Do you have a signature style?
People always say I do very natural looking skin. Then I add fun eyes and lips to keep it interesting and a bit more dramatic. Skin is important to me especially on red carpet. I don’t want my clients to ever look phony or too made up.
What’s coming next in makeup artistry?
I hope it goes back to real talent and things that matter. Less self promotion. More art and more fun as opposed to the same one-note beauty all the time.
What should someone who is looking to develop a career in makeup know before getting into the business?
Be really good at your craft. Assist good people that do more than just celebrities and put selfies on Instagram. Be versatile and when you’re new, try to learn as much as you can and don’t worry about getting a lot of exposure yet. In my humble opinion, a lot of new artists today worry too much about becoming visible when their skills are not ready yet.
What type of work do you find most satisfying?
I really enjoy working in different genres. I just wrapped a fun editorial with Harpers Bazaar, with fine art photographer Laurie Simmons, where I painted eyeballs on the model’s lids. Hopefully I can do more fun stuff like that. I’m cutting down on celebrity
work except for the ones that let me flex my creative muscles. I don’t love the “celebrity makeup artist” job title, they just give it to me. It’s like my actor clients don’t like the “celebrity” job title — they’re actors.
I have fun with product development as well. I’m fortunate that I get to collaborate and work with brands in the US, Europe and Asia that let me be creative. It’s a fun behind-the-scene job I truly enjoy. I just did a limited edition fun, colorful collection with a brand called Srichand in Asia. I grew up using the brand and the collection is based on the colorful Betta fishes that I had as childhood pets. Some brands also invited me to train their artists, I enjoy that too. I went to art school and was lucky to have such amazing, giving, passionate teachers so hopefully I get to share as well. I love being well-rounded and giving back.
What are some of the most important qualities that a makeup artist can have?
Be an artist but also be flexible. It’s only successful when the final product looks good because that’s what people see in the end. Don’t always make it about you. You hear stories about diva artists showing up to a shoot with his celebrity client and the shoot is natural light on the beach but he gave the beat face, the nose contour, the frosty highlight — so that doesn’t work. Make it work – always. Keep your eyes open, always look around, and think big picture.
What makes you a good makeup artist?
My job is to create fantasy, but I always try to have it be grounded in truth. I guess that’s my strong trait.
What inspires you?
Life, things I see everyday around me, I love carrying my Leica camera around to take random photos, I do shoot with my iPhone too, You can’t get your inspirations from the same fashion shows and red carpets that everyone else does, You need your own touch. Things you see everyday, that no one else will see in the same way, will help set you apart.
Is there someone you have always wanted to work on who you haven’t had the chance to do yet?
I’m lucky they’re all dead actresses, so I don’t have to worry if they’ll ever call me! They don’t make them like that anymore – Mae West, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Garbo, Marlene Dietrich.
Whose work do you admire?
Serge Lutens, Stephane Marais, Kevyn Aucoin, Francois Nars and there is Tyen. He was the makeup artist I first read about when he was doing Dior. He was creating all the fun, colorful looks, and he’s Asian, so when I saw him in magazines I saw potential in myself as well. As a child growing up in Thailand, and dreaming of making it in the business one day, his success gave me sparks of hope that I could do it too.
Has social media affected your career or work?
I enjoy it on my own terms. I actually get a lot of work from it, so I try to use it as a showcase for my work, ideas, my think tank, my mentality, my humor. It attracts a certain crowd. I’ve had people that have tried to give me social media advice before which is basically “don’t be an artist.” Do this and this, post this kind of thing, because this will get the engagement and high numbers. It’s absurd. People that follow me are people that can actually hire me like editors, ad executives, actors, industry people so
they’re not impressed with those types of things. You can have a lot of engagement numbers from some bored teenagers sitting at home who will never buy your products or hire you.
What has changed most about the industry in the time that you’ve been working in makeup?
I think now is too much self-promotion. You have to do some because it is what it is, but I think if you overdo it, your work suffers. I work with brands that don’t pressure me to do too much, For example getting ready for red carpet. The finished product has to look perfect, and that takes time and concentration. Some brands that sponsor you will ask for too much — which ends up being a distraction (so those are the ones I avoid). They’ll be like, we need three boomerangs of you and your client before, during and after the makeup, and then a video of you doing her makeup, and then also for you to take over our Instagram story — all while you’re trying to do the perfect lips. It’s too much, it kills the fantasy. Thankfully, most brands I work with listen to me, so I can focus on my actual work. Plus, when it looks great, you get good press from it anyway.
Do you have a project that you’ve done that you are especially proud of?
It’s hard to say there is one project that I’m most proud of. I’d say I’m proud that this my 20th year doing this and it’s still pretty good and exciting when I look at my schedule with different kinds of jobs I’m doing. I am really lucky — I love my job and my clients and my life. I guess I’m the most proud of that.
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos courtesy of Exclusive Artists Management