We had the good fortune of connecting with Mong Bui and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mong, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I didn’t have the most ideal childhood but I really can’t complain. I’m happy with how I turned out from my upbringing. I am genuine and reliable. My gut feeling can almost immediately tell if a new acquaintance is someone I can trust. I am the type of person who follows my heart. I was born in Vietnam and completed third grade there before my parents uprooted our lives and moved to the United States (where most of my dad’s family had already moved to since after the Vietnam War). My parents were very strict, but they were very loving and caring about my development (they still are). They pushed me to try different things outside of school like dance and piano. But I guess I found my individuality (read: rebellion) early in life because if it wasn’t my idea, I won’t stick to it for long. I only did dance and piano for a few months before throwing a fit and quitting. Even to this day, even if it’s my own idea, if the endeavor no longer inspire me or satisfy me mentally, I won’t pursue it anymore. My family moved to America when I was nine and my sister was fourteen. I spent the rest of my elementary years in ESL classes. I wouldn’t say I was bullied for not being able to speak the language, but the kids weren’t very nice to me either. They taught me my first two “bad words” when I was in fourth grade by tricking me to believe they meant something else. My teacher corrected me but I still didn’t get it until one of my uncles, who had been living in America longer, really broke it down for me. I was horrified that those kids who I thought were my friends would teach me naughty things so that was my first lesson in life, trust. I really kept my head down and focused on myself and my studies after that. I tested out of ESL at the end of the fifth grade and began making real friends in middle school. I picked up English better than my sister so my parents always came to me with questions about setting up the utilities and paying the bills. I had to pretend to be my mom so many times when we needed to contact the utility companies about our issues. I was forced to grow up really fast. I learned to be personally accountable and financially responsible at a very young age. It may seemed like I spent my entire childhood helping my parents but they did let me have my own fun time. They drove me and my friends around to hang out countless times before I could drive myself. I guess you can say I learned about “work life balance” at a young age, too. I’m always working on something but I do love setting time for myself to relax and reset.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a photographer and a newly certified makeup artist with background in marketing and modeling. I’m really excited to hit the ground running with makeup artistry and I’m grateful that this VoyageATL feature came so timely! What sets me apart from most photographers is that I have modeling experience, and that experience allows me to connect with the models and to better direct the models about poses and adjustments during a photoshoot. My retouching is pretty natural too. What sets my makeup apart from most Atlanta MUA is that I strive to enhance my client’s natural beauty instead of transforming them into someone they’re not. I don’t like heavy foundation and I definitely prefer natural, fluffy brows over the blocky, stenciled brows. I got to where I am today through networking with likeminded people that I’ve met at photography meetups, never giving up on my dreams, and continually developing my brand. The road here was not easy. I had to overcome my own self doubt and social anxiety to put myself out there. I had to teach myself a lot of the technical stuff when it came to photography and retouching. I’m still doing a lot of self-learning through YouTube Academy to this day! I learned to not sell myself short because the time and financial investments I’ve put into building my skills and the results that I can deliver are worth it. I had to worked two jobs and do my side hustle (photography and modeling) and save for an entire year to pay for my makeup school tuition. Again, WORTH IT. When you buy into the IMONGINATION brand, know that you will get a responsive and organized creative who will take care of you every step of the way. The results you’ll get will be exactly what was discussed during consultation if not better.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My best friends are very into being outdoorsy so I would take them to hike around some of my favorite trails like the East Palisades Trail and lead them to the bamboo forest. We can also hit up Suwanee Park, Stone Mountain, and Arabia Mountain. There are some amazing trails in North Georgia that lead to waterfalls that I haven’t been to. My best friends being here would give me an excuse for a little road trip north to hike those trails. If they come during the right time, we could also visit one of the sunflower farms around. I won’t starve my friends, of course, so let’s talk food. We’ll make dinner and desserts at home some of the days because I do like to cook and one of my best friends is a great baker. I know some good bottomless brunches near me like HobNob, Red Pepper, and La Garde American Eatery. The Painted Duck would be a fun place to play and grab dinner and drinks. I would take them to Savannah Bee Company to do some mead sampling. I work at Sweet Hut so I would treat them to my favorite pastries and drinks from there. Oh all this talk about planning an itinerary for my friends make me really want them to visit me ASAP!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Although I had to figure a lot of stuff out on my own, I am grateful for the small support group that I have. My biggest supporter and number one fan is my loving boyfriend, Joey Schwartz. He’s been with me through all the ups and downs of my career. He’s always encouraging me to do more and to try different things. I’m so grateful for him. My parents are still very supportive of my decisions even though I know I’ve disappointed them with my career path. My dad always offers to invest in my business and help me open my own studio (with the caveat that I move back to Houston) but I’m not ready to leave Atlanta yet. My mom always asks me to take her pictures and she would share them everywhere with everyone. Now that I am a certified makeup artist, I bet she’s going to ask me to do her makeup every time we’re in the same city. Lastly, I’m really thankful for Studio Crush School of Makeup for having such an amazing program, staff, and instructors. The school really provided me with all the necessary techniques and tools to be a successful makeup artist. I know the connections I’ve made at the school will last a lifetime.
Professional headshot by Nancy Gabriella Bridal makeup by Mong Bui and photography by Katie Parker Studio portrait of red hair female by Mong Bui Milk bath photography by Mong Bui Product photography by Mong Bui Red lips and winged liner makeup by Mong Bui and photography by Leah Perry Men’s makeup and portrait by Mong Bui