By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
From serving customers in the air as a flight attendant in Hong Kong, to staring at a computer screen all day as a graphic designer in Seattle, Cherry Chau decided she needed a new career that she would be passionate about: helping people look beautiful.
Because she missed working with people and longed for the social interactions, she decided to combine her art background and personal passion to study makeup.
Chau grew up with problematic skin. She wanted to learn more about skincare so she could at least help herself.
She quit her web design job and returned to Hong Kong to study makeup at Make Up For Ever Academy. After graduating from the academy, she went back to Seattle and found her first makeup job at the MAC counter in Nordstrom. One year later, she got her esthetician license.
“Breaking into the cosmetics industry was challenging. I recall trying to get a job at Nordstrom before my makeup training. I didn’t put on too much makeup and I wasn’t trendy enough, so I didn’t get a job offer the very first time,” she said.
“After the training, I did a lot more makeup on myself and at that time, they were still thinking that I was a little bit off from the MAC counter, they were looking for dramatic and gothic looks. But customers would say, ‘I want to look like you instead of the other girl with the black lipstick,’” she said.
Chau’s specialty is the natural beauty look.
“Rather than focusing on the amount of makeup on someone’s face, I wanted to enhance their features instead of using a lot of makeup,” she said.
Chau credited her design background with helping to see everything in proportion when looking at someone’s face, and visualizing how they look with eyeshadow, lipstick, and other products.
“As an Asian American, I believe usually that less is more — I can’t wear super heavy red or blue eyeshadows. It took them (Nordstrom) some time to be convinced that I can do what they’re looking for,” she said. Chau turned out to be the most popular makeup artist because the women in the Northwest tend to be more casual.
Chau did really well while working at the MAC counter, but it took time to prove herself to others.
According to the brand’s standards, she didn’t wear a lot of makeup, so she had to add little by little over time. For example, she was encouraged to wear as many as three lip products at once.
“There will be a time that you try to go out of your comfort zone to progress to a more dramatic look,” she said.
For weddings, Chau tries to make the experience personal. She would find out about her clients’ lifestyle and preferences and that helps to determine the makeup.
Chau got married two years before she started working at MAC. She recalled visiting Stila for a wedding makeup tutorial and the artist there ended up drawing really dark eyebrows on her.
Caucasian-style makeup focuses more on eyeshadow colors and less on correction makeup, such as contouring. She said that contouring is considered newer to Western cultures because when she attended the Make Up For Ever Academy in Hong Kong, that was one of the first things they taught her.
Chau was passionate about improving her techniques and styles. So she took some time off from MAC to train in Hollywood with the makeup artist for Titanic and Spider-Man. Chau’s teacher specialized in period makeup.
After almost nine years at Nordstrom with MAC, Chanel & Dior, and working at Aveda Spa, and Neiman Marcus, Chau started her spa business in 2011.
“I finally got to the point where I wanted to sell the stuff that I really believed in, so I started my own spa providing pure, natural, and organic skincare. That’s how I came up with the name ‘Pure Beauty.’”
Chau wanted to sell organic skincare that she personally used because she found it awkward to try and sell items that she didn’t use herself. She would read the ingredients on the makeup and realized there were a lot of bad ingredients, and she wanted to provide better options for her clients. She also wanted a more relaxing environment, so that customers can feel like they’re enjoying high tea with her.
A few years ago, Chau also received an opportunity to be the official makeup artist for the Miss Washington pageants. She has also done makeup for celebrities as part of WE Day, including working with Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Pete Carroll, Jennifer Hudson, and Magic Johnson.
In between managing her spa and makeup clients, Chau’s schedule gets very busy and the long hours can be exhausting. Clients have asked her to arrive at 3 a.m. and she will often have to stay there all day.
“I always help my clients look better walking out than they walked in,” she said.
Chau observed that many Asian girls who work in computer or engineering jobs tend to have those issues since they either don’t wear a lot of makeup or try to apply it as minimally as possible. She saw that as an opportunity to teach makeup lessons as well.
She also travels the world to attend beauty shows to look for the best makeup tools and products. In fact, she started providing microblading services last year as well.
In the next few years, Chau would like to open up a makeup school or a bigger spa. She also dreams about doing makeup for a movie like Crazy Rich Asians.
For more information about Chau’s services, visit purebeautyco.com.
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.