We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebecca Gao and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rebecca, why did you pursue a creative career?
Being a makeup artist is a great way to express yourself, to learn, as well as to communicate and connect with others.
Makeup is very personal. It allows us to relate with each other on a totally different level. How we wear makeup says something about us, about who we are, about how we feel. It is direct yet subtle. When people look at my work, they can easily sense a certain range for my style directly from my portfolio of work on Instagram. If they like my style and would like to work with me, whether clients or other artists, they will reach out to me. Likewise, if an artist’s style speaks to me, I do the same.
Makeup style is also very subtle. It is a type of elusive artistic language that is being applied by people who share similarities. It is like a transparent bonding, something that cannot be simply translated into words, which helps people to find who understands them on a deeper level. Everyone who sits in my chair has similarities in aesthetics, but it’s their differences that make every one of them unique and special. It is essential for me to understand and accommodate their needs as well as I can and to enhance their features. The more I listen to my clients, the more I learn from them, and the better I can understand them, and therefore, enrich my own artistic background. At the end of the day, the real fun is to create an entirely new look together with my clients that we both are happy with! Using your knowledge to help people on their special days and seeing the smiles on their faces is the best career ever, is it not?! So slowly with time, I get to build up my clienteles and find my artist community. It is slow. But with quality. Being a first-generation immigrant and settling down in a new place can be beyond lonely. To make it worse, Atlanta is a very spread-out city, which can make it even more difficult to really get connected with people especially when you did not grow up here. But through makeup, I am happy to find a vibrant community that has been growing, which a 9-5 job was not able to provide.
And here I am. A part-time makeup artist turned into a full-time professional makeup artist. If you really want to ask me why I decided to pursue an artistic and creative career, I think of my path and all the joyful sparkles I got from creating makeup looks really opened my eyes and helped me find where my happiness and energy are. I would say, know who you are, and do what you are. Although it does take time to realize. At the end of the day, it is worth it.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? What do you want the world to know about you and your brand and story?
To me, every makeup artist’s work sets them apart from others. What we produce and present represent our own aesthetics and where we are from. Regarding makeup, my style is natural to soft glam based on who sits in my chair and what he or she wants to achieve. It is a type of customized beauty style that fits every client’s feature and comfort zone. For now, most of my clients are booking my services for weddings and family portraits. Both of which have many dynamics that must be considered, weddings especially, such as theme color, style of the dress, venue setting, the list goes on and on. It is a whole package and I like to consider all factors in a look. There is no one standard type of bridal makeup look in my opinion, just like there is no one standard definition for beauty. I know it is cliché to say “everyone is beautiful”. But you know what? It’s true! We have been brainwashed by all kinds of images that arbitrarily set a certain beauty standard. And we naturally start to find our imperfections by comparing ourselves with others following those same standards. Although my power is very limited, as a makeup artist, I try to bring out and address the most amazing features of whomever sits in my chair and hope they forget about those standards.
A similar theory applies to my journey as a business owner. It has not been easy to get to where I am now, and I still have a long way to go, but early on my biggest challenge was overcoming my own competitive nature. Those were some difficult times that I put on myself. And as I watched other colleagues progress, self-doubt started creeping in and negatively impacted my self-confidence. However, thanks to my determined optimism and the support from my family, I recognized that the focus should be on myself. Finding my uniqueness was a big and important lesson I learnt in doing business independently.
Additionally, coming from an Asian background and spending the most important years of my life in the U.S., as well as being a native Chinese speaker and a fluent English speaker, has granted me a lot of possibilities and opportunities in my career as a makeup artist. Being multilingual, not only allows me to speak with more people, but also allows me to understand a wide array of aesthetics, none of which are good or bad, only different, from different cultural backgrounds and apply them in my work. Thus, in utilizing my diverse background and professional experience, I try to open the eyes of my clients to new looks and aesthetics that can further illuminate their beauty from the inside out.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them?
Welcome to the south! Mary Mac’s Tea Room is where you don’t want to miss for a good southern style brunch! Then let’s hit the Ponce City Market. Walk around and check out some cute shops before lunch time. There are so many outstanding options for food and drinks places in the market. From Japanese, to Chinese, to contemporary American, you will find one that speaks to you! After lunch, get a King of Pops, the very organic popsicle that is a celebrity in the popsicle world. Then take a walk on the beltline and do some people and dog watching. The Beltline will take you all the way to the Piedmont Park, which is like the Central Park in Atlanta! Get some sunbathing while you appreciate the beautiful midtown skyline on a huge grass area when you want to take a break from walking. You won’t notice how fast time passes by till you feel your stomach is calling for dinner time. I’d suggest hitting the spot nearby in midtown area called Poor Calvin’s. Their lobster fried rice and cocktails are on another level!
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?
Family and friends played a big role for sure! When I talked about turning the makeup gig from part-time to full-time business, my husband showed 100% support for the idea. Most importantly, he probably was the very first person on earth other than myself, who believed in me in taking this big turn in my career path. I truly appreciate him!
As we already know, I didn’t grow up here, so I don’t have a lot of friends. But I’d say that the friends that I have here truly are the quality ones! You know what I mean, right? We recognize each other’s shining points and help each other to spread the shine. They always gave me honest suggestions, provided the best support in the ways they could, and I truly can’t thank them enough!
Last but not the least, Renee Tse, my wedding photographer (now one of Atlanta’s newest baked goods entrepreneurs!). She is one of the most incredible people that I’ve ever met! I could not have done it without her support and encouragement from the very beginning! If my husband is the first person who believes in me, then Renee would be the second.
– Erin Jillian Photography
– Maekoi Media
– Tse Gallery Photography
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