not finish the hours later on.
And having two kids going to college at the same time wasn’t the easiest thing to do financially [for my parents]. Beauty school is a lot more affordable than colleges. I’d do that, save up a little bit and get a career in the cosmetology industry, so I can pay for college a little bit easier.
It’s cool that you’re doing things that are different from the set path that’s expected of us.
It definitely was a little tricky at first.
What made it so tricky?
Just seeing everyone my age going to college and having the fun that makes the college experience. But in turn, I got to experience living in a foreign country doing volunteer work, and I really wouldn’t change that experience for the world. That’s changing me more than freshman year would shape me.
So tell me a little bit about your job. You work at Ulta?
Yep. I’ve been there for about nine months. I was a prestige beauty advisor, so I just worked with mostly that the higher end makeup. But I recently got promoted. Today was actually my first day as a brow specialist.
Congrats. My brows are always the thing I’m most concerned about.
My brows have really been through it. I’ve shaved them off completely like three or four times.
What are your favorite brow products?
I do like the Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel and the Benefit 3D BROWtones eyebrow enhancer. It’s a good brow gel. Being a redhead, it’s really hard to find my color in eyebrow pencils, but Benefit makes some really good pencils. For the lower end, NYX has some really awesome eyebrow colors and pencils.
On your Instagram, you pull head-to-toe looks. Are you a drag queen?
I’m definitely a drag queen, but I don’t do it as much as I used to. I used to go to high school in drag, even, like, as a freshman.
Did you have a drag name?
Not really. The transformation for me wasn’t as extreme. Not a lot of drag makeup. I didn’t usually use brow cover. I didn’t do the extreme contour. I didn’t feel like I was doing a different character. It’s just Keagan in makeup.
That’s really cool that you felt comfortable enough as a freshman in high school to go to school in makeup.
Yeah, my brother was definitely worried, but I was like, ‘It’s fine! I’ll be okay.’
So, before the town council, you were always politically active?
I mean, being gay in a marginalized group and having witnessed the marginalization of other groups, it made me kind of realize that I should do everything in my power to ensure that oppression is stopped wherever it’s present and to give a voice to everyone especially those who have been silenced.
To be honest, did you think you were gonna win?
I didn’t know. I had no idea beyond people who’d [say] they support me. I didn’t really want to have any preconceived notions going into it. I’m a very “everything happens for a reason”-type person. I was going to get experience either way, so that was a win-win — engaging the community, taking part in a government political campaign. Even if I hadn’t won, I would have been able to use that experience to run again. [But] as I won, I’m going to see even more closely how government works and be a part of the inner workings of it.
What does it feel like to be like one of the youngest people in the country to hold office?
I’m kind of used to being the young one in the group, so it’s not, like, new. I actually haven’t thought about it too much, because I don’t want to, like… It makes me feel… not, like, pressured, but, like, I don’t know! I don’t want to get ahead of myself, you know. I just feel like a younger person who has gotten into government.
I’ve gotten a lot of support. Everyone’s been super welcoming to me. I think that they also desire a younger perspective on the council. Because my generation is the future and it kind of makes sense to have the younger generation be represented.
What are the specific things that are important to you?
I just want there to be a more sustainable future. I want to attract younger families [to town]. I want more local jobs for teenagers. I want more community centers for teenagers and for younger kids. And just for there to be more things to do. Growing up in a small town, you always have to drive at least 15, 20 minutes to go shopping or go do something. I kind of want there to be more places to attract people my age.
Have you heard the “OK Boomer” phrase yet? Yeah, I definitely heard it. I think that there definitely needs to be some discussions between the older and younger generations in a more civil way. I think that younger people aren’t always taking this seriously. And that can definitely be frustrating. I think that there needs more discussion had on an equal ground.
You have a twin brother that’s also gay. You know, it’s not that common.
Yeah, he’s my best friend, and we like to always say that we’re the same person. We know each other’s reactions and what we’re going to say without even thinking. He’s really just my best friend. He made high school and middle school. School wouldn’t have been the same. I probably wouldn’t have had a good of a time.
You guys seem to have different styles just based on your Instagrams.
We definitely look pretty different. My hair is a lot longer than his. We’ve kind of always been similar but different. I think it just makes it cool. We have very similar personalities and very similar mindsets.
I’m curious if you and your brother were the only two people that had come out in high school.
Maybe 10 people were out out.
That’s amazing. That’s a lot more than my high school in 2015.
Yeah, it was pretty cool. A lot of them were my friends, and there definitely was a sense of community going on. It’s so cool to think that like in such a small class so many people were open and proud of who they were and felt safe enough to be so.
Did you come out before your brother?
I came out in a Facebook status at the end of eighth grade, on June 1, 2014. And then he commented underneath the status and came out. It was interesting, but yeah, it was a very millennial/Gen Z way, I guess, of coming out.
Ya, I came out on Instagram with a rainbow filter in 2015.
Yeah, I think I did mine the first day of Pride month.
What did you think of your brother coming out on your post?
I thought it was kind of funny that he didn’t make his own. He’s the older one, too. I was all for it. Definitely a really, really positive experience.
That’s before gay marriage was legalized.
Yeah, I was definitely a little nervous at first. But I’m so glad I did it.
So, for you, what does it mean to be gay?
Keeping up-to-date on current issues is crucial. I mean, there’s still a ban on donating blood for gay men who haven’t been celibate for a year. I don’t think a lot of people talk about that too much. People are still being killed in foreign countries for being gay. The disproportionate murders of trans woman of color definitely need to be discussed. Intersexuality is so crucial in being socially responsible as a queer and gay person. I don’t think the fight is really ever over.