January, 2014 Archive

Natalie Hui & David Ma
Honestly, I didn’t think I would be able to go on another trip so soon!  Tokyo/Japan trip sprung up on me…!  It will be my first time there, and I’ve wanted to go because it is MAKEUP MECCA.  I honestly don’t feel there’s a contest about the quality of cosmetics and cosmeceutical technology!   I already know of a few brands here that borrows the research & formulas based on Japanese products!  Not to mention, the generations of hand-made makeup brushes.  The quality is second to none.  All in all, I have no plans to buy anything else other than makeup and brushes, and do a lot of eating!  Lucky for me my husband works for a Japanese company, and throughout his years of business trips from California to Japan, finally we accumulated a free ticket! :D yay!!!! Although – I worked throughout Christmas & New Years this year, so I feel like it’s really nice to take some time to myself…only my 3rd real vacation in 5 years! Not complaining of course!!! Every opportunity to travel to my bucket list I am jumping for joy and smiling in immense gratitude!!! :) :) :)

I will be out of office from 1/22-1/30, and upon my return, I am fully booked for photo shoots & bridal consultations! During this time slot, I will not have phone access. I scheduled a half-day in Japan to respond to emails, but I may or may not get back to all of the emails.  I’m going to thank you for your patience in advanced, and I’ll be sure to get back to all emails & inquiries by 02/04!  Thank you for your understanding in advanced!

No blog post is complete without some pretty photos, right? :)  David & Natalie’s fairytale wedding was featured on Style Me Pretty this past September and I was beyond thrilled because I can now publish the images! yay!!   Natalie & David live in Hong Kong, but being the cosmopolitan couple that they are, they chose Half-Moon Bay are their destination wedding location!  All-star vendors from Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, and of course, SF/NorCal, I am proud to be the artist chosen to style Natalie’s hair!  On her wedding day, we did 3 hair looks, and we also did a post-wedding couture shoot!  It was a great pleasure to work with Natalie, and I also had a blast getting to know Kamen Leung, Natalie’s makeup artist that she flown in from Hong Kong!  Kamen works full-time in Hong Kong, and is very successful, working with mostly celebrities and doing beauty ads. During the breaks we had, we were chatting about makeup, hair, and comparing notes about our markets!  :) Needless to say, I enjoyed looking at her kit, and comparing notes about products.

One of my favorite, favorite shots is the black and white photo of Natalie at the alter, with her bridesmaids helping her with her stunning couture gown designed by TanYoong, with the light shining through the dress, and her cathedral veil pouring over!  I swooned when I saw it!!!!

The reason why I shared these as teasers is mainly because my trip to Japan made me think about Kamen – I saw that she used Lunasol in her kit, and I was very excited!  I love that brand!   Here in America, after Shu Uemura pulled out of the market, so did a few other brands, making it very pricey to collect these items.  My friends & mentors who work in the industry in Asia enjoy going to Japan with their friends to hand pick their products for their kit!  I’ve dreamt of doing something like this since I began following Japanese beauty – 17 years ago!  Ha! I feel old! ;) Well,  I started paying attention to makeup and beauty when I was 10, after my art teacher suggested that I could consider using the face as a canvass and keep that as an option.  Being a curious kid, of course I took it very seriously and poured over Japanese beauty and fashion magazines, and religiously borrowed my friends to paint on their faces! :P

More photos to come from this beautiful wedding!  Thank you again to Michael Falco for capturing these breath-taking images, and also Mallory the Art Director from Christian Oth Studios for sending me the images!!!

Natalie Hui & David Ma Natalie Hui & David Ma Natalie Hui & David Ma Natalie Hui & David Ma Natalie Hui & David Ma dn1

Wedding Planner :  Lyndsey Hamilton Events
Florals :  Lily Lodge
Hair for the Bride :  Elizabeth Chang, Skyla Arts
Makeup for the Bride :  Kamen Leung (Hong Kong)
Makeup & Hair for the Bridal Party :  Artists by Sherrie Long
Lighting :  rEvolve
Cocktail & Dinner Music :  Sheila Fords Harlem Review
Ceremony Music :  Golden Gate Strings
Videography :  One Shot (Hong Kong)
Photobooth :  Snap Yourself
Stationary :  A little love story
Ceremony Dress :  TanYoong



Woa! Where did 2013 go and half of January???!!!  First and foremost, I want to thank all of my clients & vendors for making 2013 wonderful!  At the end of the day, it’s the great folks & clients that I’ve had the pleasure to work with that made me feel immense amounts of gratitude!

From being a Snippet & Ink Select vendor, to Style Me Pretty publications, and the quantity of publications of fashion & beauty stories, I am truly thankful to the great teams I’ve had the pleasure to work with!!!

2013 was a year of dramatic transitions for me and my business.  I’ve re-done & rebranded both my bridal & my commercial website…that was intense – not going to lie!  It was a big investment of both my time & money (I had saved up for it since 2011), but!! It finally looks the way I want it to!  I feel like finally I have something that represents me and my work the way I see it!  It’s like a huge stone has lifted!  There is still a lot of updating to do, and it’s challenging because my clients always comes first.  Whatever it is I’m doing, I drop everything when I have a client call or a client email.  To me, since the beginning of my business, I’ve aimed to be a ‘high-end service provider’ – and by that I don’t mean just a price tag; being high-end means a) providing high-end customer service b) treating ALL your clients as if they are your V.I.Ps.  If you are my client, you get the best from me.  Whether you are a performing artist, actor, bride or bridal party, or a clothing company – it’s really a service attitude.

I am not going to fluff it any other way…because I strive to provide my best for my clients, I do have fairly high standards for myself and my teammates who I bring with me on jobs. They know this – and they also know that I compensate them most generously because if they also do their best and provide the high-end customer service that I expect, they also deserve to get paid the most!  It makes so much sense to me, and I am grateful that my past clients also understand this.  If I take good care of my team, they will also take great care of my clients. A freelancer who works full-time in the industry cannot afford to make $25-$35 per service for a bridal party hair or makeup in the SF/Bay Area.  People who had this discussion with me will know that I make sure to let them know that an artist who charges $25-$35 vs. someone who charges $125-$150 per 1 service is simply not the same type of service provider.  They are all fruit, but it’s simply…apples to oranges!  It’s kind of like this – if you were apartment hunting, and all of the studio apartments are priced at $1500 in the area you are looking at, but suddenly you see a listing for a studio for $800 – what do you expect to see when you tour the $800 studio apartment? What inspired me to start this paragraph is that yesterday I had a 1-on-1 training session with one of my team members, and as I’m going through the step by step, watching her techniques like a hawk and identifying a few technical things I’d like her to work on, it occurred to me that when it comes to the quality of work and providing the clients the best, I really do have high standards!  I make sure my team is on the same page as I am – as people say, you are only as strong as the weakest link in your team.  Please don’t read this as I perceive my teammate as the weakest link, but rather if we are not all on the same page as a team, rocking all of the services, and god forbid, she makes a mistake, it will certainly reflect in the overall quality of our work as a team.  It’s simple – the buck stops at me – and it is ultimately my responsibility. And how I learned to lead, is by assisting great leads!

I have to continue growing, of course, but I can finally say I feel pretty good about my progress! Being an Asian Woman, 1st generation American (among many other things…) in this country has its set of challenges, as the intersectionality of identities can really challenge me in my workplace. I often feel misunderstood. Honestly, it’s really hard, growing up in a culture where dismissing a compliment is expected of you to show humility, and accepting one means you are being vain, and prideful. I often gets misinterpreted as having low confidence or low self-esteem! The thing is, I don’t have low self-esteem – I just cannot accept a compliment.  It also doesn’t mean I can’t be firm in communication, I am just not as assertive, when compared to others. Both those situations are 2 different things, again, another apples to oranges situation, and it can be often misinterpreted to my disadvantage.  But I have to remember and feel grateful to all the great folks I met and worked with, who tell me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, who are there to encourage me when I feel doubts about whether or not I belong in this industry, and tell me I should pat myself on the shoulder!!

Now I’m going to discuss a special bridal client in 2013 & her cool mama (the names have been omitted to protect the innocent)  It was a very special wedding to me in many different ways – but I was so pleasantly surprised how similar our parents were while raising us despite our cultural and geographical differences. The take home message I got from having an enlightening conversation with my client is that both of us had parents with extremely high standards, and we worked really hard to obtain their approval.  As children, we worked extra extra hard to be the best in everything, but after being the best, our parents may not pay us a single compliment and say that’s something we ‘should’ do and is part of our responsibility of being children, but may pay compliments freely to others.  It’s tough – but our parents really wanted the best for us and push us to the max. We know they love us deeply, but it’s still hard to be pushed!!  At the end of the day, I feel we’ve learnt to accept ourselves, as our own seal of approval ultimately matters the most in life – that we do things with integrity, with passion, with good intentions.   The most interesting thing to me was that her mama asked me how I developed such great hand-eye-coordination and dexterity with my hands, and I shared that my own mama wanted me to be a concert harpist, so she pressured me to practice (even though I really had zero intention of becoming a concert harpist or concert pianist) – in hindsight, I should really thank my mother for pushing me to obtain a skill at a young age, that could be applied to work that I DO enjoy doing.  It’s a shift in perspective, really!  I told my big sister about that lately, and she was very puzzled as to why our mom wanted me to be a concert harpist.  I think it’s because my mama sees that as a very elegant job and high paying job…although both my sister and I know otherwise.  We discussed the realities of being a concert harpist, lugging an expensive and bulky instrument around for performances, hustling to be the best harpist in the area in order to be a part of the most prestigious symphony in the area (think about it – each symphony only has 1 harpist.  How competitive is THAT!), and then hustling to obtain the most dedicated students who take harp practicing very seriously!  Does that sound like a stress-free job to you? Certainly not to my sister and I!  Hahaha I just have to laugh because I can’t imagine that life being any easier!  I know what my mom means is that maybe if I were a harpist I wouldn’t have to ‘work so hard.’  Oh the irony!

In conclusion…! I’d love to share a set of beauty images I am very proud of that I worked on with Jenna Alcala!  Amanda from Wilhelmina LA was a great pleasure to work with! “Beauty” means close-up.  Way close.  You see everything!  Every pore, every lash.  If you make a single mistake, there is no hiding.  There is no soft focus for this type of work. If you ask me, I think Beauty is the hardest and most precise work to do, and you are always racing with the clock!  I did hair makeup & nails.  In hind sight, I probably should have brought on an assistant or a 2nd artist to keep the day rolling more smoothly, but I am giving myself my own seal of approval here!  :)  Bridal is basically beauty work, except I make sure to give myself the time I need to execute it in the flawless way.  About the photos – I am so pleased with the 2 lipsticks I picked up at the Duty Free store in Sao Paolo, en route back to SFO – Shiseido!  It was a great eye-opening and learning experience in Brazil + Argentina, and I’m so happy that I was able to custom blend the lipsticks to work with this Holiday-Themed beauty story!  I love the images, and the most important thing I really want to say in this blog post is that without the awesome team & clients that I work with who creates a safe and productive environment for me to do my best work, there is no way I could do any of it without it!!!  I am beyond excited to start 2014!!!

Because I worked throughout the holidays, I am taking my personal time from Jan 22-Jan 30th, traveling to the Makeup Mecca of the world – TOKYO.  Trust me, I’ll be back with a lot of cutting edge goodies.  The next post will be an out-of-town notice!  ;)

Until next time! :) :) :)