This week’s That Girl is make-up maestro Ryuko Lau, Hong Kong’s first ever Senior Artist at MAC Cosmetics! Ryuko has wowed us with her make-up skills many a time (and knows how to rock an awesome cat-eye!), so we couldn’t wait to learn more about life in the beauty industry.
We find out Ryuko’s indispensible make-up secrets, why she wanted to become a make-up artist, what five products we should all own and what she thinks make Hong Kong so unique.
Fill us in on your background and where you grew up?
I grew up in Hong Kong until the age of 12, then moved to study in the UK for high school, then Los Angeles for college.
How would you describe your personal style? Do you ever get bored of make-up artist black?!
I have always liked simplicity – I’m so used to wearing black for work that I’ve already got past the “bored” phase and will wear black to go out too! However, I do like to have a colourful home, so I try to mix together all kinds of colours in my sitting room for a cosy feel, then match that with simple, caramel, wooden furniture to balance things out.
How do you relax in Hong Kong?
I go for a walk or jog at Happy Valley racecourse, Stanley or The Peak – I always feel recharged afterwards. I also love staying home and hanging out with my kitty, Homer – he’s not only cute, but has the most gentle and sweet personality… I even miss him when I’m at work sometimes, so imagine how much I miss him when I’m travelling!
What are your favourite restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
• 22 Ships – my favourite tapas place
• Stone Nullah Tavern – I can’t resist their mac ‘n’ cheese!
• Shelter – they have a great outdoors area overlooking Times Square and I love the ambience there
• Sugar – an amazing HK night view and they do delicious drinks and snacks too!
• Megan’s Kitchen – showing my Asian side… one of my favourite foods is hotpot!
• Butao Ramen – I especially love their black squid ramen, which is BLACK in colour 😉
• Pho Vietnamese Restaurant – I can never get enough of Vietnamese food!
What five essentials should we all have in our make-up bags?
1. A compact powder (my must-have is MAC Studio Perfect Powder Foundation)
2. An eyeliner (my all-time favourite is MAC Graphblack Technakohl)
3. Lip balm (my “can’t live without” is MAC Lip Conditioner)
4. Your favourite lipstick (recently, I’ve been loving a new MAC lipstick pencil, the Patentpolish Lip Pencil, which is set to launch later this year)
5. A portable perfume spray (my current fave is Tiempe Passate by Anthonia’s Flowers)
Did you always want to become a make-up artist?
As a kid, I always loved drawing and painting – I find peace while having a brush in my hand. I would zone out to another world of my own while applying colours, adding shadings and highlights to my work to make it come alive. I majored in fashion design at college and my favourite class was fashion illustration – I fell in love with the form of a body, and was always amazed by how a simple stroke or a line can give life to a canvas or a piece of paper.
I started taking night courses in make-up while I was working full-time at Lane Crawford as a visual merchandiser to keep up my artistic illustrating skills. Working at LC was an amazing experience; it gave me the opportunity to do lots of styling in-store and for window displays, and the designers’ clothes were just phenomenal! However, the more I worked with make-up products, my curiosity grew and I wanted to challenge myself and have a breakthrough in my career.
How did you end up at MAC? What tips would you give to others wanting to get into the beauty industry?
I have always used MAC products and was so impressed by the MAC artists who served me back in Los Angeles – so I cold-called Estee Lauder to see if they had any MAC artist job opportunities in Hong Kong! I was thrilled that they hired me; I started off as a MAC artist and learned while I worked with all kinds of customers everyday. I then became a MAC trainer after a few years, training MAC artists on artistry, products and sales techniques, and then moved on to working in regional training for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Life is always full of surprises and I feel so lucky that I am now the first ever global Senior Artist in Hong Kong. This is definitely a life-changing opportunity that I will always be thankful for.
For me, working hard, determination, being open-minded and having the courage to get out of your comfort zone are the keys to progress! Oh… and don’t underestimate yourself! Never be afraid to dream, as that is where all unbelievable miracles start!
What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I get to work in an industry I have so much passion for. There is just so much to see wherever I go and so much to learn from the people I meet. One thing I am so proud of about being a MAC artist is that this brand is forever growing with very talented people around the globe and they are always professional, talented and skilful, yet also humble, and always open to sharing their ideas and creativity with everyone. The worst thing is just that there’s always so many things I want to achieve, but there’s only a limited amount of time – so learning to prioritise is very important with my job!
What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on?
Milan Fashion Week has been my most memorable project so far – thanks to the city, the people I worked with, the BEAUTIFUL clothes and the most talented make-up artists I teamed up with (I got to be part of my idol Tom Pecheux’s team backstage at Max Mara and Antonio Marras!). I was overwhelmed and excited to be a part of it. Of course, it was nerve-wracking as it was my first time working at an international Fashion Week, but it was also the most amazing experience I have ever had in my years as a make-up artist. I am sooo looking forward to my upcoming Paris Fashion week in September… I CAN’T WAIT!
What sets MAC apart from other make-up brands?
MAC is a brand that is continuously creative, and fully encourages individuality. No one person is the same and everyone is unique; we express this through our make-up products, by supporting both customers and professional make-up artists with the technology to create new product formulas, and through our professional MAC artists educating customers how to easily apply make-up at home – giving confidence to both women and men.
MAC also raises awareness for AIDS through our Viva Glam lipsticks and lip glasses, where 100% of the profits are donated to local AIDS charities. Viva Glam is a line of lipsticks and lip glasses that are represented by renowned artists like Elton John, Lady Gaga and Rihanna (our latest spokesperson for Viva Glam), who can share with the world the meaningful message of this donation.
MAC also collaborates with endless numbers of artists and designers. We’ve previously collaborated with fashion designers like Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen, artists like Richard Philips and Fafi, universally-known characters like Barbie, Hello Kitty and Disney Villains… and coming up are the likes of Proenza Schouler, Kelly & Sharon Osbourne and many more!
What are your most-hated make-up faux pas?
The overuse of any makeup product, e.g. mascara or false lashes that cover up your entire eye, or exaggerated enlarged colour contact lens. Some girls tend to look too “dolly” and unreal, which makes them all look identical and not unique! Beauty comes from within; make-up products are there to enhance your original beauty. I believe everyone can look beautiful in their own distinctive way by selecting appropriate make-up products, and through easy but effective make-up techniques.
Some people think make-up is a shallow or frivolous industry. What would you say to them?
I would tell them, “If looking beautiful and feeling confident is shallow, then you may be right!” To me, the idea of make-up is to boost one’s confidence, to “push” the ordinary and to be able to look your best – and it’s also crucial to respect others around you too!
Let us in on your top three indispensible make-up tips…
1. Your skin is your canvas. A canvas needs to be taken care of to be flawless, so your skincare routine is always important. Cleansing, hydrating, moisturising and exfoliating are all must-dos. If your canvas is well maintained, any look you have in mind will easily be achieved!
2. Go to a professional make-up artist and let them select the perfect shade and formula of foundation for you. Looking fresh with a natural shade for your face is essential.
3. Regularly groom your eyebrows. Brows are like the frame of a painting; they give your face a focus. A pair of well-groomed brows opens up your whole face.
What are four of your favourite beauty websites/blogs?
1. MACPro.com – a platform for all make-up artists to share beauty tips, as well as a place for trend information, behind-the-scenes images, reviews and online communications with MAC makeup artists all around the world.
2. Style.com – a library of images showing different luxury and designer brands’ fashion shows and backstage make-up images
3. Pinterest – unlimited images of inspiring make-up looks!
4. The Formula – blogger Aimee writes about beauty products with love, and explores cosmetics, skincare and hair products with honest reviews and captivating pictures.
What do you think is the key to being happy in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is such a compact and fast-paced city, so being able to get away to quiet places or see some greenery and the sea (which is easy as HK is so convenient!) is important. It gives you the calmness and peace you need when everyone in the city may be stressed out juggling work with everything else!
You’ve travelled all round the world … What makes HK unique?
The “East Meets West” culture here is just exceptional. Living in Hong Kong is wonderful as we get to meet diverse people from all walks of life and all over the world, and this is such a great quality! From the old-fashioned HK pawn shops, to traditional Chinese temples, to cute little boutiques in Soho, to the amazing convenient short Star Ferry ride overlooking HK and Kowloon, to beautiful spacious modern shopping malls like IFC, to the endlessly busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, to getting seafood at Lantau, to enjoying the beach at Repulse Bay in summer… this city is just full of excitement, beauty and surprises!
Check out the rest of our That Girls here!